536. Your Siblings’ Parents

I’m Bob. To two people, I’m Daddy, and to about six hundred, I’m Mr. Blue, but mostly, I’m Bob. But that doesn’t really begin to tell you who I am. It’s just a name. Who I am to you depends on what you know of me, whether and how we’ve spent time together, what, if anything, we’ve said to each other, and how you’ve thought about all this. After all those considerations, the person I am in your mind couldn’t possibly be the same as the person I am in anyone else’s mind. I’m approximately one person in my own mind, but as far as other people’s perspectives, I have multiple personalities. So does everyone else.
If you grew up with siblings and parents, your family had more personalities than people. You experienced your parents in certain ways, and you probably grew to believe that your perception of your parents was who your parents really were. If your siblings or other people saw your parents differently, you probably thought, at first, that they were just plain wrong – that your perception was the correct one. If someone who was not part of your family described your parents in a way that clashed with your perception, your response might have been, “You don’t know my parents.” Or if a sibling did so, you might have said, “You just don’t UNDERSTAND them.”
Most parents (or at least MANY) try to be consistent and fair. They don’t want any child to grow up thinking, Mom and Dad always liked YOU better. That can be a tough balancing and juggling act; some children are good at getting people to treat them well, and some have more trouble. Patterns develop. Parents get used to the ways their children behave, and they develop predictable ways of responding to that behavior. Before long, the parents perceived by sibling A are very different people from the ones perceived by sibling B.
We may try to make sure our children know we aren’t playing favorites – that we love them all “equally,” but that can be a hard message
to convey. On the surface, at least, one child can look more like the child we once dreamed of having. And anyway, how can anyone love two people “equally?” Every bit of love is different from every other one. We may try to love all our children equally, but children don’t necessarily see that. Or if they do, they may see that we really have to try.
Children grow up, and they have lots of memories of the ways their parents treated them. Sibling A may remember a parent or parents who were always supportive. Sibling B may remember very different parents. And both sets of parents really existed; their children’s perceptions were real.
I hope my daughters both know how deeply I love them. I hope your children feel your love for them. I hope comparison doesn’t happen too much. And I hope all the perceived personalities in your family are getting along all right.

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