I have two siblings and we are friendly, but we are not what I would call friends. In fact, one un-friended me recently on Facebook, so I think in this day and age that makes us officially not friends. Ha! I talk to my sisters when one of us needs something, it's a holiday, or one of them thinks it's been too long since we talked.
Growing up on a steady diet of fiction (Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume), I always imagined that having siblings meant you had best friends for life. Society assumes if you have sisters that's the case. It doesn't always work that way - blood or not, some people are just different.
I have four kids, two "sets," as we call them. Each set is just about two years apart. My girls are four years apart; my boys are almost eight. They currently are each others' best friends. I love to watch them take care of each other and help each other. I watch my girls sharing a chair and playing with each others' hair and my heart swells. I see my 8-year-old stop what he's doing to walk over and coo and talk with his baby brother and my heart explodes.
It's not always peaceful. This morning my oldest went storming out of the house because the girls would not stay out of his room and leave his stuff alone. Tantrums from the 2-year-old are frequent when she is not allowed to play with something the big kids have. However, for the most part, if someone outside the family were to treat them badly or exclude them, they would stand up for each other. They turn to each other for help and companionship first.
I don't know how or why, what we're doing right what we're not doing, but I hope it never ends. I hope that when they are teens and adults and are in trouble or need someone to lend an ear or a hand, they will turn to each other first. I can, and do, just a little bit more than hope. I remind them (sometimes daily) that they are so lucky to have siblings, that not everyone gets to share their life with someone else. This is something my son knows deeply, as he is the only one that remembers the son we lost, the brother he never got to meet.
We also encourage them to deal with each other instead of us. Our rule is if there is no blood, they need to figure it out themselves. We don't solve their fights; we don't listen to tattling. I think it's important for them to learn to talk to each other, to be able to say 'you hurt my feelings' and to say 'I'm sorry.' We also make them hug. Sorry is never enough of an apology. If they have hurt or wronged a sibling they need to apologize, fix it, and "hug it out," as we say. It usually ends up in fits of giggles.
I won't know if we have succeeded, I may never know. All I can do is hope and pray that we are laying down the framework for strong bonds that will last them until adulthood.
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
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