Dear Annie

Dear Annie: At what point does a child quit trying to have a relationship with her mother? Is it natural for a mother to have to call her firstborn every sin­gle time before she calls anoth­er child? I have tried for years to have a re­laxed and friendly re­la­tion­ship with my mother. We come from a large fam­ily, and the birth order does play a huge fact­or. My mother was very young when she gave birth to my eldest sib­ling. Be­cause of that, I feel that their relationship is not healthy for either of them. They are more like friends than mother and daughter.

Here is one example. My mother, my sister and I were sitting in a res­tau­rant, when my aunt came in with a friend. Mom was real­ly excited and said, “Let me introduce you to my daughter.” Mom pro­ceed­ed to introduce my sis­ter but did not mention me at all. After everything sett­led down, I said, “Well, I guess I must be chopped liver, because I also am her daughter.” Mom did not even see that this was a problem.

One slip of the tongue is quickly forgiven, but what should one do when slights happen often? There have been family reunions and fu­nerals I have not been in­vited to, and my mother has said, “Oh, I thought you might be working.” I have to stress to her that if she invites one sibling for a big family function, she should invite all siblings who live in the same city. Do you know how hard it is when other relatives ask me why I didn’t go to a family reunion? I have to tell them that my mother didn’t care enough about me to pick up the phone. Do other children from large fam­ilies ever wish their moth­ers thought about or called them? Quite often, invitations are sent to the heads of fam­ilies in hopes that they will tell the rest of their im­me­diate families.

One ray of hope is that my sister goes away dur­ing the wintertime. Mom will make an effort to see or talk to me then. How­ever, even this hurts, be­cause then I feel as if I’m get­ting used.

 — Younger Sister

Dear Younger Sister: Wow, your mom sounds like a class act! I hope the sar­casm is detectable in wri­ting.

Your mother is creating a difficult family situation by treating your sister like the golden child and you like the odd one out. Whether it is conscious or not, your mom feels that if you and your sister became close, she might be left out. So instead, she favors your elder sister and creates a sibling rivalry. Sadly, this is a common phenomenon. Your mom must be very un­happy to purposely omit you from family re­unions. Your mom is miss­ing out on having a re­la­tionship with you.

As for what you can do, start by opening up to your elder sister about your feelings and trying to limit any further sibling ri­val­ry. Encourage your rel­a­tives who are noticing the unfair treatment to reach out to you directly when­ever they are plan­ning events. And as much as you can, try not to take your mother’s actions per­son­ally. They are not a re­flec­tion on you. Lastly, find support outside of your family. It is always a good idea to speak to a pro­fes­sion­al, especially if you de­sire to start a family one day and want to ensure the cycle isn’t repeated.

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