NOT FAIR

So it begins, the childlike scream of NOT FAIR.  It’s been simmering for awhile, but the nasal-whine-voice made it’s full appearance over the weekend. The world of siblings– though even I, once the Only Small Person in a sea of Large People, delivered my fair share of it’s not fair. But I didn’t get to run all of that angst up against a Sibling.

And that, dear reader, is where the real fun lies. What fun is a rivalry if your rival isn’t in your very home? I assume most parents are dealing with their own leftover sibling issues. Thankfully that doesn’t much apply to Joel, even as the middle-child, he just had (has) a gift for not noticing the attention he wasn’t getting. It took me, the harbinger of truth and fairness, to point out how often he got the shaft. Eventually he respectfully requested that I cease and desist my moral outrage.

Or maybe the parents didn’t have siblings (ahem) and the residual childhood stuff includes feeling guilty for the amount of individual attention that each child just isn’t getting.

Children– trust me when I tell you that your teenaged selves will prefer flying under the radar and dealing with some sibling angst over highly individualized attention. Trust. Me.

Take, for example, an outing with just the four of us. A simple bike ride/roller skate through the park down a new path to the river’s edge. Each of them, in this same park have bolted away from me, traveling at speeds enviable for the short-legged. Whilst simultaneously going deaf to my cries of COME BACK. Instead today’s contest was for who could go the slowest and get the most sympathy from Mom. Not that anyone told me of this beforehand– I’d have brought foam ear plugs and my book. I can walk and read.

The Youngest of the Small People:
“Pick me up, Mommy”
The Oldest of the Small People:
“You never carried me when I was almost 3.”

To which the oldest has a point– and perhaps he needed to be carried more. Newsflash: Being first doesn’t mean you are always the winner! But if that child happens to have an amazing long-term memory? He will narrow eyes full of accusation, as his voice drips with calculated bitterness, reminding me that his binky was viciously ripped out of his young mouth before he turned three. And Mom, doesn’t Elliot turn three in November? That we drove 6 hours to Myrtle Beach because it was the closest Build a Dinosaur, thus placing binkies in a stuffed T-Rex named Tommy’s kidney region? Inconsequential.

Or maybe the world will end because the Youngest of the Small People got (used) Batman roller skates yesterday. Just because. And the Oldest got nothing. Aside from preschool 3 days a week, a new bike helmet, more entertainment-only screen time, and getting to use the super-sharp scissors to make a foam glider.

MOooommm– it’s not FAIR. My precious children–such is the cliche’ of life. And by the way? While you are categorizing fair versus unfair? That you both run/bike all Bionic Man when it’s just me between your small bodies and certain death? But when Dad is around the pace is sedate, if not closer to sedentary? Or why your father can use the bathroom/shower/check email/do dishes in peace and harmony while I get… the opposite. Yeah, not fair. Is it the penis?

Speaking of penises. Save yourselves some trouble and resist the urge to explain the confusion of traditional gender roles in America to your preschooler. I didn’t, which is why I can tell you to avoid it, if possible.

An Only Child Parents Brothers

Any knowledge I have about siblings and sibling dynamics are purely academic and/or observational in nature. Certainly many of my friends have siblings. Many of my friends are also onlies. There are wide variations in their relationships among them all.

I also did not have the benefit of being surrounded by any extended family thanks to the US Army. Geographical differences, us in North Carolina (mostly) and them in Louisiana and Illinois, made visits more occasional than regular.

In essence, I was an only every way you could imagine; no siblings, no extended family, even living in a military town–where friendships are fluid and changing. It was often very lonely. (Mom-don’t freak out, there are life-long benefits in learning how to be alone without being lonely. ‘Tis all good, I don’t need additional therapy for that.)

The first declaration to my husband, upon the birth of our first son, was that he would have a sibling. My husband, the middle of three brothers, spent considerable time trying to convince me otherwise. But, why? So-and-so was an only child and he got to take his FRIENDS with him on vacation. It was awesome.

Like I said, I was adamant about there being more than one and tenacious does not begin to describe me when I really, really want something. Only children are stubborn and kinda used to getting their own way.

It would have been nice to have a sibling around to share some of the pressure growing up. To help shift the focus from me and whatever impulsive ludicrousness with which I was involved at any given moment. To be there when my Dad died. To help with my Mom. To play with, to talk to.

But, despite that longing for my Utopian brother or sister, it is with great maturity that I finally realize that having someone else borne from your Mother’s womb doesn’t mean you’ll like the person. And what greater tragedy can there be for siblings that hate each other?

Siblings are not a guarantee of friendship.

I worried so much about the division of attention, of time, of love. My husbands tells me I’m ridiculous. Only children are slightly obsessed with the need to be fair, to have fairness permeate the world.

They are such different people already that I worry they will grow up and not be friends. Or worse, that they will grow up and hate each other for the very differences that I happen to love the most.

I reserve that worry to finite spaces in time, because to do otherwise would have me trying to micromanage their lives for the next 20 years based on supposition. Only children have control issues.

However, from the moment Elliot was born his eyes were for Zach. Every milestone was met in an attempt to reach his older brother. When he learned to crawl he bee-lined for Zach; when he walked it was the same. He ran soon after walking–if only to keep up. He is truly a child living in a child’s world.

Often I’m jealous. Jealous that Zach doesn’t really remember a time in his life when Elliot didn’t exist. Jealous that Elliot will have another person to commiserate about that “crazy shit Mom did that day”.

Mostly I’m happy. Happy to hear the two of them “talk” to each other instead of going to sleep. Happy to hear Zach share knowledge (no, Elliot, that’s a brachiosaurus, not a cat) with Elliot. Slightly amused when I hear Zach tell Elliot to go to time out (I don’t encourage the mini-parent, but it is funny). I did the same kind of stuff growing up–to my cocker spaniel–but it’s just not the same.

Brothers.