Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Delicate balance.

Sometimes the simplest thing causes heartache. Even unintentionally, the wrong word, or in this case, the wrong song can reduce a child to tears. Last night, Little Dog called me “sunshine.” He was trying to talk me out of bedtime by looking earnestly into my eyes saying “no no, sunshine”, then began crooning his own little boy song to me. “Mama, I love you. You sweet. Sunshine” he sang, paused, then said “I just kidding” with an impish twinkle in his eye, but his little song put me in the mood to sing. So I started “You are my sunshine.” It wasn’t until I was finished with the first verse that I noticed Big Dog was on the floor crying. Now I know my singing isn’t that bad, so I asked what was wrong. “You said Little Dog was your only sunshine,” he howled, tears streaming down his face.

I managed to reassure him that I was singing for both of them, that maybe I should have changed to words to “You are my sunshines” because I love them both so much. It seems funny on the surface, his literal interpretation of the lyrics, but it goes deeper.

I think every child with a sibling has at some point wondered if they were as loved as the other. I didn’t realize it started this early. I remember flatly accusing my own mother of loving my sister more and offered as evidence that my sister had more clean shirts than I did. And I sincerely believed it. In retrospect, I had given a bunch of my shirts to my sister when I no longer wanted to wear preppy button downs, and Kathleen was always better at getting her clothes from her bedroom floor into the laundry hamper than I was. But in that moment, I believed that my mom picked through the hampers selecting those of her favorite child, leaving mine behind.

I don’t know why I felt less loved, my parents were always very even with us. There were no favorites as far as I knew. Well, maybe no long-term favorites because at some point, I think every parent may have a special affinity for one child or the other.

At any rate, as much as I understood it, his feeling that he was not my sunshine stunned me. I think it is easily apparent how much I love him and how much I love his brother too. I have always been demonstrative and affectionate, it is part of how I was raised and how I have raised my boys. And still, despite what I think of as obvious he has a little nagging doubt, or did that night. It breaks my mommy-heart a little. Ok, a lot.


Oleoptene said...

The song I am not allowed to listen to/sing along with in the kids' hearing? is James Taylor's Only One. And I love that song. But I think of the friend whose 38 year old sister one day looked at her and said "You know, right, Mom always loved you best?" and, this is a woman who had raised five children of her own, BELIEVED it. I love my boys all differently, and some days one of them is especially easier to be around, but we do try to be sensitive to the thought one might feel I love someone else more... Have you read "I Love You the Purplest" by Barbara Joossee? Love it for capturing the subtley of loving your kids differently without loving one more.

followthatdog said...

I haven't read it, and it sounds like a good one. I'll have to find a copy.

I also believe I am sensitive to making sure there are no favorites. I love them both so deeply, so completely that "more" seems like such a wacky offshoot. How can I love one more than the other when there is no end to how much I love either of them?

Yes, on some days, I feel a special connection with one or the other but on other days I feel just as specially connected with the other.

In that moment of his sadness, I saw myself as that angry, sad preteen who really believed I was less loved. It seems so ridiculous now, but at the time it felt real.

geekymummy said...

Ah yes, we have this in our house already. I learned the hard way too. If you switch "sunshine" to the childs name instead and sing it once for each, that might help! I have several versions of a made up little song, which tell how I love them very much, how they love each other very much and all variations. So often If I start on one song, Rosa will say "Sing the one where Bjornie loves me" Or "Sing the one where I love Yuba (the dog)"

Anonymous said...

geekymummy, that's so clever and sweet.
i don't have kids yet, so i'm getting my education from you all.

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