So often you see sibling rivalries in families—competition, catty fights, disrespect. I grew up in a home like that and honestly my sister and I never recovered. I was never made to honor my sister and never had to share or consider her as more important than myself. We had our own room, own tv, own toys, own clothes and we were not allowed to touch the other's property without asking. It created a sense of entitlement and individualism in the both of us. I didn't need her. She didn't need me. In regard to raising our own family, our philosophy in parenting and in defining family is that we need each other. Dhati and I see the need to train our kids in a way that prepares them to be others focused. I have trained my kids that in being a part of this family, there are responsibilities that each of us will own. Tonight, it is my job, for instance, to cook a healthy meal; it is Trinity's job to do the dishes, Jade's job to sweep, Briaiah's job to bath Nathaniel, Dhati Jr's job to take out the trash and Brayden's job to wipe down the table. Everyone has a role. We need everyone to do their part. From a very early age (two years) my kids have loaded and unloaded the dishwasher; now with a 9,8,6,5,4,and 3 year old, I have worked myself out of a job in that regard. The kids learned very early to hang clothes and fold towels. All six of them are completely responsible for putting away all the clean clothes, which I am responsible for washing two times a week. We need each other. If any one person tried to do it all, it would be impossible.
Every day when the kids get home, it is their job to unload their backpacks, unpack and pack their lunches for the next day, put their shoes away, lay out their own clothes, do their own homework, and read for 30 mins without Mommy reminding them to do so—this is their job. My contribution is helping each of them with their homework, providing the lunch stuff for them to put in their boxes, etc. We all have a role. I need them to do their part. They need me to do mine.
They need each other
The kids share rooms—we have enough rooms in our home to give at least the oldest kids their own rooms, but we find such training in having them share that space. We have explained to the kids that when they leave our house and move to a dorm, they will share a room; when they get married, they will share a room; might as well learn how to do that well now, since that is what awaits. We flesh this out by the way we talk about ownership—the kids don't own anything. What we have is not our own, but ultimately God's. The house we live in is not ours; the suburban in the driveway is God's, not the Lewis'. For the kids, that shirt is not yours, it's God's, and you are stewarding it. That toy you just received for your birthday is not your own, it is God's. Those Christmas presents, that bike that is too tall for everyone else, that belt, those shoes, that cupcake, is not yours. It is all God's. And if it is all God's, and he is sharing it with you, you have to have the same mentality and willingly be ready to share it with others. This is so bizarre for others and certainly counter-cultural. However, I will say, it has been a change agent in the kids (and in me). They enjoy sharing, they give toys away to friends, and they do not hold fast to material things like so many of us do.
We are trying to create in our kids a healthy sense of community—a need for one another. We open up our home when people need a place to stay. We have had to have homes opened up for us. We loan the cars out. We have been given cars. We share the food in the frig with neighbors as we have been given food and shared with so often. We are trying to develop in the kids a healthy sense of needing others. If Dhati wants a spider (like the one Brayden received on his birthday), we will not buy him a second one; he needs Brayden to share with him. That sounds so simple. But, too often you see parents buy two or three of the same thing so that it's "fair." In my opinion, what that does is teach materialism and diminish the need for others. Trinity needs Jade to take care of her shoes, because those will be hers one day soon (yes, Jade's feet are bigger than Trin's). Nathaniel needs Brayden not to lose his lunch box, because that may be his next year. I need the kids to turn off the lights upstairs, because that is God's money they are wasting (ok through that one in because its a pet peeve, but still holds true).
My boys know that their number one responsibility to our family is to protect and to honor. The girls know that theirs is to respect and to honor. We do not allow (without reprimand) them to speak down to, laugh at rudely, demean, yell at, or disregard each other. They are to honor one another. They need to be on one another's side. The boys need respect from the girls, so that it helps train them on what to look for in a wife. The girls need tenderness and protection from the boys, so that it teaches them what to look for in a husband. In a dark world, the public school world, the kids need each other. It feels good to know that your sister has your back when you are being bullied on the bus. It is esteeming to feel that gentle hand reach over and hold yours when an adult is wrongly yelling at you (as the kids faced this past week).
Yea, we're training them to need each other.