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When One Child Needs More Attention

I’ve been receiving some great questions from readers lately, and I wanted to share my answers to some of the questions that might apply to lots of us. Here’s the first one, from another mom who has an oldest child with a disability and medical needs that require more of her time than the needs her younger kids have. She asked:

What do you do as a parent if one child needs more attention than the others?

And here are my thoughts: 

Marilee has more or less felt jealous of Penny throughout her life. And she has let me know it.

William has never put those sentiments into words, but when I ask him whether he thinks we favor one of them over the others, he immediately says yes. Penny.

I get it. Penny has needed more of my time for doctors’ appointments throughout her life. She doesn’t have friends who can carpool with her to dance, so I have been her chauffeur more than the other two. And she has needed more support, whether with cutting her food or folding her clothes or overcoming fear of thunder, than either of her siblings.

We can’t make the time even out. But we can acknowledge the feeling of disparity, even if only to ask Marilee and William how they feel and affirm our love for them. We love them equally but give them different amounts of time in relation to their different needs. And we can adjust the way we respond to them.

I now drive Marilee to school most mornings instead of making her go on the bus. This change came as a direct response to her sense of being less important to me than Penny. (It’s a long story of why in my mind it made sense for me to drive Penny but not Marilee to school.) 

Penny’s needs will probably always require more time than our other kids’, and I’ve had to trust that there is enough love, enough time, enough attention for each of them.

I’ve also had to trust that for our kids, having each other is a gift in and of itself.

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