Sunday, June 8, 2008

Feeling Sorry for Arrena

Arrena blew a gasket yesterday morning. I guess her grandma (Chris' mom) babysat the kids Friday night while I was at work. Arrena woke up getting it all off her chest--she ranted and raved for a LONG time. I guess her grandma was "mean" to her. We have always thought that she was hard on Arrena (yelling at her for twirling her hair around her finger) and it's obvious that her favorite is Kimmy. But, since Arrena favored my mom (who strives to make everything fair between the kids), we didn't worry about it too much. Arrena said that grandma told her she got on her nerves. And I guess she brought over some clothes for the girls and toy trucks for Billy and Arrena said that Kimmy and Billy got more than she did. Which paved the way for her complaint that grandma told them she wouldn't buy them gifts anymore except on their birthdays, but Kimmy gets something nearly every time she goes over there. Arrena went on and on, laying out everything. She even tattled on her grandma by saying that she was eating food out of the fridge (which is typical, but still ticks me off if she eats something that was planned for dinner). She concluded by saying that she never wants to be babysat by her again. Chris agreed that she didn't have to, and plans to take up the issue with his mom.

It all made me mad, of course, but what really got me was when I started to feel guilty. Arrena often gets overlooked, at least by me. She was the first baby and I had tried for a year to get pregnant, so when she was on the way, I was overjoyed. Since she was the first, she was an only child for 21 months and was babied a lot. I loved her so much, but from the beginning, it was obvious that she was daddy's girl and preferred him. Her first word (said three days before she turned three months old, I swear) was "daddy!" So, when Kimmy came along and preferred me above all, it seemed the die was cast. Arrena was daddy's girl and Kimmy was mine. And when Billy entered our family, he preferred me at first; but now, I think he equally loves both Chris and I. He loves his daddy time when I am at work, but when I am home, he's mama's boy. And as he is the last baby, I think I tend to cuddle and coddle him more. If that's not enough, Arrena has such attitude, especially with me. Maybe it's because she feels slighted by me. In any case, it's sometimes hard for me to feel close to her because she is daddy's girl and because she has such an attitude.

But, I started realizing that I think she has been reaching out to me lately. I've seen her trying to sit on laps, snuggle, cling, kiss, hugs, etc. I had thought she was just jealous--Kimmy is a very touchy-feely kid and thrives on hugs, kisses, snuggles. If you've read Gary Chapman's "Five Love Languages", Kimmy's love language is 'physical touch'. I think Arrena's primary love language is 'acts of service'. But, I thought since she was seeing her sister get hugs and kisses, maybe she felt left out, even if it really isn't her thing. I am generally NOT a touchy-feely person. I don't like people in my personal space. I'll hug my close friends, but generally, I feel uncomfortable with too much touching. After 13 years, I am accustomed to Chris being in my personal space and it doesn't bother me. And with the kids, as babies, they are constantly in your personal space--especially if you nurse them. You become accustomed to them being in your space. But, eventually, they get older and crave independence and don't want to be held and cuddled all the time. Billy is still demanding being held and cuddled, so I am used to him. Kimmy had started the independent thing years ago, but occasionally likes cuddles--it's not as familiar as it once was, so occasionally it makes me uncomfortable, especially if she is constantly hanging off me. I get irritable. With Arrena, she's not been a snuggle-bunny since she was about two. So, five years of not being touchy-feely is hard to overcome. Don't get me wrong, I kiss and hug my kids daily. But, suddenly I have this 7-year-old kid crawling into bed with me and instead of staying on her side, like she used to, she's snuggled up tight against me. Every time I turn around, she seems to be laying a sloppy wet kiss on me. She's taken to slapping me on the backside (don't know where that came from, but it ticks me off!). Every time I turn around, I am tripping over her. And she is constantly hanging all over me. My personal space is gone and it is driving me crazy.

But, after her tirade yesterday about her grandma, I started thinking about all this and how it's easier for me to hug and kiss Kimmy and Billy, but so hard to cuddle Arrena. I suddenly feel so sorry for her. I think she gets overlooked a lot. She's the oldest and we expect her to know what to do. I think she gets in trouble a lot because we expect more from her. And her attitude alone gets her in the most trouble. She's generally such a good kid and a great helper that I think we sometimes almost forget her. Granted that since she's older, she gets to do more than her siblings, but I can see where she would feel like the red-headed stepchild. So my goal is to overcome this aversion to the touchy-feely to give her more affection and to show her attention--not as the younger kids get, but as a growing oldest child. I don't want to reward her sometimes baby-like behavior (trying to get our attention), but to treat her more like an adult. Take her shopping with me, talk to her more, have fun together. She's been begging for one-on-one time with both Chris and I. Hopefully she and I can bond.

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