Tony says: We have three children – Lynne was a middle child and wants to make sure everything is exactly even. Realistically, I just don’t take as many photos as I did of the first one. And I also think different kids have different needs. This is causing trouble in our marriage.
She says: “He just doesn't understand.”
Lynne says: I was a middle child, and I never felt as if my parents gave me as much attention as they did my older sister or the baby. I don’t want our children feeling that way – we really need to make sure every child is given exactly the same amount of money/time/gifts. I just don’t believe Tony understands me.
What do they do?
Even if each child is given an equal amount of money/time/gifts as Lynne is suggesting, this will not solve Lynne’s issue, because this really all boils down to love and attention, not material items. The world is full of “middle siblings” who feel the way Lynne does, and that is unfortunate. Trying to recapture childhood and somehow “make right” the perceived wrong committed by her parents is unrealistic, and may even damage Lynne’s and Tony’s children in the process.
Some children have a greater need for assistance from parents, because children are individuals who are born with different gifts. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Even if we don’t want to admit it, parents tend to show partiality to different children based on personality, the sibling position within the family unit (first born, last born, etc.) and how the parent experienced childhood. In a perfect world, keeping it all equal is a commendable goal, but it’s not always easy or realistic. Giving equal money and gifts would actually be easy, but giving equal time might be the more difficult part, as children’s needs differ considerably.
It is understandable Lynne wants all the children to feel equally loved, since she did not feel as loved as a middle child. But one-on-one time with children, teaching them and caring for them so they can experience real acceptance and happiness, is worth more than all the material things in the world. It would be a great gift to the whole family if Tony and Lynne spent time together talking about this idea and sharing with each other what the ideal of equality really means. For example, a child who has learning disabilities may receive more teaching time from one or both parents – because it is needed, not because of a preference.
Pray about these feelings you have and share with each other how to best handle the equality of all children. When we open our hearts and let the Holy Spirit lead us to a constructive solution, our children will be the better for it. As Proverb 3:5 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
Tony and Lynne need to communicate about this regularly so it does not become a hindrance to their own marriage relationship. Tony might consider that because Lynne experienced less affection from her parents in childhood, she may need more affirmation from him. The “photos” you want your children to call to mind in years to come is how much Mom and Dad loved each other. In doing so, the children will have an example for their own future marriages and loving memories that will stay with them forever.
Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle help prepare couples for marriage.