When I think about sibling rivalry my mind travels back to a little girl growing up on the fifties and sixties with an older sister. The little girl was me, and I imagine rivalry was present even before I knew what to call it. My sister was a pretty little girl, three years and ten days older than I. My parents loved to watch her twirl about in her graceful little frocks, while I was more inclined to look for the nearest mud puddle in which I could "cook" my mud pies. I was admired because I was an early reader. I basically did not like to be fussed over, even though I was viewed as a sweet and loving child. Everything changed for me at the age of seven when I spent the entire year in bed due to a severe case of rheumatic fever. All of the attention shifted to me because I needed so much care. According to my mother, this was the time that my sister began to resent me. I became a victim of sibling rivalry through no fault of my own.
Because my sister and I have always been very different, I can't help but wonder if our relationship would have been calmer had she continued to be the center of attention at such a young age. I still have regrets that we are not closer, even at our quickly advancing ages. She has been so kind to me at several stages of my life, yet there is still something that keeps us from being close friends.
As a young mother I was determined to show my son and my daughter that they were loved equally. They too were very different in temperament, and their individual needs demanded that I follow many directions in raising them. I cheered for my son when he was successful in his athletic pursuits, and I sat in awe of my daughter as she performed and danced in dramatic plays; however, they fought with each other continually, and I was convinced that I was not being a good enough parent. I had "Mom dates" each Saturday where I would alternate quality time with each of them to a destination of their choice. This would entail a movie together or perhaps a special lunch time together; but that somehow wasn't enough either. As adults they are friendly today, but my mind still harbors thoughts of wondering how I could have done it better.
Last week I attended a weekly soccer game in which three of my granddaughters participated. When one eight-year-old started wailing with grief, I quickly flash backed to years before as I heard the loud accusation. "Mommy, she took my water and now it's not where I left it!" The voice was filled with pain, and I began to think about how it all happens.
Yesterday my five-year-old grandson informed me that I was not giving him enough attention because I was reading a book with his eighteen-month-old sister. I cringed at the familiarity of this theme. Did I do something wrong again? The emotional side of me felt frustrated, yet the child developmental part of me knew that this was all part of growing and becoming. It was the process that all children go through in carving out their places in the family unit.
For those of you who are old enough to remember the old Smothers Brothers routine, you will remember that a large part of their act was that "Mom loved you more than me." I know that I love my family equally, yet I admire each member of my family for very different qualities. In my years as teacher, daughter, mother, sister, aunt, niece and grandmother, I think I have a clearer picture now. I have decided that as long as children know they are loved, it will ultimately be okay. If we are accused of not being "enough" that is okay also. As long as we make that constant concerted effort to be an advocate, while we lovingly guide them down the paths of maturation, I say hooray for us! We've done our best!