Prior to having our first child, my husband wanted a basketball team size family. Lots of kids. Lots. I don’t know if it was the moody pregnant wife or the sleepless nights and loads of extra responsibility that came with the first child, but his tune changed quickly after we had our daughter. He was okay with having one. She was beautiful, healthy, funny, smart, every parent’s dream child…and again, a lot of responsibility. Why risk it?
A little over two years later, that question was answered when we announced I was pregnant. My daughter was thrilled with the idea of having a sibling. She told us he would be a boy well before we had the confirming ultrasound and she was the one who broke the ongoing debate of his name. She after all, ruled our house with her charm, and she was the big sister. Once he was born, she fell instantly in love with him. She wanted to always be around him and take care of him. We were so proud of her and so happy that we had decided to give our family this beautiful gift. He was an angel baby and an amazing lesson of responsibility and love for his sister.
My son’s love for his sister was also unrivaled. He used to stare at her in adoration, her name was even his first word. He constantly wanted her attention and approval. She was his idol.
Fast forward to now. My children argue or make snide comments to each other at least 325 times a day. At least. They both have strong personalities, loud and opinionated and the competition to express them is fierce. They are competitive, argumentative and at times aggressive when it comes to their siblingship. (Sometimes made up words fit best) They can be mean, hurtful, sarcastic, demeaning and rude towards each other and most of the time, I turn into the angry referee who is constantly questioning, “is it ok to talk to your brother/sister like that?” To which they reply “no” and then go at it five seconds later as if I just hopped in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. Actually, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? I usually send them to their room to work it out. Did I mention they share a bedroom?!! They then quickly come to a formal agreement so they don’t have to spend another minute together to prolong the torture.
But here’s the other reality. When they are separated for an afternoon out and are given a balloon or sticker or something fun from somewhere, they almost always ask for another one for their sibling. When my daughter plays soccer, my son is her biggest fan, or at least the loudest. My daughter reads my son bedtime stories and they snuggle on his bed until he knocks out. When they play games together, they giggle like crazy, enjoying each others’ company, right up until the point that someone is accused of cheating and it ends abruptly.
Siblings may not be immediate friends or the closest friends, but they have a unique relationship that can’t be matched. Sometimes it’s hard for them to see it, but the more we are able to show them the importance of preserving this relationship and what they have to gain from it, the better off we all are. They are each others first experience of learning how to share time, attention, responsibility, and space. When they are confronted with disagreements, they must learn how to work it through in order to keep peace in the home. They learn how to argue and discover what works and doesn’t work. It’s not always easy, but its reality. The more they learn in the safety of their home, the more they can practice and be prepared when confronted with those they don’t have as many chances with.
Although they drive each other nuts and at times their greatest personal accomplishments are getting the other one in trouble, I have no doubt that if the big, bad bully showed up on the bus, both my kids would defend the other in a heartbeat. They share genes, parents, life experiences, memories, values and a genuine respect for each other that they will never share with anyone else. And at a level they may not recognize, I believe they know and acknowledge this.
The days of constant adoration may be over, but the lifetime of learning from each other’s experiences, respecting each other’s differences, and supporting each other in the ups and downs of life, is just beginning. I am comforted by the fact that I know, no matter what, they have each other. They may not always agree or even want to be in each others presence for more than five minutes, but when it counts, they will be there. For this, I am very thankful, even when I am riding in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. Man, she was lucky…