My two younger kids are upstairs huddled under a sheet fort, sorting their Halloween candy. My oldest son is listening music and wants no part of it, even though it’s clear they are having a blast.
This isn’t because he’s a teenager now and too old for shenanigans like that. The scene was the same 5 years ago, 8 years ago — even 10 years ago.
He’s never seemed to care, or want, a relationship with his brother or sister. As his mother, it kind of tears me apart. His brother and sister are incredibly close and always have been — and then there is him. From afar, it seems like he is left out, but he puts himself in that place, and I’m realizing there is nothing I can do about it. I’ve been trying for over 10 years. This dynamic between the three of them goes down as yet another thing no one warns you about when you become a mom.
By the time he was 3, he had a little brother and a little sister. Before they arrived, he always played independently for hours. Occasionally, he would ask me to read to him or play cars before he went to bed. I somehow thought when his brother and sister got a bit older, he would love to have someone to play with regularly, since he always did well during play dates. He seemed drawn to other kids, and while he wasn’t super extroverted, once he warmed up a bit, he would play for hours, and was always a very agreeable child.
But he’s never had the relationship with them I had hoped for. As soon as his sister was old enough to crawl around, he became very stressed if she touched his things. He did the same when his baby brother got old enough to play, and he never seemed to bond with either of them.
As they got older, he would only want to join them if he could be the boss. Since his brother and sister both adore him, they would let him call the shots until it got to be too much. Then, as soon as they started having an opinion about how they wanted to play, and were over being bossed around, he was out.
There have been times I’ve blamed myself and wondered if I’ve pushed him too much to have a close relationship with his brother and sister because of the wonderful relationship I’ve shared with my sisters. I want him to know what that feels like. I’ve wondered if I didn’t play with him enough when he was an only child. It breaks a mother’s heart when she sees one of her children isolate themselves.
But after talking to other mothers, I see this is just the dynamic in some families. And just like any other relationship, it can’t be forced. Not even by a mother.
“I believe that every child is a very unique individual,” a fellow mom, Samantha, told me. “I don’t feel that different circumstances would necessarily have changed my kids’ relationship. I think my eldest is a sweet, sensitive nurturer, and my littlest is a shaven wolverine.” She also said they are just starting to develop a relationship after four years of coming into each other’s lives.
Another friend, Michelle, has a 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twins and says, “My daughter is more drawn to one of the boys over the other, and it is almost always the case that my other son is left out.”
It’s nice to know that I’m not alone – and to realize that my younger kids not having a tight bond with my oldest isn’t because of anything I’ve done. Every child has their own unique personality and they aren’t going to meld with everyone — their siblings are no exception.
A parent’s number one priority is their kids’ happiness. And as hard as it is to witness, it’s obvious that my son is happier spending time on his own. Maybe his relationship with his siblings will change, and maybe it won’t. The important thing is that he knows they are there for him — and honestly, it’s clear that it affects me a lot more than it affects him.