Is the notion of justice important between brothers and sisters?
Nicole Prieur: In the fraternal bond, if something hurts, it is the feeling of injustice. It emerges very early in childhood and continues identically to adulthood. Of course, injustice changes its face, and it is no longer a question of comparing Christmas presents, for example, but the number of times that each other’s children have been kept with the grandparents.
How is this need built?
NP: Siblings are built on accounts. If filial love is based on giving – because parents give life – brotherly love is built on a perpetual count of what each receives or does not receive from parents. No one escapes this situation because at the birth of the youngest, the oldest always nourishes a feeling of loss, the baby taking part of the parental attention. The youngest, he grows up with a feeling of lack because he did not, by definition, have his parents to himself. From this loss and this lack stems an incessant count of parental care. We cannot escape this existential issue, which goes beyond the emotional quest.
Thus, children, including in adulthood, have a kind of unconscious calculator. This can remain dormant for a long time, then manifest itself one day, as at the time of inheritance, for example, when the family somehow balances all accounts. There, suddenly, the thousand small inequalities added up over the years can be replayed, whether real or supposed. Because this accounting is very subjective: give two objects of the same value to two children, one may think: “You give me this vase that you never looked at, because you don’t look at me either.” “
So, is it possible for parents to be fair?
NP: No one can be permanently. There are bound to be mistakes. Also, more than seeking justice, I think we must seek to be right. By that I mean that it is useless to seek full equality, but to respond, in the most appropriate way possible, to the different needs of each child. This is already not easy, because they are sometimes poorly expressed: some children easily ask their parents, when others never clearly ask for help, for example. Understanding each other therefore sometimes involves groping.
If this research is complex, it is important because it nourishes the link. It forces us to be constantly attentive to the needs of each other and to understand that there is nothing fixed, that good relationships are not acquired once and for all, but are built by this attention to the other.