In our house, you can’t give one child something without the other ones wanting it too. While it took all of four years for my oldest child to learn “Me too!” it took only eighteen months for my youngest one to pick it up 😉 The “Me Too spirit,” I call it. Sometimes it’s really cute.
Hugs are especially big in our house. If you give one child a hug, they will all come running from various corners of the house to get one. They simply can’t be left out! An even sweeter phenomenon is when we have a “job” for one of the kids. They all want it! If we send one child to take a cup to the kitchen table, the other two will pout and say, “What job is for me, Mommy?” or “Dad, I need a job too.” And then we have to quick, think one up before the crestfallen faces of those who weren’t chosen crumple even further into tears. This is our house… always a helper available.
I wonder how long this lasts. I know one day no-one will be found for miles when there is something to do. I know one day I will have to encourage my children that taking a cup to the kitchen is a responsibility that simply must be done whether or not we like it. Today I have three runners, tomorrow there will be none. I try to keep this in mind when the Me Too Spirit gets out of hand.
A not-so-great application of the Me Too Spirit is when they are vying for each other’s attention. I am not sure if it is because they are boys, but my children are very competitive. Especially for attention. If I am complimenting someone, another brother is sure to want to steal the praise. Or if I am giving one person’s toys attention for a moment, they will all come and bring their toys into my lap so I can give them kudos too. Regression is also a big deal, since one person is expected to use the toilet without praise but another gets it constantly while we’re trying to teach. Sometimes, the Me Too thing brings disappointment.
Most of the time, I keep in mind that Me Too is their season right now, and I don’t say anything. I gently try to redirect or sublimate someone’s attention-stealing. But sometimes there are times where I don’t allow the competition. These include moments where I sense someone is needed special encouragement, help, or interrogation! In those times, I have found it helpful to say:
- Excuse me, Who is Mommy talking to right now? (Then they say, “Daddy.” And I say, “That’s right. I’m talking to Daddy. Let Daddy talk and then it will be your turn.)
- Excuse me, Who is Mommy helping right now?
- Excuse me, Who is Mommy asking?
- Excuse me, Who is Mommy paying attention to right now?
- Excuse me, Who is Mommy playing with right now?
These types of questions, if done in a nice spirit, give them attention (which is their goal) but not exactly the attention they wanted. It also helps me see if they really understand that they are interrupting or attention-stealing, or if they don’t know what’s going on and they were just excited. If they are able to answer my question correctly, then I know I can work with their conscience to be patient. After all, I know it is difficult to be put on hold—especially when someone is getting the attention I want—and yet I know that interrupting someone to get that attention feels different in my heart than when my behavior is innocent. I want to work with that feeling they have too, so I can purge the jealousy out.
Another thing we try is to help the brothers involve each other, as much as they can. So if they want to interrupt Mom and Dad to say something (not important) while we’re talking, we say, “Tell your brother.” If they don’t want to tell him, then we know they were interrupting us just because we were talking. If they tell him, it makes both the teller and the receiver excited! And they learn how to talk to one another instead of just us. This is especially helpful around the dinner table or when we’re at restaurants. With three brothers, but only two parents, there is usually always at least one brother who can listen to you!