Recently things have gotten a bit rowdy in our home. The kids all have staked their claim on certain toys and things and don't want others to touch them.
Y. dillgently works on these elaborate set-ups of trucks and toycars and does not want anyone to move them out of their position. A. likes building castles and chuppahs and other forts out of blankets and pillows, and will get very upset when her brothers try to join her or remove any blankets. And M., he just likes to swoop in and grab whatever his siblings are playing with, because he wants to be part of the fun. This often causes the older kids to start screaming and attacking their little brother. Chaos and jostling ensues until I somehow restore the peace- until the next time.
Although I try to let everyone have their space, it is often hard to do so, especially when M. is not even two and does not really understand the concept of leaving stuff untouched. I also try to convince the older ones that sharing is a good thing and maybe they could all just play together. Most of the time, this does not work.
This past shabbos we read Parshas Toldos, a Torah portion dealing with sibling rivalry between Yaakov and Eisav, a topic my husband discussed in this sermon in shul. In the afternoon, the following scenario unfolded. A. had set up a "puppet show" on our trampoline. This meant draping several blankets over it, that were not allowed to be touched. Of course, M. wanted to jump on the trampoline and A. was adamantly against it. There were tears and attempted compromises until they both got bored and went off to play with something else.
A little while later, M. tried to crawl on A.'s bed. She freaked out and started screaming for him to get off. At this point, I confess that I lost my temper. I had been refereeing turf wars all day. I was upset and told A that she needed to learn to share and that nothing would happen if M. was sitting on her bed. She was quiet for a bit and then tearfully told me " I need to have a few things that are just mine."
This struck me as a very insightful thing for a little girl to be saying. It reminded me of the reality that it can be hard for children to have share everything- toys, books, their parent's attention. While I think the advantages of having siblings definintely outweigh the advantages of being an only child, everyone deserves something that belongs only to them every once in a while.
It reminded me of the story of my youngest sister. As the fourth girl in the family, she got quite a lot of hand-me downs over the years. These were not shabby cast offs rather very nice clothing with the caveat of not being new. When asked what she wanted for Channukah one year when she was about eight or so, she replied that she wanted a sweater that noone had worn before. My mother always speaks about how that request broke her heart and made her more aware of my sister's needs.
A. and I brokered a compromise. She could pick three things that she does not have to share and I would do my best to keep her brothers away from them. She chose her bed, her clothing and her headbands. What a girl :)
I already try to have time alone with each of my kids every once in a while. For example, last Sunday, A. and I went on a little date to buy boots for herself. This little episode on shabbos, however, reminded me again of how important it is to view our children as individuals with their own unique needs, as opposed to lumping them together into "the kids" and making them do everything together. Hopefully, giving each child individual attention and space on a regular basis, will make it easier for them to share the limelight and the toys with their siblings the rest of the time.
How do you ensure that each of your children gets the time, attention and private space that they need?