Early in our second term in Kenya, my second daughter, then five years old, began asking daily for a certain doll, and where would I get it? We had returned from our bush trip and finally moved into our new house in a small town, but they were not going to have that doll in any shop. In my heart, I knew the issue was not the doll, but a heart hurt. I prayed and told God I would hunt until I found the doll she wanted unless He satisfied her longing.
I had noticed during our time in America that our oldest daughter, just 21 months older than our secondborn, was the favorite child of one member of our extended family. When I had spoken to our extended family about the problem, they had replied that it was not a problem. They said one family member could favor one child, another could favor another child, etc., and everything would be fine.
There were two problems with this. First, it is not true that favoritism doesn't matter. It hurts, and it isn't Godly. The history of the Israelites has many stories of favoritism, and the results of favoritism were never good. The story of Jacob and Esau even describes a situation of one parent favoring one son and the other parent favoring the other son. The brothers ended up enemies. Perhaps in response to this problem with favoritism, the Old Testament law forbids the Israelites from showing favoritism to the children of one wife over another wife. In the New Testament, favoritism was a problem within the church, and both Peter and Paul, addressing the problem, taught that God, Himself, does not show favoritism.
The second problem with their statement is that it wasn't happening. Nobody was favoring my second daughter. My firstborn is easy to get to know. My second daughter has her treasures in deep mines. Those who take the time to get to know her find a rich treasure. Those who don't take the time find rocky ground. I could see that the favoritism was hurting both our firstborn and our secondborn. The attitudes of both girls towards themselves and others were being shaped by their place in the ranks of favoritism. But I didn't know how to heal that issue, since it was outside my power to change. All I knew to do was continue praying.
In my last blog, I mentioned that I did not have our presents on our third daughter's birthday. That led directly to a decision that began to bring healing to my second daughter. Since I did not have the presents our extended family had sent with us when my thirdborn daughter had her birthday, I decided to have a special day to give the presents from them to all three daughters on the same day. In our family, if multiple people have presents, we open them one at a time, starting with the youngest. My thirdborn opened her present, which I no longer remember. My second born opened her present, a bug sticker book. I was uneasy. When my firstborn opened her present, she found a beautiful giant-sized coloring book with many different pictures, including princesses, ballerinas, and flowers. With the coloring book was her own set of special crayons in a special case. Now, my second daughter, an exploratory learner, did notice bugs much more than her big sister, and the extended family knew this. However, she also noticed flowers and everything else in nature more than our firstborn, and she liked princesses and ballerinas just as much as her sister.
When her big sister opened her present, my secondborn exploded. She began screaming at her sister and hitting her. I jumped in to separate the two, but the evening was over. Anytime she saw her sister, our secondborn flew into her again. When bedtime came, we put our secondborn into our bed, since we couldn't put her in the room she shared with her sister. After all her siblings were settled in bed, I went in to talk with her.
"Why are you angry with your sister?" I asked. She couldn't answer. I wrestled with what to do. Should I ask her whether she felt jealous and thought that her sister was favored over her? If I was wrong, would that plant a new idea in her head? The evidence was very strong that the issue was over favoritism, so I decided to ask. "Yes!" and a flood of tears was my answer. My daughter was finally able to tell me her jealousy and hurt, and I was able to affirm that her experiences were hurtful and wrong.
After we talked for a bit, I moved her back to her bed. When I was tucking her in, seemingly out of nowhere, she said, "Actually, Momma, I don't need that doll. What I really want is more clothes for the dolls I already have. Could you help me make some?" Again, I was amazed at God's goodness and his ability to heal hurts. A few years later, through some surprise visitors who did not know the story, she was given the doll she had wanted. But most amazing of all is that the next time we saw our extended family, they had made progress toward loving all my children more fairly, so God was working there as well.