Dear Emuna,

I have four children – two teenagers, then a big break and a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. Of course, I love them all dearly but there are a number of challenges associated with having what almost seems like two families. Not only are the teenagers frustrated that so many of our Sunday and holiday activities are geared for the younger children but I’m sure they notice that the younger children always get more attention from visiting relatives and friends – they’re both at a particularly cute stage! I don’t want the older ones to feel left out, but I also need to take care of the younger ones. I’m not sure how to handle this. Any advice?

Mother of Four

Dear Mother of Four (or any other number for that matter!),

You do have a unique challenge – and there is no easy way to resolve it. As you mention, even if you were to plan some more “adult” adventures for the teens, what would you do with the younger ones? They can’t go jet-skiing or sit still in a movie or bike ride along a beach path…I see the dilemma.

While once in a while it may be appropriate to get a babysitter and just take the older ones out, that is not a regular solution. And you really can’t do anything about the fact that, let’s face it, toddlers are cuter than adolescents! So, what’s a loving (and torn) mother to do?

What we always do – the best we can. You are already most of the way there because you are conscious of the challenge. You are aware that you need to address the situation. Sometimes, for some kids, that may even be enough. They may be satisfied with your understanding, your appreciation, your recognition of their situation even if you can’t provide exactly what they desire. Perhaps since the days are really occupied with caring for the younger kids, you could spend more time with the older ones at night. And although the teenagers have none of the cuteness factor of their younger siblings, they have something different – the ability to carry on intelligent and meaningful conversations. That is a big deal and something to capitalize one. You can play more sophisticated games with them, you can engage on more profound issues and you can deepen your connection through these discussions.

I think it’s good to find ways to spend separate time with them and important to look for opportunities to compliment them for their contributions to the family and the conversation, to recognize their unique skills and abilities. But, ultimately, I also think it’s important to recognize that this family, with this particular configuration, is the family the Almighty gave you. This is the situation and dynamic He set up for these particular children. Therefore, it must be the best way that they can grow and come close to Him.

Instead of feeling badly for our children, we need to recognize that this circumstance was tailor-made for them, to allow them to achieve their spiritual potential and connect with their Creator. They – or you – have no need to bemoan the circumstances of their lives. They – or you – should be grateful for them.