February 17, 2010

On Siblings Past and Present

"Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk." 
~Susan Scarf Merrell

I ran across a couple of blog posts on sibling rivalry the other day.

Emily Geizer lists 7 Tips to Minimize Sibling Rivalry:

Never compare
Strive for unique, not equal
Never pigeon hole kids or lock them into roles
Spend time with each child separately
Hurtful actions need to be stopped
Acknowledge feelings
Model healthy anger management

It got me thinking not only about the relationships between my kids, but also my sister, and B and his sister.

I am three years older than my sister and we've always been very different. As kids, we didn't play much together.  I lacked the imagination to play pretend. I remember times playing with dolls where I would just dress and undress them.  That was all I could come up with.  As we got older we just didn't get along, and then the jealousy started.  I was a social outcast in high school.  My sister was outgoing and popular which made me so jealous.   After school, I met B and made a lot of my friends with him, and through hockey.  I ended up married and having kids.  Then my sister was envious.  It would still be many years before we could be around each other without conflict.

I don't know much about B's relationship with his sister growing up.  He is six years her senior.   I get the impression that they were really close for a while.  Somewhere along the way though, she became the pesky little sister that got into his stuff.  Things are very important to B and kids aren't always very careful.  To this day he can still list off things of his that she messed up.  On her side, I think she got irritated with him always picking on her, which he still does.  It's like she'll always be this little kid, even though she's an adult now.  Actually, I think he's much better now about giving her a hard time, but it came at the cost of not talking to her much.  Despite any problems they might have, they are eerily similar in so many ways.  It's not surprising that they are the two people in the world I feel most comfortable with and could tell anything.

I don't know how my kids' relationships will evolve as they grow up, but there are interesting dynamics.  Robotson is five years older than Funny Girl.  Only 20 months separate the two girls.  Robotson was thrilled to have a little sister when Funny Girl was born.  He was asked all the time if he wanted a little brother, but he always said he wanted a sister.  He adored her and they are still pretty close.  She loves all of the things that he loves, while still having her own interests.  When Dimples came along, Robotson still maintained he wanted more sisters, though if you ask him now he'll say he wishes he had brothers.  There are seven years between them, and I can see they don't have the same closeness as Funny Girl and Robotson.  However, Funny Girl and Dimples are the best of friends.  They spend all day together, fighting just as much as they get along.    Both girls love their brother and want to do all of the things he does.  They get into his things, especially when he's not around.  Occasionally, they mess up his stuff as little siblings do.  He picks on them as older siblings do.  Right now, they all seem equally imaginative, socially accepted, confident in their relationships with friends and family, and each other.  They are all outgoing and friendly, smart and strong-willed.  I see many similarities between them, but it's the differences that bring them together.

And just like any other parent, and I get fed up with all the daily bickering, but overall I am happy with how they treat each other.  It was interesting to read those posts and see what we were already good at doing (stopping hurtful actions and giving them each time), what we've learned in the last couple of years (acknowledging feelings, striving for uniqueness), and what we can still improve on (modeling anger management, not comparing, and not pigeon holing).

But Emily says there are benefits to sibling rivalry too.  That's where conflict resolution skills are important.  Those fights we have with our brothers and sisters help us learn how to deal with disagreements with friends, coworkers, and spouses when we are adults.  It puts a whole new perspective on my role in their arguments doesn't it?  I don't want them to rely on a third party to come in and tell everyone what they need to do.  Those posts were a timely and important reminder.


  1. It's a complex dynamic, isn't it?!

    Glad those tips were useful for you. Thanks for sharing them with your readers!


  2. You are very welcome. I've really been enjoying your blog and your Mindful Parenting course! Thanks for commenting :)