3 Things I have Learned about Siblings

Picture Perfect
Brotherly Love: Picture Perfect


3 Things I have learned about siblings:

  1. The only thing predictable about sibling relationships is unpredictability
  2. They can be sweet, loving and cooperative – until they are so not
  3. They can take each other down, but if anyone else commits any wrongdoing to their bro or sis, they will each come to the other’s defense.

And that is the extent of my knowledge – the rest is all a mystery to me. You see, my husband is an only child. And I am an only (what are the odds?). I always longed for a brother or sister. We would have so much fun! There would always be something to play, do, or make.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, so growing up, I went to a friend’s house who had 3 siblings. A raucous family with 2 girls and 2 boys. I spent as much time in their chaotic home as possible, since it always seemed like something was happening.  I happily served as what I hoped was “honorary sister” status. If I was visiting and it was time to go to the grocery, I tagged along. We all piled into the back of a brown wood paneled station wagon (sans seatbelts), leaning and rolling over one another laughing as we turned the corner. Most of my memories are positive and filled with love (and envy) although I am sure there was some fighting. I am not sure how much of my memory was selective, but there it is.

My husband and I have two sons. When we brought our youngest son home from the hospital, the transition was smooth as far as a new brotherly love developing between older and younger brother. Although there was this memorable moment, hinting at the future:

First Sibling Rivalry
Big Brother colored Little Brother with green marker on his face


Fast forward a few years, and my boys are now 9 and 7 years old. We have had peaks and valleys of “getting along.”

A few summers ago, on a memorable trip home, my boys started poking each other in the car. When I pulled the car into the driveway, the boys tumbled out of the car and had an all-out brawl on the front lawn. Cars driving down our quiet street slowed down to see what all the commotion was about. Neighbors looked on gawked as my sons pummeled each other, a mass of twisted arms and legs. And I thought to myself, “Why can’t they just fight in the privacy of our home?”* After they had worked themselves into a lather, both boys came inside to take advantage of the cool air conditioning. Only moments later, they started quietly playing with Hot wheels cars. And the conversation went like this:

Son #1: “Sooooo, sorry about that eyeball thing.”

Son #2: “Yeah, sorry about that kicking thing.”

Son #1:  “And sorry about the stick.”

Son #2: “Yeah! You hit me in the face, too! Sorry for poking you in the ear.”

Son #1: “Friends? I think that is about it.”

I wish I could say that the scuffle on the front lawn was rare. I also wish I could say that they always talk things out as nicely as they did as they were playing with toy cars. But the fact is the fights occur more frequently than I ever thought possible. The good news is that their power struggles are equally divided, there are clear episodes of love and sweetness in between, and they show remorse for their actions.

Along the way I have learned a few strategies. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t –

  • Separation, sometimes to include the “take one, leave one” strategy, where my husband takes one boy and I take another – in separate directions.
  • Let them work it out (ha!).
  • Counting to 10.
  • Consequences
  • Channeling inner peace (for me!)

Do you have any stories of brotherly or sisterly love – or tales of woe and conflict? What strategies have worked for you and your family?  Help an “only” out and please share!

*The cultural notion that “men fight outside” and the irony of it all is not lost on me.

If you suspect that sibling rivalry in your home may be part of a larger issue, check out 5 Signs That Sibling Fighting May be Bullying.

Mean Boys
Quarreling brothers: photo taken approximately 3 minutes after “brotherly love” photo


Like this article? Check out these:

Welcoming a New Baby? 10 Tips to Pave the Road for Sibling Bliss

Here are a few tips on Alleviating Sibling Rivalry