Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… How do you handle it when your entire family puts your son on a pedestal and lets him get away with murder, but treats your daughter way differently? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
My son is 9 and my daughter is 13. For whatever reason (and I’m sure there are many), my parents and my husband’s parents treat my son like he’s a total golden child. They overrule me about chores (he doesn’t have to do them, apparently) even when I ask him to do them, he can eat and drink whatever he wants, he’s fawned over constantly, and when they ask about my kids they only want “Josh stories” and always nag me to “send me a pic/video of Josh.” Sure, they ask about his sister, but not at all to the extent they’re all enthralled with every waking minute of my son’s life. I don’t know if it’s because he’s the “baby” (there are no other grandchildren on either side). I don’t know if it’s just ingrained sexism? But I know it deeply bothers my daughter — and it deeply bothers me. My husband shrugs it off most of the time, but acknowledges that there is favoritism at play. Of course, I am also charmed by my son and love him dearly, but this is ridiculous. My daughter feels left out, less loved, and it’s affecting their relationship as siblings. How do I call out this favoritism and put an end to it? When it comes to making their way in the world, it’s most likely not my son who’s going to have a harder time. I don’t want him to think he’s entitled like all white males seem to think. And I want my daughter to not be defeated about her place in the world before she’s even truly entered it. HALP.
Oy. All four grandparents? OY. If your daughter’s feelings are hurt and this is getting her down, then yes, this is a problem. You see it, she sees it (and feels it), and that’s a big nope. You and your husband are going to have to break it to Grandma and Grandpa squared that Operation: Fawn All Over Little Josh And No One Else has reached its end. Hopefully, they’ll be receptive to your concerns and feel just awful about neglecting his older sister in their admiration and immediately make amends to equally distribute their affection. It’s like Molly Ringwold’s brother says when the grandparents forget her birthday in Sixteen Candles: “They’re grandparents; they live for this shit.”
I’m sure your daughter has plenty of activities she likes to do, and while 13 is a hard age (she probably would rather die than admit she needs compliments and encouragement from Nana and Pop-Pop), that’s no reason to shelve her like a 21-year-old spinster in the Victorian age. Art, crafts, cooking, video games, sports, outdoor activities, creative writing, etc. — these are all things that they can either do with her or sit and engage with her about, rapt with love and excitement.
It also wouldn’t be a terrible idea to elaborate on why not giving boys chores is bad. Very bad. For the boy himself and all future roommates and romantic partners. Everyone who lives in a house should take responsibility for the maintenance of that house, period. Kids whose parents (or grandparents, in this case) do everything for them grow into adults who expect other people to keep doing those things for them. No one likes those adults. The world needs less of those adults. Your daughter doesn’t need to see her little brother being molded that way — you don’t say how often this happens, but I get the feeling it’s a lot.
I’m sure Josh, like many 9-year-old boys, is a top-notch cut up and a totally amazing kid. But so is his sister, even if she’s not at the “cute” stage anymore. 13-year-old girls do not always feel cute (despite what Tik-Tok would lead us to believe) and they’re so fragile because they’re still very much a child in some ways and very much not in others (periods and other body stuff and self-esteem and social cliques and crushes, oh my). She deserves just as much TLC from the people in her family as her little brother.
Tell them that. My guess is that they’ll be horrified their actions are causing this kind of destruction and will turn it around toot suite — they’re grandparents. They live for this shit. (If not, I recommend this book on boundaries.)
Have your own questions? Email email@example.com