Raised By Wolves… Sibling Reflections, for Mother’s Day


Warning: Severe sarcasm zone. Snarky tones abound. Enter at your own risk, and take most statements with a bag grain of salt.

I have three children. My daughter, Principessa, is 24; my son, Middle Man, is 22, and the baby of the family, Little Man, is 17 and a half. I love all three of my children very much. Any mother would tell you that they love their children equally; there are no favorites. However, when we’re honest, we might confide that there are things we like especially about one child or another.

Don't let this innocent face fool you...

Don’t let this innocent face fool you…

For instance, my daughter really cares about people. She gets them; she studies them. Principessa’s a real life and world traveler.  She’s passionate about experiencing it all, and she gets out there and does it. She’s adventurous and has lived in the Middle East for much of the last four years. She follows her heart, and is gutsy and sharp. Her ability to understand emotions, informs her intellect, and she generally weighs issues for emotional as well as intellectual content. I love that about her.

That's an alpha smile...

That’s an alpha smile…

Middle Man is great at working out details; he’s very practical. He is not overly emotional, but he cares about doing the right thing. He has become increasingly good at not carrying issues around with him, something I admire. The older I get, the more I appreciate and respect his ability to see through the details and emotions, and  accept things the way they are. He’s smart, charismatic and finishing college next week.  He rarely holds grudges, and is light years ahead of me in letting go of stuff.  I love that about him.

Herein lies the problem...

Herein lies the problem…

Little Man is a very sensitive kid. Some of it, undoubtedly, comes from being the youngest, but he was born tender-hearted. He was a joyful young child, and unusually thoughtful as he got older.  He cares about how other people feel, and considers that when making choices. He’s very intelligent, but not in the obvious ways that his older brother and sister demonstrate.  His is a quiet intellect. Just the same, when I’m trying to work something out– be it technology or an interpersonal issue– he often surprises me with his well-rounded perspective. I love that about Little Man.

Due to their two-year age-gap, Principessa and Middle Man spent many years living at home together as siblings and were very close when they were little, while Little Man (4-6 years younger) has been alone at home, with his dad and I, for all of high school, and most of middle school. Although he and Principessa are much more alike than either of his siblings are to one another, overall, Little Man is very different from his older siblings. Middle Man is a strong blending of his father and I, while  Principessa is a lot more like me, than her father.  Little Man is distinctly his own person. He is different from his father, and only resembles me in small ways. We put the same ingredients in the bowl, but clearly got three very different cakes!

Who knew that this bump would cause so much trouble?!

Who knew that this bump would cause so much trouble?!

Frankly, if you look at the expressions on those two little faces, you can almost see the trepidation, days before Little Man arrived (10 days late, in 95º weather, weighing nearly 9 pounds! Just sayin’… if anyone has a right to kvetch…)

As is so often the case with siblings, over the years Principessa and Middle Man have become convinced that I “spoil” their little brother. Again, they have not lived at home with him for a long time now, but when they are visiting, or call home, they frequently feel compelled to let me know that things are not done the way they think they should be… Translation:  it seems I am not raising their brother to their standards. Further, they maintain that the parenting I do with Little Man is a pale resemblance to the hardships they endured parenting I used on them.

They see an endless stream of injustices, reams of “that’s not fair,” in the way we treat LM, versus how we treated them… And let’s be clear, these accusations are most often launched at me, their mother… not their Dad. It is Mom who “lets Little Man get away with so much more!” It’s me who “doesn’t hold him accountable,” who “enables him,” who treats him “like a baby.” Of course, according to them, I “didn’t do any of these things for” them! In fact, listening to my two older kids, you would think that while their little brother has a mother who spoils him; that he lives in the lap of motherly luxury, they were raised by wolves!

One wolf… a she-wolf… with fangs and little empathy for pups… who barely provided sustenance… and nipped and bit at them all the time… on the tundra… in the dark… in the cold… and dark, did I mention dark?

Apparently my making dinner for their little brother is something I didn’t really do for them. This is strange to me, because I recall cooking thousands of gluten-free (Principessa is GF) and vegetarian (only Middle Man) meals, over the years. It’s hard to remember, now, why I made that effort… since Little Man doesn’t eat either, and his older brother and sister were alone in the wild. Nor do they recall that I’ve always, always, believed in the family meal. We eat together every night, unless we absolutely can’t.

Way back when their dad was training, I would pack home-cooked dinners and take my wee pups to the hospital cafeteria, so they could eat with their dad. We have always eaten our dinners together… But then, I’m old, maybe I’ve forgotten the harsh realities they survived.

The fact that I prepare a meal and sit down with their “little” brother, and can’t always talk on the phone, when they call me at dinnertime (from far-flung time zones and college dorms),  is a horse of another color! “Mom, this is important! Little Man doesn’t need you to feed him. He isn’t a baby.”

As if I’m actually putting the food in his mouth! Because, you know, that’s how we wolf bitches role. We chew it and feed it to our pups… from our mouths. Wild like.  Grrr.

While I recall driving both of them to countless sport practices, friends’ houses, parties, dances, school, etc, apparently my doing it for their brother is coddling. “He has his license! Why do you have to take him?”

“Mom, he can make his own dinner,” I hear when I mention that I’m tired.  Well, yes, yes he can. However, I don’t recall his siblings telling me to kick back and put my feet up, when they were in high school. And while I’m damned for feeding him, I’m doubly damned for not making sure he eats more nutritiously. Of course, when they were his age, they were very conscientious about fruits and vegetable intake and balancing carbs with proteins.  They never ate donuts or junk. They always asked for more salad and passed on burgers/fries/etc.

Oh wait… that’s right; how would I know? I didn’t feed them.

Apparently, I also allow him to watch “too much TV” and “play too many video games.” There are “all kinds of studies,” they tell me, about video game playing and violence. None of that was true, when they were playing Sims or the clearly less problematic first editions, of the very same games he plays now. I also let him stay up much later than they were ever allowed, despite the fact that I don’t remember either of them having a bedtime, as seniors in high school.

It comes down to this: the discrepancies between how I mother their little brother and how I mothered them, clearly have nothing to do with the fact that they have both finally grown up, and see the value in eating well, watching less TV/video games, walking to locations versus getting rides, family dinners, and numerous other things that I would have said/done for them, if I’d been mothering them. It has nothing to do with their changing perspective. It’s all about the fact that suddenly, a few years ago, I decided to be a good mother to my youngest–

because I love him more.

After years of hardship that my older two survived… years in the wilderness… after having been raised by wolves themselves– they see things very differently. Hopefully their brother will make it on his own, when he goes out into the world!  Howwwwl!

Do your kids get along? Are they best friends, or do they nip and yip at each other? Does birth order play a role in how they see things? Are you spoiling your youngest too?

Like seriously? Really? As if I didn’t sweat buckets for the other two as well! Really?

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are mothers in some capacity!  

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About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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29 Responses to Raised By Wolves… Sibling Reflections, for Mother’s Day

  1. mamaheidi60 says:

    I only have one kid, but at 28 she often feels the need to parent me. She’ll ask me if I washed my hands after using the bathroom. Admittedly she’s a bit OCD herself about hand washing. Mostly I can listen to her and and then go on without reacting. Much. Every now and then I call her on it. In my own family, I’m the oldest of three. We were classic in our display of birth order tendencies. My husband is oldest of three and again, we see that classic description. My mom was the youngest and totally identified with my sister, the baby. She claimed not to understand me at all. And she didn’t. I really was like her older sister. The younger two would say I got away with murder and so our parents cracked down on them. Other than smoking pot, I really was a good kid. I’m never really sure what my parents were reacting to with setting more rules for them. Okay, probably the pot smoking. Now my daughter is easing into co-parenting her partner’s kids. So when we have the granddaughters for the weekend and I mention something like how they ate a whole quart of ice cream she’ll tell me I shouldn’t let them do that. Or she’ll ask why I don’t ask them to do the dishes as she tells me about the chores they do at home. But I also see her as being a great listener and think she is probably a better parent than I. Don’t get me wrong, I love her and feel great about myself as her mom, but it is sweet to see her parenting. Happy mom’s day!

    Like

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Heidi. You always have such insightful and caring things to contribute to the dialogue! It’s interesting how these things play out. I was the oldest in my family as well… and very much my mother’s co-parent. I know that my younger sibs thought I got preferential treatment; I often felt alone and unparented.

      No matter who we are, or how many children we have, I don’t believe we are ever totally neutral and “equal” with our children. Each child brings their own unique stuff to the mix… as you know. So many dynamics go into parenting… being a mother, or a sibling. Happy Mother’s Day, Heidi! xo

      Like

  2. Julie says:

    This was freakin’ hilarious!
    Happy Mother’s Day, Dawn!
    My most vivid memories of you as a brand new Mom to Principessa include you nursing her on your bed with her ultra sounds on the wall above you, watching with trepidation as you tried a suppository to help her move those little tiny bowels. And the paroxysmic laughter when what was ailing her shot out of her tiny little butt so fast I thought we were done for! And then, hugging you goodbye at the airport and you getting emotional and your milk letting down! All very fond and unforgettable memories of my very first visit with you- 6 weeks into your most spectacular gig! You are the best most amazing mother to your amazing children. You are all such blessings in each other’s lives!!

    Like

    • Oh my… how I adore you. I am so lucky, to have had you beside me, for nearly every step, of the last 40 years! Love you to death, Julie. Thanks for those “colorful” memories, and for being such a dear friend, my family. I’m so grateful to have you in my life. xox

      Like

  3. Happy Mother’s Day, Dawn! We have two children who are 21 months apart. My son is the oldest and thinks his sister was spoiled. He says she can’t be a baby all her life. My brother was 20 years older than me. My mother was a widow when she married my dad. My dad raised my brother from the time he married Mom and my brother was five. He was on his own in the U.S. Navy when I was born and made infrequent visits home when I was growning up. We visited him and his family infrequently as they lived far away. Still, my brother told me one time I was spoiled. I thought, “How would he know?” It was most likely sibling rivalry long-distance. Also, I was a girl and my dad was a Victorian father, born in 1897, and was very protective of me. From what I’ve read and heard, I’d guess sibling rivalry is very common and just human nature.—Susan

    Like

    • What a story, Susan! There is so much in that, that makes me want to know more! Amazing that your father raised your brother for 20 years, before you were born… with would also suggest that both your parents were much older when they had you. Such interesting history! Thanks so much for sharing it, and for taking the time to read this. Happy Mother’s Day to you as well!

      Like

      • I just wanted to add, after reading your comment, that yes they of course were 20 years older when they raised me and that had a great impact on their view of raising a child. I was also subject to serious sinus infections and had a couple of serious accidents (cut my arm open by falling on a broken bottle and broke my right ankle in three places falling down stairs). What my brother didn’t think of was that I was the child living nearest our parents and had the responsibility of looking after them in their old age. I never totally understood where my brother’s attitude toward me was coming from. I could always feel some resentment which was a shame. Of course, because of divorce in his life, he never really raised his children to adulthood and I don’t think he really understood children or young people. My dad was always good to him and I could tell he loved Dad, but my mother made a wrong decision by not letting Dad adopt him and he may have blamed her for that. I think he loved Mom but had mixed feelings about things. I wasn’t there to see what happened in the first 20 years of his life. I think he just needed to emotionally grow up but that never happens with some people. He played the accordian in an adult band from the age of 16 and they let him drink so that was another problem he had. He did well in college after WWII and always worked, He didn’t let his drinking affect that part of his life.What I knew of him I had to pick up in bits and pieces over the years.–Susan

        Like

  4. zeudytigre says:

    I think you must have my family in a parallel universe, a few years ahead but this sounds eerily familiar. Brilliant writing as usual and so funny. Enjoy Mother’s Day 🙂

    Like

    • When I read other stories, I often think the same thing. And usually, I’m a few years ahead! 😉 The older I get, the more I realize that things are so alike all over. I hope your Mother’s Day is wonderful as well.

      Like

  5. unfetteredbs says:

    Laughing… How dare you! Perspective is a funny thing, eh? Happy Mothers Day!

    Like

  6. First, the kids are gorgeous- beautiful photos. Second, hilarious, you wolf-mother! I get some of the same– not so much about what I do /don’t do for them, but the whole phone thing is very hard. If I can’t talk– maybe on the way out the door, or with the grandkids, or my parents, or doing whatever I do- hey, like in the midst of some writing work that has to get done before I head out the door– I get that exasperated sigh from the daughter, who live in a another time zone and calling me is such an inconvenience for her.. alas. Your wolf-babes all seem to have turned out just fine! Happy Mother’s Day! xox

    Like

    • I so hear you Lisa! Hey, maybe your daughter should call me (same zone) and mine can call you… at least it would be closer! We would probably hear similar things. 😉 Mine gets home tomorrow, for nearly 3 months. No doubt, things will be very interesting. Yes, my cubs are turning out pretty ok, as are yours! xox Happy Mother’s Day!

      Like

  7. jgroeber says:

    Oh, you’ve just described the world of hurt for my future! I literally say to my husband, “Really?! You want to do THAT?! How will that sound when she tells a therapist in twenty years?… Exactly.” Thank god we had them all in three years. One can imagine their feral childhoods will be fairly consistent? But who knows how they’ll see it!
    Those absolutely gorgeous children of yours sound like amazing folk. You must have done SOMETHING right somewhere along the way. Right? 😉 So Happy Mother’s Day to you!

    Like

    • Thanks a million, Jen. Yes, they clean up and photograph pretty well, but the pack mentality can indeed get old. My daughter will be home tomorrow, for 3 months, and my older son will be home briefly (3 wks) before moving overseas… I have little doubt that they will have a lot to tell me about what I’m doing right/wrong these days! It will be interesting to see whether your pups will be less inclined to judge, being closer… however, the baby is always the baby. Strange phenomena! I hope your Mother’s Day is wonderful!

      Like

  8. What a terrific story! You are blessed with a beautiful family, Dawn.

    Happy Mothers Day to all the Moms reading this, but a special Happy Moms Day to you, Dawn.

    I am lucky to have you as a friend.

    Toby

    #RaisedByRednecks

    Like

  9. El Guapo says:

    Happy Mothers Day, Dawn, and to your entire clan.
    And the wolves too! 😉

    My sisters and I all have memories of growing up that make it seem like we lived in different houses.

    Like

    • Guapo, I think we all do! We each have a different relationship with our parents and siblings, and in turn, I think we bring that to our own children/ families. It’s a complex dynamic, that just keeps giving! 😉 Thanks for your kind words, and wonderful support– it is always appreciated!

      Like

  10. Psychobabble says:

    These different opinions, differences in experience, sound normal and familiar to me. I have a brother just 2 years younger than me, and we have very different experiences of and with our parents growing up, for various reasons. We remember different things, and remember the same events differently. And of course, our parents are going to remember those events even differently still, because they saw them through a vastly different lens.
    While I don’t doubt that you’re a different parent to each of your kids – because how could you not be? they are all such different people – that doesn’t mean that your parenting is any better or worse. It just evolves. Tell your kids to get over it 😉

    Like

  11. ME says:

    May be your mistake was in not creating such an inhospitable environment that they all had to bond together for survival? Just saying…
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    Like

  12. Mike Lince says:

    I can relate to the selective memories of your children. I am pretty sure my children blame me and their mother for many of the problems in their lives because of what we did wrong raising them. Then, when they have children of their own, they have to rethink things in order to reconcile their own parenting issues.

    The one thing that never wavers is the undying love we have for our children in spite of our parenting sins both real and perceived. All I know is I continue to try to be as fine a person as my grandsons think I am. And I look forward to the day you will be sharing Tales From the Grandmother Land. 🙂

    Such a Great Mother’s Day story! – Mike

    Like

  13. Honie Briggs says:

    You’ve got a good looking pack there, Mama. Hope your day was extra special. Mine certainly was. Here’s to motherhood! (Raising an imaginary adult beverage.)

    Like

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