Her narrowed eyes and balled up fists were only two manifestations of the rage which poured off her in heat waves. At 15, my sister Antoinette was almost obsessively neat and organized, while I, three years younger, was none of the above. The blouses and skirts she had so carefully laundered and ironed on Saturday, in preparation for the coming week, were mine also by divine right—or so I thought. After all, I was the youngest. “Spoiled rotten!” was what my six older sisters thought of me and “jealous cats” was what I frequently called them. Most of the time my parents only intervened if it became physical.
Siblings are an interesting group of intimates; most of the time they fight ferociously among themselves but stand back-to-back against all outsiders. This same sister comforted me when I ran to her classroom because first grade was such a horrible place to be and held my hand when I was taunted by some bullies. However sibling rivalry is a very real issue in homes where there are two or more children, no matter how much they love each other (deep, deep, deep, deep down). Blended families come with other challenges; just ask Cinderella and her stepsisters.
Rivalry, by its very definition, indicates there is a struggle to gain an advantage and in families it’s often a competition for parental favor; grades, sports, looks and helpfulness are all grist for the mill. Numerous books have been written which help parents foster the idea that “Love is like a flame. No matter how many candles you light with it, the flame is never diminished.” This, of course, means that parents have no favorites. Uh huh. Loving Each One Best speaks to parents who find their world “an exhausting haze of competing demands and perpetual squabbling.” A couple of other helpful books are Preventing Sibling Rivalry and Truce: Ending Sibling War. My personal favorite, however, is “Mom, Jason’s Breathing on Me!” Anyone who has ridden with or driven siblings (including teens), knows that nothing short of a squirt gun will make them simmer down.
The all knowing “they” tell me that only children are lonely children. Perhaps that’s true. However I’ll wager their parents enjoy a peaceful dinnertime.