Sibling Supportiveness

There’s a sun in every person – the you we call companion.” – Rumi

My kids and I were sitting on my bed reading books before bed and my 6-year-old daughter leaned over and kissed my toddler on the head and said, “Love you, Baby.” He said, “No kiss, La-la.” And so I kissed him on the head and he said, “No kiss, Mama.” But he was smiling so we kept kissing him and he kept saying “no kiss” and laughing.

My kids have such a sweet relationship. When they are in the car and my toddler hears a siren or other noise that scares him, he’ll say, “cared”, my daughter will say, “Want to hold my hand?” and he does.

I work hard to make this happen. I sit with them as they work things out and act as interpreter. I also narrate why he mimics her so much because he thinks she’s the coolest thing ever. I do this because I grew up as the younger sibling of someone who hated me. She was four years older than me which is the same age difference as my two kids. When we’ve talked about it as adults she said, “I don’t know why I was so mean to you.”

My opinion is that my sister has always struggled with feeling like she didn’t belong in our family because she was the one “realist” amongst a pack of optimists. I came along and the easy, happy disposition I was born with challenged her fighter, questioning nature and it is her makeup to push back.

Whatever my sister’s reason was, I find it fascinating to think about the dynamic now. Having kids that are the same age difference has been fear-inducing and healing for me. I was terrified that the same pattern would repeat itself. And now I’m starting to trust that there isn’t any scary truth that four years difference makes siblings not like each other.

There isn’t a more influential factor on my parenting style than the wounds of my childhood. I was scared to live with my sister – scared that anything I professed to love she would destroy. If I had long hair, I was scared she’d cut it off at night, if I liked a particular stuffed animal, I was scared she’d take it or destroy it. To be fair, I don’t think she ever did – but she threatened a lot. And I think I’m still scared of admitting I love something in case that means it’s taken away.

My mom was tired of kid squabbles by the time I came along as the third child. She was ready to move on with her own professional and personal development and given how talented and smart she is, that was only natural. But it meant that telling her my fears or about the conflict was not a fruitful path. She’d call it tattling or say we both caused it, no matter what happened. There was no path to resolution for me as a child – no understanding, no naming it and no way out of fear.

So every day I work at building trust between my kids and making sure they are source of comfort, not anxiety for each other. It heals me alongside helping them. It’s another reminder to me that nothing is wasted in this life – every wound can become a source of knowledge and inspiration. I hope that long after I’m gone, when they are scared, they will still talk to each other about it and hold hands.

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