One of the major issues that I have been/am faced with is my relationship with attention. As a competent (physically and mentally) middle sibling, between an unreachable, low-functioning, autistic and nonverbal older brother and a precocious, talented, bright younger brother, lack of attention is what I got plenty of (at least that is how I remember it). In the case of my older brother, I did not want to make things any more difficult for my parents. It was tough enough, and I felt good when I could help them. When (positive) attention was turned to me, I think I had a variety of feelings, although it’s hard to remember precisely. In my younger days, I was probably uncomfortable at the prospect of taking away from my other brothers. Also back then I may have felt that any attention was counterfeit, since I couldn’t be as incompetent as my older brother or as competent as my younger brother.
The old story of being proud of getting a B+ on a test being received with, “You couldn’t have gotten an A?” sums up the hazards of seeking approval, when I was young.
Questions to other siblings
1) Was attention an issue for you growing up?
2) If it was an issue, how did you resolve it?
3) Is attention an issue for you as an adult?
For those of you without handicapped siblings, how did you handle attention? I imagine that there must have been some kind of mini-social strata in a ‘normal’ family unit.
Thank you for your indulgence in this whiny post.
Is there a ‘normal’ family? You pose some interesting questions and I hadn’t thought of the scope of receiving attention and not receiving attention in the same way. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m the only girl and the youngest. Not only am I the only girl in a family with five older brothers but I’m the only grand-daughter on my father’s side and the youngest (with 35 male cousins). My brother, 13 months older than me had a serious accident when he was in the 2nd grade and spent almost a year in the hospital. Of course that incident caused a major shift in our family as we lived about 30 miles away from a hospital. Once my brother returned home he was in a hospital bed set up in the living room. He became the core of all family activities and even after he recovered, our family remained much the same way. He took over the youngest child position and has held on to it into retirement age. As for being the only girl – I was expected to act like a ‘girl’ and I didn’t want anything to do with all that stuff. I spent most of my pre-teen years hiding and reading. I didn’t want any attention. This is more than likely useless drival for you – but hey, you asked. As for your 3rd question – I guess I’d have to say attention is not an issue for me as an adult. I don’t hide but I don’t go out waving my arms either.
So, you think that the ‘youngest’ slot, all other things being equal, would command the most attention? When your brother became ‘sick’, that is, injured, he donned the mantle of the youngest and became, necessarily, the object of attention.
It makes a lot of sense for the ones in most obvious need to get the most attention. Those able to fend for themselves don’t seem to need it. The fittest seem to be invisible.
As always, Sheri, thanks for your comments.
I can’t be of any help. I am the first-born of two (I have a baby sister). Now she gets all the attention from my mother, but that’s because she has 7 year-old triplets and lives about a mile from my mother and I’m an abomination in just about every way imaginable (chose to transplant myself and become a ‘Yankee,’ left their religion, am gay, and switched to a different political party). We both received about the same amount of attention as kids, and now, I don’t want it anyway, from anyone really (I just realized how odd that is to say, seeing as how I lay my whole life out in a blog for anyone to read… I may have to think about that – some other time.)
Hey Thawk, you have my admiration for following your own way. Thinking for one’s self is a rare occurrence and takes a lot of strength and conviction. This, as opposed to having one’s life being run by the need for attention. Perhaps you are blogging for validation, knowing you followed your own way but needing confirmation. At any rate, I am glad that you are – blogging.
I was the third of five children. The fourth child, my sister, became neurologically disabled following surgery and treatment for a brain tumor at the age of 5 or 6 ( I was 8). Looking back, I don’t remember attention being an issue. My sister was fairly high functioning and although she required more assistance than the rest of us, it didn’t seem to affect me. Also, I was given an extra dose of compassion in my personality, so I think being able to assist in any small way was fulfilling to me. There are so many factors that enter into this sort of thing – especially an individual’s personality, temperament, talents, etc. Some of us need more attention. I think I always looked more for approval and recognition, and sometimes still do as an adult. Is that the same as attention?
I would say that seeking approval is the same as seeking acknowledgement and attention. Some adults need it more than others, I guess.
Thanks for your thoughts.