I was eight months pregnant with my first baby and sitting in the front seat of our car when my 7-year-old stepson called over my shoulder and asked the heartbreaking question. “What if my brother or sister and me fight all the time?” As a stickler for rules, I wanted to tell him that fighting wouldn’t be tolerated in our family and that everyone must get along! Thankfully, I paused a second, and in that small amount of time, my own childhood and relationship with my brother flooded my memory.
Sibling to be Our relationship was anything but perfect. I am sure some would have considered us downright rotten. In one second the sounds of fighting and name-calling rang through my ears, as did the shrill voice of my mother yelling, calling us by the wrong names in her frustration. I heard doors slam, felt kicks and punches land on arms and legs and saw my brother sitting proudly in the recliner clutching every phone cord in the house. When all else failed, I would call my mom at work to tattle. My brother had a clever way of preventing any further trouble: he unplugged all of the phones in the house. A smile spread over my face as my son awaited a reassuring answer. He was still an only child and the worry in his face of getting this relationship right was apparent. I told him brothers and sisters fight all the time and that it is part of growing up. I assured him he and his younger sibling would get into loads of trouble together, would be sent to their rooms left and right and would probably drive me crazy in the process. I watched as the look of concern turned to one of disbelief. I could tell he was shocked at my admission that fighting was a natural part of sibling relationships and that the idea didn’t upset me.
I further eased his mind by walking him down my own memory lane. I even taught him some of my old tricks to getting out of trouble – a choice I will probably regret in the future!
By the time my husband finished his errand and returned to the car, my son’s face was bright as can be. The stories spilled out of him as he recounted tales of my childhood sibling rivalry. He was thrilled to tell Daddy how I used to tattle on Uncle Jimmy and call him names when Grandma wasn’t looking. He also told Daddy that he and his brother or sister are going to fight, but that he was going to try his best not to.
My husband just looked over at me questioningly. I could tell he had no idea how this subject came to be. I just smiled back at him, letting him know that it was all right. He doesn’t need to start thinking about the sibling rivalry that will turn us gray – not just yet, anyway. With baby still on the way, I think we have a few years before we have to talk about it again.