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I am struggling with guilt that I am not paying enough attention to my almost 2 year old. I am also expecting twins this summer. When my oldest was 2 years old, she was the centre of my attention. I realize in retrospect that this was a bit unhealthy, and I then worked on creating more of a balance. However, because my 2 year old is easy-going and I'm homeschooling her sister, its easy to spend more time again with my oldest.

There are plenty of interesting activities that I pull out for my 2 year old when I am working with her sister. Today my youngest was happily doing play dough, while I was working with my oldest on a nature journal at the same table. Everyone was happy, but once again, it is my oldest who is getting the most attention. And once my 2 year old becomes a middle child with younger twins, I imagine there will be less attention for her.

How have others balanced sharing attention for all children, when some seem to need (or demand) it more and others are more easy going? Is it your younger ones or older ones that seem to get more attention? Do you less demanding/ more independent children get less attention?
 

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I grew up in a family of four. I'm raising a family of four. My husband was raised in a family of 8. Here's the thing: everyone has a different experience, depending on birth order, age, stage, temperament, sibling spacing, gender and so on. There are pros and cons to all of it. Things are never equal, and there's no point in comparing. Eldest children are like "onlies" for a while and then they get dethroned. That can hurt. Youngest children get a bit of that only experience at the other end, when their siblings have all become independent teens, but maybe they don't get as much focus in their early years. Some four-year-olds will get no end of self-esteem and satisfaction from being a big brother or sister to younger siblings. Some will seem to get squeezed out of the parents' scope for a while and will emerge with amazing self-starting skills, confidence, resilience and interpersonal skills. For some kids copious parental attention contributes to perfectionism and anxiety. Others thrive. You just can't predict any of it. Trying to make it all even and fair is an exercise in futility ... because it'll never even out, and it because doesn't need to. They'll all grow up with different experiences and different strengths regardless.

As a parent all you can do is try to respond if you see a child who is at some point not getting what he or she needs to really thrive. I don't think lack of parental attention is going to be as big a problem as you imagine ... because ultimately in a large family siblings are a source of attention too, and there ends up being lots of that attention to go around.

I've never had twins, but I found that with my third and fourth children the most helpful thing I did was to pull the older kids into baby's world (which was my world by necessity!), rather than trying to divide my attention. The years when we had infants were the years when we focused mostly on being a family, and not on whether Kid A was doing enough crafts, or Kid B was practicing phonics. I referred to it, only half-jokingly, as the New Baby Homeschooling Curriculum. Kid A learned to make toast and fried egg for Kid B. Kid B learned how to jiggle baby gently to calm her, how to do up his own zippers. Everybody learned how to see the limits and frustrations of the world through a baby's eyes and how to take that into account in family choices. The New Baby Curriculum was enough. We all learned lots. We all had rich experiences. Whether we had someone's undivided attention or not, we all felt important in the family.

My youngest two kids have had such broad experiences, having been toted about to their older siblings' activities, exposed to opportunities at much younger ages (because our family wasn't encumbered by babies when they of an age to want to dig into new adventures). They were pulled along on an intellectual and academic fast track because of their desire to keep up with their revered older siblings. They grew up mature, capable and confident, because they had not just one or two parental teachers, but these amazing slightly-older models who also taught them so much. And they have so much emotional resilience, so much more social mediation ability and flexibility, thanks to being jostled about by sibling relationships from their earliest years.

Rather than worrying that your younger kids' experiences aren't as parentally enriched as their older siblings' focus on finding the opportunities and benefits of having them grow up in the family you have right now.

Miranda
 
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