Keeping things “fair” between siblings

When I was pregnant with my second child, I was really on top of the whole “building positive sibling bonds” thing. I bought Nate a doll with his own bottle, diaper and bib. I read “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish three times. We took books out of the library about becoming a big brother and about babies. I had several people coming to help me with the adjustment so I could spend lots of one-on-one time with my older son. I even got him a special “big brother” gift to open at the hospital when he met his brother. I was on it.

Then, Joshua was born. And Nate tried to convince me to put him in the compost pile. (Not kidding.)

Having two kids has really been different than I envisioned it. I have a younger brother, and while we get along well now as adults, I clearly remember fighting ALL THE TIME when we were kids. I thought I had some time, however, before the fighting started here. With Nate being four and Josh being one and a half, I thought I had a few years before they really argued. But here we are…and I find myself scrambling in Old Navy to find Nate a new shirt because I bought one for Josh and didn’t want to hear the cries of “You bought him a new shirt? And nothing for me?!? That’s not fair!” Did Adele and Elaine teach me nothing? Time to re-read.

Much of the advice in this book I am certain will be extremely helpful as the boys get older, but some of it is really relevant right now. For example, what does “fair” mean? I think kids have an innate sense that “fair” means everything is exactly the same for everyone. Well, folks, that’s not the case here. Nate and I have had a lot of talks about how “fair,” at least in our house, means “everyone gets what he or she needs.” And just like that, the stress is gone. (Well, at least the stress on this topic. There’s plenty of other stress. Don’t worry.)

Thinking of “fair” in this way has really helped life go a bit more smoothly in our house. There’s some comfort in knowing that you’re not constantly fighting for your “fair share,” but that instead, since you know everyone will get what he or she needs, you will be provided for. If you have a need, it will be met. Things will be fair. If Josh needs a new jacket, he will get a new jacket, and Nate will get one only if he needs one (or, of course, if Grandma comes shopping with us…then all bets are off). If Nate needs a new backpack he will get a new backpack, and Josh might not get anything. Fair means everyone gets what he or she needs. They won’t have the same needs, and they won’t have the same life, and that’s what makes things interesting.

This is called a “brothers pile”, in case you were wondering 🙂

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