It’s not fair.’
‘He’s got more than me.’
‘You love her more than you love me.’
Inequality and injustice are important issues in today’s society and nowhere else reflects this great global problem than the microcosm of the family.
When I was growing up, convinced that my older brother was more loved than me, I took out my frustrations by playing The Police records really loud and drinking way too much cheap cider.
I felt that he had more cash poured upon him, such as being given a season ticket to watch Watford FC, whilst my own interests (natural history and cider) were either ignored or laughed at.
We didn’t have large amounts of disposable income, so I was expected to wear my brother’s hand-me down clothes, most memorably a voluminous pair of purple nylon trousers that created sparks if I ran too fast. And, of course, I was heckled by my peers who were more fashionably dressed like Madonna, circa 1984, and who pointed their be-laced hands and jangled their plastic bracelets at me.
Luckily, I only had one sibling. They do say, after all, that three’s a crowd. And there’s only so many bad items of clothing any one girl can inherit before she is laughed out of the school playground.
However, I did end up with three children myself, so how does that dynamic work?
When the children were very young, I was surprised at how each of them coped with an additional sibling.
There appeared to be little jealousy or resentment, and in fact they seemed to actually enjoy having a small wrinkly baby around.
Things have changed a little now, with their matured vocabulary and sense of justice, it seems that they have realised that sometimes things aren’t quite as rosy.
As they have grown older they have noticed that each of them have different needs and responses to things.
This, in turn, makes us as parents treat them slightly differently.
I am a great believer in choosing my battles with the children and since each have different levels of understanding, one might get away with certain aspects of behaviour that another one does not.
This, on paper, looks unfair. But so is life. In many spheres of life, injustice on a small level exists and I do think that it is important for the children to realise this.
One of my children attends a private school for those with learning difficulties. It is financially crippling for us, and inevitably the other two resent the resulting struggles we have to afford holidays and other treats.
But ultimately, I do think that this is an essential lesson to learn. And I also like to stress to them how lucky they truly are – life is not all about money.
Obviously, this doesn’t always go down too well so I often fall back on handing out the phone number of Amnesty International or Childline. That usually shuts them up.
If it all gets too much, though, I remember that my brother and I are now friends. I no longer have to wear his old clothes and he can buy his own season ticket to his local football team. I can openly declare my interest in natural history, although I have long since given up my cider habit.