Image Credit: Crista Ballard Photography
Originally published in the October 2016 edition of 605 Magazine
To those of us that have siblings, nothing evokes clearer childhood memories than those that involve our brothers and/or sisters. The fun we had. The fights we had. The trouble that “found us.” We are who we are today in part because of the siblings with whom we grew up. For me, I grew up with three brothers; one older and two younger that are identical twins. Obviously, it was mayhem 24/7 in our household. In fact, when we all get together now, all of us in our 30’s, it is still pure mayhem. Our poor (lucky) parents.
Now, with children of my own, I find myself musing along with my best friends, “how can we ensure our children as siblings will be best friends forever?”
When we were about to have our second child, everyone kept telling us that “if you can, a sibling is the greatest gift you can give to your child.” So far, for us, that could not be more true. Our daughter has been the dream older child to our youngest. She is the first one out of bed so she can race in to play with our son in his crib. Which, thank you Jesus, gives me about 15 more minutes of laying in bed pretending to sleep. She helps feed him, entertain him, knows how to rip tiny items out of his grasp so he doesn’t choke, and has the ability to elicit a belly laugh out of him that no one else on earth can accomplish, even me, almighty meal-providing Mom.
I know. Based on this sibling love description, it appears, we just may have accomplished Hallmark Channel sibling greatness.
But, lately …
Lately, I have noticed there is becoming a small tilt toward a smidge of that infamous sibling rivalry. It all started with the typical and inevitable toy stealing. Perhaps a push or a shove here and there. Maybe even some stealing of snacks and possibly even some cries rooted in jealousy. This is all, I know, very normal. They are discovering their territory, their roles with each other, and figuring out -- in a very healthy way — the world does not revolve and function solely for their individual selves. They are learning they have to share, be kind, and by all means, for the sake of Mom the referee, keep the whining to a minimum.
We have a little play room in the basement for the children and we spend hours upon hours in that little room. The other day, I sent my husband and kids down to play so I could finish up dinner (AKA troll the internet and order pizza) and after only a few minutes I heard a deafening cry coming from my son’s little lungs. As a mom, you know there are different cries for varying circumstances. The cry I heard that day coming from my son was the SOS version of the “I’m hurt and in pain” one. In an instant, I stepped away from the stove (iphone) and ran only to be met by my wide-eyed husband carrying the hurt victim up the stairs. Reaching toward me with huge crocodile tears pouring out of his almond-shaped brown eyes, my son clutched me and sobbed as I’ve never seen him before.
“What happened?!” I asked frantically not knowing if we were dealing with a broken bone, a papercut, a fall, a concussion, blunt force trauma etc.
Through the sound of the sobs, my husband explained to me that our daughter had simply knocked him down. Surprised at his strong reaction to just something as simple as that, I consoled my son as my husband went back down to get our daughter to apologize. As she skulked up the stairs and approached to hug him and say a tearful apology, he immediately brightened up, kissed her, and they were back to being pals. Simple as that. Hallmark Channel status returned. His hysterical reaction was rooted solely not in the actual physical pain of the fall, but more so in the emotional pain of his sister possibly being mean to him.
This whole story had me remembering my times as a younger and older sister to my own brothers and remembering the beautiful truth that while sibling inflicted wounds cut deep, sibling forgiveness is the immediate healing salve. My mom used to make us hug and write lists of things we liked about each other whenever we fought. Needless to say, we all wrote many lists and gave many half-hearted begrudging hugs. Recently, my mom unearthed a list my older brother was forced to write entitled “50 Things I Love About My Sister.” My favorite ones being: “She is short, but not too short” and “She smells, but not too bad.” We all laughed until we cried at the hilarious list of insults concealed as compliments as only brothers can do.
My brothers and I are lucky, because to say all siblings get along would be like saying this Presidential Election Year is normal. So, again, how do we ensure our kids will be best friends forever? I guess the truth is, we can’t. But we can make them apologize when they fight, foster an environment of unconditional impartial love, we can make them give the toy back, we can make them write lists of why they love each other and we can just pray that they always see each other as one of their greatest gifts their parents ever gave them.