Love is in the air
Or at least that is what we are led to believe.
I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s day. I mean, who doesn’t like getting chocolate and flowers? But overall the real benefit of Feb 14th is in celebrating all relationships and showing our kids how to do the same. Relationships in the home, however, can be serene and peaceful to tense and problematic. In our home, this has been an interesting journey for me.
My son and daughter are almost 16 and 18 respectively, and I will be the first to admit that I didn’t do a great job creating memorable bonding experiences for them when they were young. I focused on getting us through the day and ensuring everyone was fed and alive by bedtime. All other things were secondary.
But sibling relationships (indeed all relationships) need attention and care to grow and develop. Something I wasn’t doing when my children were 6 and 8 as much as I could have looking back.
To be honest I’m torn about this. I’ve seen the social stories of families with a special needs child and then the typically developing child where there is a deep bond between the siblings. I don’t know about you but I see those stories and just feel guilty.
Guilt for not having FORCED my kids to play together more. To engage together more. For my daughter to help out more with her brother. Maybe if I had, their relationship would be different.
Don’t get me wrong. My children love each other very much, and my daughter worries and thinks a lot about the welfare of her brother. But that viral video of the two brothers hanging out in the car singing Disney songs together? That isn’t how they vibe. (Haven’t seen that video? It’s on The Mighty, check it out.)
No, they get irritated and fuss at each other. My son pokes at my daughter and her face when she realizes he is messing with her is always funny to me. She finds him funny and irritating at times. And they didn’t play much growing up, because my son is hard to play with. They didn’t take care of each other often because I didn’t want my daughter to feel like she was responsible for him and his needs (which can be overwhelming sometimes). I never wanted her to feel like I needed her to be a “parent”.
But I watch those videos and think maybe I made a mistake in how I raised them and if I had done it differently what would have happened? If this is something that you are familiar with then these next words are for you - you didn’t make a mistake.
I will repeat. Louder for the people in the back - YOU DIDN’T MAKE A MISTAKE.
I can almost guarantee you did exactly what I did, your best to make sure both your children got what they needed from you. The truth is in every family all relationships run differently, and to judge the quality of them is an exercise in futility. Being born of the same parents doesn’t guarantee that you will like each other, let alone love. I am certain there are SEVERAL people in your family that you just don’t vibe with, why should it be different because one individual in the relationship has a special need?
The truth is my kids have a relationship purely on their own. And it is good. They love each other. Have fun picking at each other. And are irritated by each other's presence exactly like I remember feeling with my sister when I was that age. My daughter would destroy anything that hurt him and she is worried about his future. Forcing another person's relationship to be other than the one that has developed naturally would be to put both people into places they might not be comfortable.
I know that I have given my kids the very best I could and I believe that best allows them to determine their own relationship. Undoubtedly there will be people who do not agree, but let me ask you something - do I help anything by sitting in the “mom guilt” of thinking I could have done better? Is wishing that I could go back in time and do it differently making it better, or worse?
Not only does it not help, but it’s not possible. If you are feeling this right now do yourself a favor, show yourself some love and remind yourself that you are doing the damn best you can and your best is good. Your best is great!
If there are places to shift, shift, but don’t sit in guilt bemoaning the reality of what you are living. You have no power there to make it the reality you want.
So this Valentine’s day, while you are thinking of relationships ease into finding some peace with what is. People are who they are, including your children, parents, spouse, sibling, or anyone. And all relationships develop organically. Your job is to make space for opportunity, in whatever way you can.
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