Barbara: My sisters—I have two wonderful younger sisters who I promise you I adore—tell me that I used to ban them from my room and basement clubhouse by scattering industrial staples, tines up, all over the floor and taping signs of bloody knives to the walls. Me? But I’m so nice. So sweet, so demure. Or at least I was back then. I swear!
When I watch the occasional sibling spats now, I cringe remembering my own unfeeling teenaged behaviour toward my sisters, realizing how very, very affecting it must have been to them. They remember believing I hated them (for a year or two); I just remember how cute they were. I’m making a point, of course—I know my sisters have good memories of me in our childhood too (I hope!)—but that point comes boomeranging back when you have your own kids.
I thought I could circumvent the great sibling divide by talking my daughters through their crises, teaching them how to see their sister’s side, proposing compromises. It seemed to work—peace usually came pretty quickly, if grudgingly—and I kinda patted myself on the back for taking the time and not listening to the old adage of letting them “work it out”. But the other day, I bemoaned to my husband that maybe I did interfere too much: if I’d let them “work it out” more, they might be closer now, having learned through necessity that they are each other’s greatest allies. My husband—he really can be both sweet and wise—gave me a gentle smile and reassured me that we let them work it out plenty, that even this older-teen adversity is completely normal, that they have enough wonderful times together that the occasional spat won’t ruin them for later, and that they will become great friends when the time is right.
In other words, if I see bloody knives and sharp tines between them every now and then, they might prefer to remember instead intense bonding over invented songs on road trips, shared secrets and serious advice, or mutual hysteria when their mother mispronounces “cool” words (apparently “kootch” isn’t a class of weed, but something else entirely. Shut up.).
Just like my sisters and I did years ago, my girls are working it out.
Deb: First off, I have to say that I know Barb’s beautiful and sweet daughters and they are aces in my book, both of them. I have actually, despite all the time I spend there, never seen them at each other’s throats. A snipe here, a sneer there, and eyes on the ceiling to be sure, but never bloody knives! But I’m glad they go at it hammer and tongs and still adore each other because I think it makes for a lifelong relationship of honesty with one another, which they will need more and more as life envelopes them.
The sibling relationship is amazing. Two different people with the same genetic patterning living their young lives together under one roof. I have one brother who is six years younger than me. We are very, very close. Although during the teen years our relationship could be summed up in one sentence: “Here’s a quarter, now get lost”.