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September 2014
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Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is rough. It is tough on the kids who love each other, but who are struggling to differentiate themselves from another person whose life context and skills are roughly equivalent. Or whose skills are wildly different, but whose interest areas are very similar. None of them has yet acquired the life experience necessary to recognize that two people who are engaging in the same activity are not necessarily in competition with each other. Nor have they really internalized their own strengths. So Gleek cries when Patch bests her at a video game which she’s been playing for hours and he only picks up in five minutes. Patch watches Gleek excel at drawing and feels inadequate. Or he watches her excel at any number of things which come easily to Gleek. When they ache inside, they aren’t nice to each other. Then I ache inside because I have to watch them be mean to each other. Thus only increasing the amount of hurting going around.

The best I can do is to separate them and then listen. I don’t argue when they say things that would be hurtful if heard by the other. In a private space they can feel what they feel. After I’ve been listening long enough there comes a moment where I have the chance to place an idea or a morsel of compassion. I don’t get to lecture. I don’t get to fix it and make everyone feel better. I just get one moment to say “have you considered…” or “Did you know…” Usually I end with expressing that life is not fair. Because it isn’t. What comes easily to one person comes hard to another. In the end the one who puts in the practice is the one who will shine in the years to come. But that is hard to believe when you’re eleven and thirteen. It is also hard to believe that one person’s shining achievement does not reduce nor demean any achievements made by another person. I know adults who struggle with that. I still struggle with it some days.

The good news is that they love each other and they laugh together far more often than they argue.

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