I vividly remember the day my older son, who was around two years old at the time, realized people were giving his baby sister more attention. We were walking out of Mardel’s Book Store and a woman stopped us to talk to Adelaide. She was about a year old at the time. Cute as can be with ringlet curls, pinchable cheeks, and the cheeriest smile you’d ever seen on a year old.
The lady stood there chatting with her for quite some time, going on and on about how precious she thought Adelaide was. Who wouldn’t stop to say hello? I didn’t blame her, Addi was precious. I’d do the same if I were in her shoes.
However, what happened next was a mistake that has been repeated often and draws the mama bear out of me!
Jaxon, who was in the same shopping cart as his sister, kept repeating himself trying to get the lady’s attention. Her attention never drifted off of Adelaide. As we were walking away, Jaxon looked up at me and said with tears in his eyes, “Mama, I just wanted that lady to see my cool shirt, but she never looked at me.” Fury and grief rose in me because it was then I realized what my two-year-old had learned that day. I was broken-hearted at the fact that my son felt unseen and left out at such a young age.
That day he became the glass sibling.
Fast forward two years and we’ve added another little one to our krewe. He too is another cute as can be, pinch-able cheek, cheery smiling baby. We were standing in the Costco checkout line a couple of days ago as several older ladies passed by saying how cute and precious Declan is.
They’d stop to pinch his chubby toes or comment on his kissable cheeks. One lady in particular stopped and chatted for a moment about her grandbaby and how she thought that Declan looked like her grandbaby and said she just wanted to kiss his face off.
When the lady walked away, Adelaide said with the most disappointed, confused look, “Mama she didn’t see me. Why didn’t she talk to me too?”
Again, angry and broken-hearted for my child who then became the glass sibling. The elder sibling, the one most likely to be unseen because of the precious younger sibling. The sibling that gets overlooked because you know, cute baby. I know, gasp! Typing this even feels wrong but I am certain that most everyone has done it. I am guilty. Babies are cute and we are attracted to them first. It’s science.
This isn’t a post bashing people for overlooking elder siblings. It is not a post shaming those that give all their attention to the baby of the family. My hope is that this post brings awareness. My hope is to give a little insight on how crushing it is to be the “glass sibling” and how we can work to change that.
A rule I started to follow is if I see a family with multiples, I will approach the eldest first with something like:
- I bet you are such an amazing big brother/sister.
- Your (insert article of clothing) is so cute! Can I talk to your baby brother/sister?
- You BOTH/ALL are so adorable! Then comment individually.
Maybe I am just hypersensitive to the subject because it has happened over and over to my family. Maybe I am just an overly protective mama bear. But I do believe there should be a different method of approaching families of multiples to avoid causing elder siblings to feel unseen. Maybe I’ll just walk around with a sign that says, I have three kids…talk to all or none! Kidding. Mostly.