The War at Home: Sibling Rivalry

November 17, 2010

Brothers Cristian and Kasieum after some outdoor play has gone horribly wrong

This past Saturday, my two smallest ones had a loud, volatile argument in the middle of the Commons (silly mama, attempting to take them out in public!) and they attracted a fair amount of attention. Much of it came from the swarms of college students out brunching and shopping, as young, foolish, childless people tend to find my children amusing, but it was also the nature of the argument itself that drew crowds.

Corrina, as a result of her speech delays, speaks mainly in jargon, especially if she has a lot to say, yet somehow this does not serve as a deterrent to her slightly older brother’s willingness to converse with her.  I think  it’s because he’s no stranger to speech delay himself — between the two of them, they’ve got speech therapy five times a week.  It’s like foreigners traveling abroad– it doesn’t matter if one’s from Belgium and the other from Norway, they’re both strangers in a strange land and so they stick together.  Anyway, the argument sounded something like this:

The 4-year-old brother (clutching the car in question, and occasionally waving it tauntingly):  No! It’s my yellow car!

Corrina:  Fark  shhcmmu eenyeney rarara!

4yo:  Stop saying that! It’s my car, it was in my backpack!

Corrina:  Hargharg ay!  Mateeena warmamoo. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

4yo:  Nu-uh!  It’s MY CAR!  MINE!

And so on and so forth, accompanied by wild gesturing, since both of my littles use their hands extensively while speaking, and I was too entertained to bother interfering.  Plus, I had an iced coffee to drink, so I just followed behind, content to watch the debate unfold, prepared to step in if any physical violence ensued.

With an atypical family like mine, I often have atypical reactions to common family problems, and sibling rivalry is one of those issues.  My wee ones spent that entire day bickering, but because I’m so grateful when the genetic strangers growing up in my household behave like actual siblings, I don’t get past my relief to think about the conflict.  Someday, though, it’s going to be something I should probably deal with head on, and I’m going to need some help.

Sibling rivalry can be serious stuff — my friend Martha readily admits to having tried to kill her baby sister during her toddlerhood, once by strangulation and once with a dowel rod.  (The first incident was apparently revealed with the following dialogue:  “Martha, why  is the baby crying?”   “Oh, probably because I squeezed her neck too hard.”)   My husband’s older sister once tricked him into swallowing  a quarter, and he in turn made it his life’s mission to exclude their youngest brother from any activity that even had the slightest potential of being fun.  (“Hey guys, let’s do [fill in the blank.]  BUT NOT GEORGIE.”)  Even on a playground yesterday, when I apologized for my child accidentally knocking down two siblings standing close together, the mom responded, “Oh, don’t worry.  It’s a nice change from watching them clobber each other. ”

How did you relate to your siblings a child?  How do you get along as adults?  How do you handle intersibling conflict as a parent?  Tell me about it in the comments below.  The best/worst/funniest anecdote will win $5 in Goose cash, so put your shame aside.  This is a judgment-free zone.

-Meryl at the Goose

Olivia and Baby Geneva aren't so sure about this sisterhood thing

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15 Responses to “The War at Home: Sibling Rivalry”

  1. Sandra Sorensen Says:

    Here is my favorite:
    My brother and I were pretty close growing up. He was sweet all the way through to the bones and I…well, was not. One day during our middle school years, he asked me quite innocently, “What is so great about wearing dresses, anyway?” The entire scheme from start to end immediately formed in my evil mind. I almost could not refrain from laughter. I proceeded to innocently tell him why wearing dresses was so great and invited him to try one of mine on. He was not at all excited about that, but over the course of the next two hours I was able to convince him that this was a good thing to do and it would satisfy his curiosity in such a real way that it would be worth it. So, while he slipped into my teal blue, knee length, puffy sleeve dress complete with tights; I went to gather and conceal my camera. He came out from his room all dolled up and I snapped a few great shots before his shock wore off and the chase began. He chased me around the house and I as I recall we may have broken a few things along the way. As he was chasing me I was frantically pushing the button on the camera to get to the end of the film. Before got to me I had the film out and had stashed it. He grabbed the camera and beat me with it! I was laughing so hard I do not remember it hurting at all. When my parents got home I immediately showed them my wounds and told of the horrific story of being held down while my big brother beat me with a camera. In the end..I got the pictures, he got grounded. OK..I have since repented of this and all the other evil things I did to my sweet brother growing up and he has indeed forgiven me.

  2. Chloe Says:

    My little brother and I are very close too. Only 2 years apart, my childhood was filled with bed-bouncing, make-up stories to explained the broken glasses, chasing him with perfume after he farted, hiding the broken bed slates, tree-houses,sword fight, blowing up match-cars, dragging him by the feet out of the bedroom… Any argument will finish as soon as one of my father’s sleeper will fly over our head or as my mum ask if we have nothing better to do aka I’ve got chores for you to do. Same nature, bold, him very forgiving and me good big sister, we are still close even if we leave at the other end of the world.
    But there was those 2/3 years at the stupid age 12/14een, with all those hormones coming up we didn’t connect, we kind of ignore each other. I was unloading the dishwasher (him being late to help), stretching to put some plates in the cupboard, when he couldn’t wait to enter the tiny kitchen, and push me to pass, smashing my pelvic bone against the corner of the bottom cabinet’s corner in the process. Furious, (it wasn’t like he was in a rush to help unloading), I grab the first thing not dangerous/breakable: a soft chorizo sausage (don’t ask me with there was a chorizo in the plates cabinet,I still don’t have any idea), and give him a light tape on the head. He instantaneously collapse! Nest thing I know, we each receive a slap from our mother, the first and only one, one for my behavior and one to wake him up. We end up giggling on the kitchen floor booth amazed by the chorizo’s club power and our first slaps!

  3. Beatrice Says:

    When I was 8 I had a hamster (Hamlet) and my older sister (accidentally) murdered him before Christmas one year by putting shredded newspaper that had battery acid on it in his cage. The newspaper came from an ornament box she found while we decorated the tree. I found him dead, his cheeks packed with the newspaper. She of course denied doing it, but I was dead set on avenging Hamlet. So I did what anyone would do in my situation and I slowly poisoned her fish with aspirin over the course of the week.

    What?

  4. Sarah Says:

    I’m a little unsure whether I’m supposed to share my sibling rivalry with my brother or that of my boys so I’ll share both to cover my bases:
    My brother and I are 2yrs apart and the story goes that I loved him until he started talking. I remember him tearing apart special creations, cutting my favorite bed sheets (Laurel and Hardy) into shreds, and putting a clothespin on my cats tail when he got mad at me. Of course it was all undeserved 🙂 We lived in the country and so we were mostly eachother’s only playmates. One year we set up “mailboxes” outside our bedroom doors to pass notes back and forth. For some reason I don’t now recall, he wiped a huge bugger in the middle of my door. In retaliation I put a note on my mailbox that read “this mailbox is for everyone EXCEPT John!” Not much mail after that.

    My boys: Three years apart they are now nearly 2 and 5 so bathroom use is a hot topic. The younger loves to flush the toilet (I have to keep the bathroom door closed at all times, when he see’s it open he will snatch something appropriately small and make a mad dash lift the lid and flush with amazing speed. Hilarious except when it’s the matchbox car his brother just picked out from the store). Anyway…one time we were all keeping the older one company while he did his business and as I was wiping his bum his little brother pushed in and flushed. You can imagine the indignation! Well after the unintelligible crying died down he demanded “now I get to flush HIS poop! Mama make him poop so I can flush his poop!”

  5. Gwynne Says:

    When my sister Becky was an infant my Mom walked in on me jumping up and down on her belly while she was lying in her crib.

    A couple years later, I convinced Becky to pee in (in her underwear) in our carpeted hallway.

    Even later, in high school, Becky beat me in a swimming time trial and I physically attacked her. I was 17.

    Need I say more? I should also mention that Becky and I are the best of friends, and when she ran away from home she took an 11 hour bus ride to DC and showed up at my dorm room. We both have a little crazy in us, I guess.

  6. Erianna Says:

    I was 2 months shy of 2 years when my little brother came along. It was 4 days before Christmas and I was a narcissistic toddler, certain that all the to-do was all about me… Then there was this usurper, this interloper, this CRYING BUNDLE OF STINKINESS there suddenly, and everyone was gaga over him, cooing and coming over to visit, bringing HIM presents. Well, it was a little too much to handle, so one afternoon (he’s probably a week old or so at this point), my mom sets him down on the bed to change him… She forgot something she needed and left the room for a moment, big sister watching over the little babe… Suddenly, the babe lets out a piercing scream and is crying like nothing mom’s ever heard. She comes running back in to find me with a guilty look and my brother with an angry red toe. I’d taken his foot in my mouth and chomped down as hard as I could.

    And many years of good-natured rivalry was begun, complete with physical, emotional and verbal torture. Ah, sibling love. A personal favorite was when we took to calling each other “dork vomit” (which my mom outlawed as too crass!! All the more reason to call one another that 🙂 ) We get along well as adults, though, so it all came out in the wash.

  7. Ava Says:

    My sister and I were 17 months apart in age. We were best friends and worst enemies. We always played together and relied on each other. But we fought like cats and dogs. One time while doing some chores, we decided to turn the radio up loud enough to hear WHILE the vacuum was running. All was good until my sister had a basket of laundry to bring in off the drying line. She did not appreciate that I did not hear her knock to open the door, with the loud radio AND vacuum going. She was outraged, and I was attacked with her shoe and karate kicked a few times… To this day I can’t figure out how she had a hand to knock on the door and ring the door bell, but was unable to just open the door… I blame it on stubbornness.
    I don’t remember our punishment for fighting. I’m positive there was some. But when my 4 and 6 year old sons fight, I make them stand and hug each other. They hug until they are done being grouchy. That can lead to wrestling, so I’ve also had them sit on the stairs next to each other, holding hands. I’ve gotta say it’s entertaining and much more fun for me than yelling to “stop fighting and love your brother”. 🙂

  8. Asha Says:

    I am afraid to weigh in for fear of ruining the party. My relationship with my two older brothers was traumatic, to say the least. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I try not to be in the same state with them if I can help it. The experience has, however, led me to being a healer/counselor/astrologer/writer, so there is a silver lining. Sometimes our greatest wounds become our greatest strength.

  9. Meanie Says:

    Maybe it just me, and maybe I didn’t have my quota of coffee yet today, but I find this blog incredibly disturbing.
    I for one do not find it humorous to watch small children “duke it out”. What are we teaching our children about love and respect when we allow them to torment each other on the home front? Creating a dialogue earlier as opposed to later about peace and effective communication is crucial to raising the next generation of beings.
    I for one refuse to turn a blind eye and allow yet another dysfunctional generation of future adults into this already hurtful bullying environment created by previous generations. We need to take the opportunity with sibling rivalry to turn it into a positive learning experience of cooperation and mutual respect, not point and snicker as our children spew hatred at one another without consequence.
    Let us not forget: words CAN hurt as much as physical altercations, if not more at times.

  10. leela Says:

    my first memory of sibling battles was going to kindergarten with an ice pack on my lip as my brother had whacked me with a bottle (I was five, he was two). My mother claims we did not stop fighting in the back seat of the car until we were all out of college. Now we are closer – thanks to his wife who brought out some amazing good qualities in him. My own kids fight – my husband and I are both oldest kids – we joke that we gave birth to two oldest kids who are each convinced they are more right than the other – our karmic punishment I’m sure…

  11. Kelly Says:

    I feel very fortunate that my brother and I were close — possibly because we moved so much and where always needing to entertain ourselves on long plane rides or among moving boxes … Despite how close we were, we still had “incidences” like him making me sniff pepper, me karate chopping him to stay on his side of the car and the infamous time I threw a whisk at him during chores. This blog thread had made me wondering why these stories have such folklore and why my brother and I still bring them up when we get together. In my case, I think it’s the feeling of “You knew me when” and “We weathered that curious phase called childhood together.”

  12. helen Says:

    like erianna, i was two months shy of two years when my brother was born, so young enough to be insanely jealous and old enough to scheme, and i first tried to convince my mother to “take him back because the nurses will take care of him” and when that line of logic didn’t hold, i took to pinching him whenever she wasn’t looking, which made her think he had colic. i also put my sister in a cardboard box once (i was three) and hid her and scared the shit out of my poor mother. my siblings won’t let me live any of this down, but nonetheless we are all close… ;p

  13. Melissa Says:

    Let me begin by stating that my little brother Tyler and I are seven years apart. I will always refer to him as my little brother no matter how old we get. We were not rivals in the sense of ‘beating’ on each other but we would compete in other less harmful ways. lol I used to hide around a corner, or anyplace out of sight and just wait for Tyler to come innocently walking by and then…BOO! Jump out, stick out my hand grab him and tickle him you name it and every single time he would jump out of his skin! HA HA and then the game was on! He would try to get me back and he did legitimately startle me a few times, but mostly I did most of the scaring. Now that the years have gone by and we are older, I forget about these days and now it’s payback because now he gets good every so often! Even though we a far a part in age I am glad that we still managed to have a close bond with each other and not send one another to the hospital in the process. ❤


  14. CONGRATULATIONS, SARAH! You win the $5 VIP coupon! Any mama who has her boys convinced that she somehow has power over who poops when deserves some serious props. Plus, the story of your mailbox system with your brother reminded me of the most magical thing about sibling rivalry — that, no matter what the conflict, at the end of the day, there’s something indescribably special about a sibling. As my friend Martha, the homicidal toddler described in the original post, put it, “I actually have no memory of either of these instances. I only remember loving my sister passionately and wanting to be near her always.”

  15. Sarah Says:

    Awesome!!! Thanks so much. Can’t wait to come use it!


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