When Grandparents Play Favorites
What happens when one grandparent favors one child over their sibling? … or one set of grandchildren over another?
Unfortunately, this dilemma has emerged in our family. When our oldest was born, she was showered with endless attention and spoiled with things. When our second came along, the attention was different – and difficult to describe. At first, I attributed the situation to a new sibling and their ages. Throughout the first couple of years, I purchased prints of their baby pictures along with decorative frames to ensure there was no excuse not to display them, only to be disappointed to see only one of their pictures centered in their home and an older cousin fill their tabletops and refrigerator. I noticed. My husband noticed. Yet, no one mentioned it out loud. With every visit, my heart sank. As the years progressed, I sadly realized our children are not the favorites.
Soon, more cousins arrived, one after the other. This time, photos of them filled those frames. Again, my heart sank with every visit. It was as if our youngest did not exist.
One day I had the courage to speak up. Of course my voice cracked, and in an uncomfortable tone and in an ineloquent manner I asked, “Those frames and the pictures of the children – they haven’t made there way out … yet?”
As a child, I recalled questioning my grandparent’s love – our cousins pictures were framed on nearly every surface and every story involved them. I did not understand and resented them for years as a teenager. But as a young adult, I began to understand the reason – my aunt required a considerable amount of extra hands while raising her children. I believe my grandparents felt responsible and a need to be more present and shower them with love and attention. At times, I felt my siblings and I were a distant second. Our recitals, performances and grandparent’s days were second to theirs. As a child, it was devastating. I tried to find an explanation and determine what I had done wrong.
Could this be the same situation our children are destined for? Does the fact that our children’s grandparents need to babysit so often, help with their discipline, finances and take care of their cousins’ daily needs be the reason why our children are treated differently? If we required or asked for their grandparent’s help for their basic needs, would our children be treated or loved differently?
I do not know the answer. At the moment their innocence is alleviating the situation, but what will happen the day they look around their home searching for their picture and find theirs off to the side, their accomplishments and artwork not displayed on the refrigerator, and the stories they share not include their names. How will I help them understand?