Hi Dr Laura,
I am the middle of 7 children, 6 girls 1 boy. Growing up, things were pretty tight. We all had jobs as teens, we all had to help pay for things like senior portraits, school activities, class rings, and we all had chores and took turns making dinner (our house was always SPOTLESS and it was a cooperative effort). We were all taught the same principles of right and wrong. We all were required to do volunteer work and community service and to be kind, gracious and not judge others. We all had what we needed as basic humans. However; my parents didn't and still don't treat us all the same.
There is a difference between being treated the same and being treated equally. To treat us all the same would be unfair. We are 7 different people with 7 different needs, 7 different skills, talents and abilities and 7 different needs. We are all treated appropriately based on who we are.
For example, my one sister has the whole deal, an education, a BMW in the driveway, 4 wonderful kids, 2 beautiful grandchildren and is married to the only boyfriend she has ever had. We have all of our family events at her home because it just has this amazing vibe. This sister is the center of attention and the source of information for the family. That is her personality. We all embrace that. She is also the one who is always the first one to arrive in a crisis. When she had gallbladder surgery a couple of weeks ago you would have thought it was like a scene from Steel Magnolias - everyone gathered.
A week later, my baby sister had sinus surgery and her husband and my folks were the only ones there. Unfair? By most people’s ideas, yes, but below the surface, no. My baby sister didn't want the fuss made that my other sister did. Different child, different needs.
My dad takes some of my brothers-in-law hunting or shooting. He doesn't do that with my husband. He and my husband go to lunch and my husband does his tech work. Unfair? NO, my husband doesn't hunt or shoot guns. My dad and my husband have just as good of a relationship as the other sons-in-law.
As a large family, we function quite harmoniously because my parents recognize it is OK to treat us differently to accommodate our individual needs. They lovingly taught us they don't expect us to be the same and that we each have our needs met by them in our own way..
My parents are an excellent example of how to raise a large, emotionally healthy family and keeping sibling rivalry to an appropriate, positive level. They never once expected us to be as good as another, but rather do the best we could with our abilities. Life isn't fair, but it is when, in the end, one is made whole based on the individual's needs and personalities.
Kudos to my parents; they did a great job! This was no easy task!