Love Is Like Rice

When it comes time to add a sibling to the family, young children are often concerned if there will be enough love to go around. I have found it helpful to make the answer as concrete as possible.

Concrete thinking is a well-documented characteristic of children. Jean Piaget described how our thinking changes throughout childhood. A child under the age of 6, for example, tends to overlook a transition. They see the beginning and end but not the transition itself. So, if given play dough, and asked to roll it into a ball and then into a sausage, and asked if there is more, less, or the same amount of play dough as a ball or sausage, they will tell you there is more when it is a sausage. They see it as bigger and cannot see that material was not lost or gained in the transition. I understand why children, who have such difficulty with abstract ideas, find this difficult to understand and persist in their worry about whether their parents will love them as much when there is another child.

So, when dealing with a child’s concern of a new baby brother or sister, it is best to respond as concretely as possible. A simple way to do this is to demonstrate the transition from uncooked to cooked rice. I have them hold a cup of uncooked rice in their hands. Then, together, we add it to the pot and add the water. Then we watch it boil and we wait. We keep watching and waiting. Then we uncover the pot and see how much the rice has grown. This is followed by the simple statement: “Love is like that. When we add something, like a new baby brother or sister, it makes the total amount of love grow. Just like the water made the rice grow. There will always be enough love to go around.”

What is even more interesting to me is the idea that, at times, adolescents and adults find this concept difficult too. Middle school and high school students worry that there is not room in the group for everyone; so letting someone in means someone may have to be excluded. First-time parents worry that they will not love each other as much once their child arrives. They worry that a child will take up their time and they will “lose the romance”. Parents worry that they will not love the second child as much as they love the first. These worries reflect a concern that there is only a limited amount of love to go around; that when we have to divide it among more people, each person will get less.

However, that is simply not true. Love is meant to fill the space that is available to it. It fills the spaces and brings us closer to each other. The more people we share our love with, the more love there is to go around.

Love is like the water that makes the rice grow. Be afraid to skimp on your love, not to share it.

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15 thoughts on “Love Is Like Rice

  1. What do you say to the sibling that’s “left out?” For example the family has three boys. Perhaps two closest in age bond. The third son is not included.. no fault of the parents. Yet that third son is truly aching… assume the parents are not able to fix the wrong…. what else or who else fixes the one left out?

    1. You raise an excellent point. Given that the parents are not able to fix the wrong, I will assume that the siblings are adults. If that is the case, I would recommend that the one who feels left out approach the other two and say something along the lines of “I know you two have a very special bond. But you need to know that I have always wanted to be a part of the connection you have with each other. I am not asking that you always include me in your time together, but I am asking you to think about how much I want to be a part of the special times you share. Adding me will only add to the love” – If they can’t understand that, share the concrete example of love is like rice. Talk to them at the same time; it is always better that way.
      I do hope others will respond to you – I know it is something that many experience.

  2. I completely agree with this. I remember asking my dad, who of his daughters he loved the most and he replied with, “If you had to remove one of your fingers, which one would it be? The chubby one, the thin one, or the tallest one? I can’t choose.” It was the weirdest way of saying that he does not prefer one compared to the other and all are equally loved, but I completely understood it. You simply do not love one child more than you do the other one.

    1. I absolutely love the way your father described his love for all of you! Thank you so much for sharing that with all of us.

  3. I absolutely agree with this. My brothers were very jealous when I was born being that I’m the only girl. My parents sat with them and told them that this new journey will give them the perfect opportunity to prove they will be the best brothers ever. Sadly the took that role very literally lol.

  4. I absolutely love this whole article. I can totally relate to my own life experience. My mom was told that after my brother it was impossible for her to have another child. Surprise I’m here lol.My brothers were very jealous since I’m the ONLY girl. When my parents found out they sat down with my brothers saying God sent me to make them strong caring men. Sadly they took that role very seriously 😂😂

  5. I really like how you bring this concept into fruition. When I was in middle and high school, and even now in college, whenever a new person joined a group, be from a romantic relationship or a person from the group thought they would be a great attention, there would always be some apprehension shared amongst the members. Mainly because some of the member thought that the new member would steal away their friends or something along those lines. And at the time, I also shared this perspective. However, now, I believe that love and kindness infinite. That it is better to welcome someone new into your group or life with open arms because it not only makes them feel welcome but also sets a good base to build your relationship on.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this blog because although I don’t have kids of my own, I’ve worked as a nanny for 7 years. I have worked with many different ages up until early teen years, and I too agree that children under the age of 6 tend to overlook situations. I feel that change in general for kids under the age 6 is difficult, so finding techniques to help them understand the advantages of change is a wonderful idea! Using undercooked rice and watching the process of it being cooked and growing in size is a great way to explain the growing of family and love. When I was 6 years old my mother started dating my step father just around the time when my father and his ex wife were having a daughter of their own. Being that my dads ex wife and him weren’t together anymore, they had to co parent. Although Ciaries wasn’t blood related to me by mother or father, she was considered nothing less than family. At first, I was not accepting of her being that she was replacing me as the baby of the family. I felt that the more attention and love she received, the less was given to me. In reality, that was all a part of my imagination. Ciaries didn’t live with us so I essentially spent more time with my family but when she came to spend the weekend, I would get jealous and feel as if my love and attention was being stolen by her. As I got older I started to gain love for Ciaries and I started to understand that having a new member in our family was a blessing, not a punishment. I believe that it took me longer than it should’ve to feel this way because I was never taught a lesson that would help me understand, like the one discussed in this blog. I feel that it would’ve helped me be accepting of Ciaries much sooner. Now, Ciaries and I are like best friends and I am so grateful to have her! Another way that you can teach this lesson to kids is by using pasta. Pasta also grows when being cooked in water!

  7. I really enjoyed reading this blog post. Particularly, I enjoyed the play dough comparison. It is so common that a child fears that their parents having another baby will result in less love and attention for them. The demonstration of uncooked to cooked rice and how it relates to getting a new baby brother/sister. I like when you said, “When we add something, like a new baby brother or sister, it makes the total amount of love grow. Just like the water made the rice grow. There will always be enough love to go around” I never thought about love like this, but it really is a refreshing perspective, and totally makes sense. On a different level, I can remember when I was in middle school, there were many moments when I didn’t feel included or welcomed. The final line, “Love is like the water that makes the rice grow. Be afraid to skimp on your love, not to share it”. I think that is a really practical way of thinking about love, but it is also sincere and valid. Overall, I found this post to be not only educational, but eye opening and a chance to reflect on my own life.

  8. I completely agree with this. I have a younger sister who is 8 years younger. Before she was born I used to beg for my parents to give me a younger sibling. But right after she was born I used to cry and tell them to return her, that I didn’t want her anymore. Baby’s require a lot of attention and when I was Younger I didn’t understand that. All I saw was competition for my parents love. Luckily my parents sat me down and explained that she wasn’t taken their love but rather expanding on it, that she loved us equally. I realized that love isn’t something to fight over but rather something that can be shared.

  9. “Love is meant to fill the space that is available to it”… what a great phrase Professor. In other words there should be no limit to the love you can give/receive. You also made excellent examples specifically on the coming of a new baby to the family. After being the only girl (and last child) for 13 years my mother was expecting another girl. I constantly thought that the love they had for me would decrease because now they had to share their love and attention to the new upcoming baby. Clearly as a mom now I know that’s never the case but you make a great point in how to physically model this for children. Love the critical points you make👍

  10. I truly adore this, When I was a child my brother did not like the fact that I was born because he felt like my dad would not treat him the same since I was his child and my dad was not my brother biological father. So my dad told my brother that a child is a lot of work but because my brother is so trustworthy he will help out to be a good brother and help out around the house. My father told my brother “no matter what happens I will always love you too no matter if we, not blood.” I find it really fascinating on how the author used “love is like the water that makes the rice grow”. My parents always say that their love is infinite it will never end.

  11. I absolutely love this. As the oldest child of three, my mother always tells me the story about when she first brought my brother home; we are two years apart, I insisted that she’d bring him back to the hospital and I didn’t ask for him. Seven years later she was pregnant with my younger sister and when she told me the news I remember being so angry at her; stil,l at the age of nine I could not for some reason I could not fathom the thought of my mother having another child. Space was limited; it was bad enough my brother and I were sharing a room but there was nothing my brother or I could do about it. As time passed and my sister was born I was by far the most on hands sibling ever. Today I reflect on my behavior because I remember it so vividly because for so long it was just my me and my brother but we have been given the opportunity to watch her grow and set examples and I remind myself I have someone who looks up to me which has encouraged me to be better; as if I’m her second parent. My sister is by far the sweetest, funniest down to earth thirteen year old girl I know, a better thirteen year old than I was. Her, my brother, and family have taught me the importance of love; we can be in a tiny one bedroom but as long as we have each other we have love and laughter. The importance of family; the more the merrier.

  12. I see things in your perspective. Sometimes we feel we love people less, and others we love more. Although, It is simply not true. There is plenty of love to go around throughout each individual. When I have kids, I know I will love and remind them that my love for each is equal.

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