Lately Jamie has been getting on Sam’s nerves. A LOT. I’m told a daily dispute of siblings is normal, so I don’t think much of it; except of course I’m always called to mediate and one or both end up in tears. There is generally a quick talk on sharing, talking turns and being nice that follows.
Sam gets it. Of course she does; she’s 4 and can’t wait to be 5, and she understands the value of doing all those things. And thanks to great birth order advice from Life Coach Pia Acevedo-Nazareno, I am often able to get Sam on my side when it comes to Jamie. It helps a lot!
Jamie is a (slightly) different story. There are instances when she doesn’t want to share, and she shrieks when Sam attempts to get it from her (particularly when Sam is successful, which I’d say is 95% of the time). I’ve heard her teacher only talk about Jamie that way in school when it comes to sharing Bunny. Maybe when it comes to her beloved Ate, it’s different a different story altogether?
There have also been many instances when Sam gives Jamie a turn, but Jamie doesn’t reciprocate. And of course, there’s the classic situation when Jamie wants EXACTLY what Sam is holding and won’t stop until she gets it. You’d think, in a house that’s already overrun by toys and books, there would be more than enough for them to play with.
I often tell Sam when she comes running to me in tears that Jamie is learning and we have to teach her by example. It’s not always easy, I recognize that (and that she is still only four!). Kudos to her though; she is patient and continues to teach her sister. It still does fall on deaf ears more often than not.
Sometimes I see Sam’s frustration comes from the fact that other people don’t bother to determine what’s fair to her. They make her concede to Jamie regardless. It’s also happened that she gets “blamed” for Jamie’s crying without hearing her side of the story.
As a parent I sympathize with her, although I can (somehow) understand why it’s easy to make that mistake. It’s a human truth to assume that the younger one should get cut a little bit more slack, and the older one should know better and give in. We’ve seen it played out on sitcom series countless times. I’m quite sure we’ve been told that at least once in our lives. I’ve personally heard it many times!
One day, I was working in our home office and I could overhear the squabbles going on a few feet away. The yayas were there, so I expected them to mediate. Not too long after, I found Sam beside me defeated and holding back tears. One of the yayas allegedly “sided” with Jamie repeatedly and took whatever toy from Sam to give to her sister. She was told that as the Ate, she should “know better” anyway (Boy did my maids get it from me that day!).
Instead of blurting out the usual, “Jamie’s not sharing mom!” She said to me, “I don’t want to be the Ate anymore mom, it’s sooo HARD!” And the poor thing collapsed into my arms sobbing.
At first I was at a loss for words. The usual sympathetic, “I’m sorry it happened” didn’t feel like it would cut it. I couldn’t say, “Jamie’s still young and she’s just learning“, because it also wasn’t all Jamie’s fault, and Sam had already protested her way around it many times. I couldn’t storm in and investigate just then because I had a weeping Sam on my chest and she wouldn’t stop.
We sat there for a while and I let her cry. Then at some point, it just kind of…flowed. “It IS hard being the Ate, isn’t it?” Her crying had softened to a whimper as she looked up at me quite surprised. She’d never heard these lines before. “Sometimes even if it should be our turn we don’t always get what we want. It’s not fair huh?” And then she started nodding.
“How do you know mom?” She asked.
“Because Mommy is an Ate too.” And her eyes widened. Then she stopped crying.
It was then when I realized I’d never talked to Sam about my own birth order. The reason it was so easy for me to sympathize with her, was that I really did know what it felt like to be the older child who should concede and “know better” (apart from being my daughter of course, because I sympathize with Jamie too for the same reason #disclaimer). I told her stories about me being an Ate that she could relate to, and compared it with similar instances she’s had with Jamie.
After that she was wide-eyed. I could see the wheels turning in her head when she processed what I said. I even felt our connection grew stronger, as evidenced by our most recent late night conversations about what it means to be the eldest in the family. I think it clicked that I really did get her because I went through it too when I was younger. And while it still isn’t the fool-proof solution to her problems, it’s helped appease her in a big way. It wasn’t about echoing her feelings and sympathizing; but actually showing that I could empathize completely.
I still encourage Sam to be the bigger person when I know it’s fair to her. And while I commend her when she is that, I don’t fault her for the times when she isn’t. She’s only four after all! I want her to be able to process her feelings properly, so she’ll know how to handle it better later on. Besides, we eldest kids need to get cut a little slack sometimes too.