Sibling neglect – keeping everyone happy at exam time
“Why don’t you ever read to me anymore?” Patrick said as he climbed out of the bath last night “and have you remembered to sew on my cub badge? Or have you lost it like last time?”
I thought back to the frantic search through pockets of various coats I may have worn when picking him up. Paddy’s cub uniform is in constant disarray. We used to have a “woggle panic” on Thursday mornings – until we realised that threading his scarf through lego window frames (the purple kind) is quite a convincing alternative.
The truth is that currently Paddy is neglected. Not because we don’t love him as dearly as his sisters, but because Isabel (the middle one) is doing her Common Entrance next week and requires a lot of attention. Their older sister is away at school and so Paddy has been left to his own devices. Take the morning run, for instance: Isabel sits in the front of the car and we speak French to each other. The sentences are learnt off pat and there is no deviation: School, Home; Leisure time. Once we get to the Crossroads (about five miles into our journey) Isabel does mental maths – I fire off questions but have no idea if she answers them correctly as the roads are quite winding by that point and I have to concentrate.
So, poor Paddy sits quietly by himself. And metaphorically, he is not alone. Younger siblings often have to take a back seat at this time of year – the exam season – but it can work to their advantage: Paddy is getting used to sorting himself out without as much supervision, a valuable life skill.
In my book “Prepare your Daughter for Boarding” I write about teaching your child to be responsible for him or herself without needing to be constantly nagged. This is a lesson which Paddy is now learning from necessity. Being the youngest child, with two older sisters, means that he has always been rather spoilt. Suddenly he is beginning to take more responsibility for himself and his kit.
And, what is more, I couldn’t help noticing the other day as I glanced in the rear view mirror that he mouths the answers to Isabel’s French oral questions.
So perhaps a little bit of “positive neglect” isn’t such a bad thing!