16 April 2008

Jealousy and Love

Lately Matilda has been jealous of any attention I give to Freya. Steve says she doesn't do it with him, just me. Therefore I know I'm doing something to provoke it. I know this because I babysat for many children before I had my own and as an outsider I could always see why a child behaved differently with me, or with their mother or father. It was all so clear when I wasn't in it.

But now that I am, I don't know what to do. I try to reassure her, but as I tuck Freya into her bed and kiss her forehead, and let her pull me down into a hug, I feel Tilly watching us. Sure enough, when I look up, she is wearing a very long face.

"You give Freya more love than you give me," and then, because they've been working on identifying feelings at school, "I feel jealous."

I find myself sitting beside her on her bed, partly wanting to hold her and reassure her, and partly wanting to shake her out of it.

I try to step back and see if maybe I really am giving Freya more attention, more love.

I do treat them differently, after all, Matilda is six, my girl, very smart, very willful, and very loving, and Freya is three, the youngest, my baby, willful, tricksy, and snuggly. They're not the same, and so I don't treat them the same. Oh sure, with some things it's much simpler to treat them the same, they are not so different in age that they must have different bedtimes, or eat different foods. But for the most part I try to treat them as individuals, and I thought this was the right thing to do...

As a toddler - before Freya was born, and when she was still very tiny - Matilda was confident and independent. She would run down sidewalks, say hi to strangers and do as she pleased. She was in control of her world, and it showed. But with the arrival of kindergarten, a new school, a sister who no longer passively takes orders, all that has changed.

There are a million reasons why she could be going through this right now, not the least of which is the impending move to Missouri, about which she is not happy, but really, I don't need to know why it's happening to her now, only what my role in it is, and how to fix her. I want my confident, independent girl back, she was so much more fun, and okay, I'll admit it, much easier to handle.

Matilda also seems to believe that love is a weapon, distributed or withheld as circumstances demand. Here is a poem she wrote when she was supposed to be cleaning her bedroom this past weekend:
I have no Dream
that love begins
when there is love-

and love began
when there was

love is heart, when star comes,
you will be a star
love you

I have no choice
when you are mean
so no love.
Apparently it's a song, but I've never heard it put to music, so I can't tell you the tune. I have edited only for spelling, the rest is all her. It's not her fault she has no love, she has no choice, it's on me. I am so mean.

So for now I will rub her back, go out of my way to hug her after school, tuck her in at night. And above all I will try to be patient. I am not a very patient person, and I do have a tendency to have high expectations for Matilda. I will try to keep them, but without sacrificing kindness, or patience for the sake of expediency.


Misty said...

Maybe you can find some way to demonstrate, at her level, that love is different for different people. Does she do different things or play different ways with her dad than she would with you? Because that shows the difference in their relationship verses yours... And that, the same is true of her sister...
Does that make sense?

Thalia's Child said...

I used to see behaviour similar to this when I led girl guides. The girls would get jealous if us leaders spent extra time with anyone. I know it's not really the same as the jealousy of parental love, but it was still hard to figure out.

Is she old enough to understand a talk about how you love her the same but show it differently?

Annika said...

You didn't ask for advice, but here's what I would do: treat Matilda like she is also three. Not in a condescending way at all, but in a babying, snuggly way. It sounds like she needs a little babying and maybe she sees Freya getting that (whether or not that's actually how you're interacting with Freya) and she wants to be the baby.

I think six is a really hard age for big change. I lucked out and had an easy six, but my sister was six when our parents split up and we started school, and it hit her really hard. And I know Eamon had a tougher time with the move last year than Eden did, even though Eden complained louder. Six is just hard, because you are so grown up but part of you still needs to be little.

Amy said...

She wrote that at age 6? Wow.

It may be a phase she'll have to get through. My sons are 6 and 1. My daughter is 19 and in college. She wanted to go shopping with me this past Saturday and I told her I was taking the boys to the air show. She said, "You have three kids you know." It really pissed me off. But it goes to show that sometimes there is just a need for reassurance that can border on unreasonable.

jennifer said...

It breaks my heart! I am sorry she is having such a hard time. Maybe she just needs a little extra love and affection right now?

She really wrote that?! Wow!

Cathy said...

I'm betting it's the move. My oldest has experienced periodic bouts of jealousy, usually when something in her young life is in transition.

No advice, however -- sorry! I'm still winging it when this happens.

andi said...

Aw, poor Tilly. I hate feeling torn between my kids. I already feel like Elliot is jealous of the attention that her brother needs. This just makes me sad. And I can't believe that poem she wrote. Beautiful.

i am the diva said...

she wrote that poem? seriously? wow!

this was a great post! popped in via Five Star Friday!

Jen said...

I submitted this post to Five Star Friday (http://www.fivestarfriday.com/) because it really struck a chord with me. I go through this exact same thing with my kids and I don't know how to handle it or fix it. You're such a great mom and so in tune with your kids. I think the fact that you were willing to take a hard look at the way you treat them just proves how much you really care.

I love Matilda's poem. Who knew you had such a little poet on your hands?