Sometimes I don’t. I love these two little girls more than anything and could never say one is my favorite. They are as different as night and day.
The problem is…my actions do often favor one of my girls.
M is 5. Abs is 2. Very different stages, very different abilities, very different expectations. I expect M to understand what I say to her, and I expect her to listen, at least occasionally. When she doesn’t, I feel it’s because she chooses not to. It’s so easy to dismiss Abby’s tantrum or to scream or fussing as her being 2.
It’s so easy, but it’s not fair.
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed this more. My patience is lower when I expect my voice to be heard. She listens to everyone else. She always listens to her teacher, and she always listens to her grandparents. They don’t have to ask her to do anything twice. Me? I would love only to have to ask her only twice to do something.
One morning, she and her sister were playing while I was still in bed, awake, and they started fighting and fussing. My first inclination was to be short and accusatory with M. I started the morning by acting nasty. Though I can’t remember the issue, I know my reaction was not deserved.
This was the first time Joe pointed it out, too.
It made me feel like shit, but he was right. My first reaction was to snap at M, then I did a Jekyll/Hyde switch and was as sweet as pie to Abs. It made me think, and I realized I had probably been overly hard on her for a while, but not as aware.
After all, she’s a young child. Just because she’s older than her younger sister, it doesn’t mean she is old. She’s certainly not mature. She’s five years old and acts like it. Why are my expectations different? Abs is old enough to begin to understand when she is acting out, too. Why do I always give her the free pass?
Then, the kicker. M asked me, “Why are you always so nice to Abby and not me?”
I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. From that point, I have tried so hard to make the extra effort to stop and remind myself that she is acting her age, and that is ok. It doesn’t make it wrong to discipline her, but I really need to pick my battles carefully. No child wants to clean up, eat her vegetables, get ready for bed. Having to work on these with her is a normal part of growing up, not something that should upset me.
Not every issue can be resolved with a time out. I can say the same words softly as I can by yelling them. I’m trying. I would hate for more than anything for her to grow up feeling like I had one more ounce of love for her sister than I do for her because it is just so untrue.