Anyone who knows me well will be aware of a little obsession I have with maintaining (or reestablishing) the distinction between Jealousy and Envy. If fact, you don’t have to know me well to be aware of it, because I’ll bang on about it with anyone who will give me a hearing. It’s partly because I am a ‘Word Bird’ (as Susie calls me) and partly because my shrink (the one I used to go to, at least) was a fan of Carl Jung.
To put the distinction simply, you are envious of things/people that you don’t have and jealous of things/people that you do. In other words, at a party the jealous watch their own partner, and the envious watch other people’s. And why is this distinction important? Well, if you believe Jung, the importance is that one is a positive emotion and the other is destructive. Jealousy, as long as it doesn’t involve keeping your partner under permanent surveillance or hospitalizing anyone that even looks at them, is a necessary part of a healthy relationship. If you feel absolutely no jealousy towards your partner then in all likelihood you are no longer in love with her/him.
By contrast, envy, especially in the context of close relationships, drives people apart. Envy makes you want to take what others have, or if you can’t take it away, destroy what they have or the pleasure they derive from it. Trust me, I know this from experience.
And why am I telling you all this? Well, because these two emotions are really dominating my experience of parenting at the moment. Our beautiful, gentle, loving Tilly, if all the behavioural evidence is to be believed, is experiencing a fair whack of both these emotions (and sadly, even the jealousy is on the unhealthy side of the line).
Naively, I didn’t really expect her response to the arrival of her little sister to be this bad. Primarily, because the difficulty of Susie’s pregnancy meant that Tilly had been spending more and more time with me, even before Kate was born. I figured that this would mean that she would already have done a lot of the grieving and adjustment required to accommodate a new sibling by the time the new sibling actually arrived.
What has happened instead, is that we have turned a straightforward (if bloody) civil war into a much more complex conflict. Rather than Tilly fighting it out with her newborn sister over possession of the Motherland, she has partially ceded control of the Motherland to Kate on the condition that the Kate make no claim on the Fatherland.
I am not allowed to hold Kate. If I am ever ‘caught’ with her in my arms, I am immediately instructed to hand her over to Susie, while Susie – on the other hand – is rarely allowed to do anything for Tilly. If you can imagine the Korean peninsula shrunk down into the form of a two bedroom weatherboard, then that’s our home at the moment, and the demilitarised zone runs straight down the middle of the marital bed (I hate the term marital bed, but couldn’t resist the alliteration).
So far, luckily, there has been no real outbreak of hostilities. Tilly has engaged in a bit of sabre rattling, in the form of asking us if it is okay for her to step on Kate and pull her hair, but has managed to resist actually hurting her sister. She has not, historically, been a hitter or pusher of other children, so hopefully she won’t make Kate an exception.
To be fair, what I have described above only really emerges as Tilly becomes tired. When she is well slept, she is actually much more Ban Ki Moon than Kim Jong Il. From what I’ve heard though, this kind of Jekyll and Hyde routine is a textbook toddler response to a new sibling – kisses one minute and karate the next (I know I should have stayed with the Korean motif, but I couldn’t find anything that would work with Tae Kwon Do). I guess it is all a testament to the powerful conflicting internal forces at play. Poor little love.
Anyway, me being tired doesn’t really help matters. If I’m to continue in my dual role of war zone and peace keeper, I should sign off and get some sleep (It is after 9pm, after all). Feel free to add your own toddler envy/jealousy stories in the comments section, or perhaps some peace keeping tips. We could use them.