East Olympia WA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 1, January-February 2001, p. 14
While pregnant with my second child, I was often concerned about how to promote harmony between a brother and sister 18 months apart in age. I wondered how to go about being fair to both. At a La Leche League Series Meeting, some of the mothers with more than one child suggested ideas that were new to me. They pointed out that being totally fair all the time is impossible and that trying to be fair isn't really fair to either child since they each have different needs. They suggested that I promote their individual strengths instead.
In the past three years since my daughter, Linden, was born, my husband and I have tried to promote a balance between fairness and individuality. But when her third birthday drew near, we really had to think hard about what to give her as a present. She seemed to have the same interests as her older brother: superheroes, dinosaurs, and cowboys. He also managed to steal and hide her toys whenever he wished. We wanted to find something that would be just for her, something that he couldn't take away.
In the months before her birthday, we often talked about weaning and how it would be time to stop nursing when she turned three. When the big day arrived, she made it clear that she wasn't ready. I think it was partly because breastfeeding was one of the few things she did that he did not. This was something he could not take from her. Truly, breastfeeding was a special gift and one with more lasting benefits than any toy. It fit her individual needs, not some arbitrary standard of fairness.
We don't talk of weaning any more. I know that as Linden grows she will find autonomy in other ways. Now her brother's new interest is playing with other boys, while she is discovering some of the more traditional joys of girlhood like fairy wings, ponytails, and baby dolls. By continuing to meet her need for breastfeeding, I feel that we reassured her that we respect her as an individual. In doing so, I find that there is greater harmony between my two children, and that is something everyone in the family can appreciate.