Normally when a child becomes a sibling it is with build up and expectation, the development and imminent arrival or the new baby is explained, and the arrival is of a tiny little thing who is too small to steal their toys. This is not the case for step-siblings.
As both Miss Rose and Z were used to being the only child in their homes and parents lives, the sudden crash of worlds which thrust them together came as a shock.
Whilst at his mother’s house where he officially lives, and his grandmother’s house where he spends most of his time, Z is still the only child. The toys are his, the bedroom is his, and the adult’s attention is given entirely to him. Miss Rose, on the other hand, has suddenly had to share her entire world. Her bedroom is now their bedroom, her toys are now their toys, and The Boy and I now give equal attention to Z when he’s there, so she has to share her parents too. Her world has gone from she and I focussing all our energy on one another, to a family of four overnight, with a brother almost the same age.
To her credit she is handling this change really well. She stopped shouting “Mine mine” when toys were brought out, as we firmly but gently told her that they are both of theirs now, and she copes very well with sharing so much time and space with Z. Certain toys are officially and completely hers, her inflatable Spider-Man being one and her cuddly sheep, “Sheep”, being another, and they are not allowed to steal one another’s beds. They play beautifully together and get up to mischief, egging one another one to greater acts of naughtiness whilst giggling together behind their hands.
For the most part I invest more time into Miss Rose, whilst The Boy invests more time into Z, so both feel able to claim their individual parent as primarily theirs. An acknowledgement that biologically they are closer to one than the other, and are more comfortable and relaxed with their own parent. However I am often with the two of them without The Boy, and I try to ensure I do not prioritise Miss Rose over Z. I want to ensure that Miss Rose understands I love her but I love him too, and I never want Z to feel excluded or like he’s not an equal part of the family.
This leads to a certain degree of competition between the two.
Miss Rose may be sat on my lap when Z comes over for a cuddle too. “No Z!” she sometimes shouts, but I always scooch her over and explain I have two legs and therefore more than enough lap space for two children. This is usually met with a begrudging acceptance of sharing, sometimes she tries to push him away, and sometimes she gets off and has a strop on the floor. Other times it is Z sat on my lap and he too shares the same reactions. Both try to claim me as theirs, both are told to share.
Whilst I intend to stick to these rules, and ensure that I favour neither, I don’t half feel guilty sometimes. Miss Rose has at times woken in the night crying, and when I go to comfort her she wails “No it’s MY mummy, MY mummy Z, it’s MY mummy” and my heart breaks for her. She and I were a team, me and Miss Rose against the world, and part of me feels I have betrayed her by letting another child into my heart and into her life.
It will get easier, and she and I still have a lot of time alone being just us, so she isn’t entirely cut off from what she’s used to. She adores Z and missses him when they aren’t together, so being around him isn’t a chore for her and they are developing a sibling like bond of both love and annoyance which is really special. I will never regret putting her into this family situation, and I will never resent the time we spend with Z nor spreading the love we have far enough to envelop him too. But I admire her for how well she copes, I respect her for how welcoming she is to Z, I love how much she loves me, and I feel guilty for any pain she feels because of it.
Step-families are not necassarily easy, but when a small family of two gets an influx of love from more members, it’s a beautiful thing and something I am proud to be a part of.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!