The Sibling Perspective

As an only child I find dealing with my two children quite eye opening and sometimes very frustrating. When you are an only child you don’t have to compete for Mom and Dad’s attention, you don’t have to share the toys and when it comes time to pick the cartoons to watch, yours is the only opinion that matters.

So now I have two children ages 6 and 3, and there seems to be a battle over every little detail of every aspect of our family life. Why is that? Why is it that two children can sit in the same room, having agreed on a movie to wacth; each with a chair, each with a snack, each with a drink and somehow, when Mommy leaves the room it sounds like 2 cats have been thrown in a bathtub!

I understand that there are personality differences, and differing communication styles. I realize that they can get on each others nerves, I mean they often get on MY nerves, but what is it about siblings that keeps them from letting things roll off their backs or simply walking away?

And why do they NEED to make that specific face, or use that inflammatory adjective designed to elicit the biggest reaction? Why the perverse pleasure in pushing their siblings buttons on a daily basis?

And yet as I hear myself ask these questions in the midst of a brother/sister throw down, I am reminded that grown ups often have the same problem in relationships. We often have emotional buttons that specific people push in specific situations, comments that seem innocuous to the untrained ear, but send us quickly into an emotional meltdown or at least into battle mode.

My husband (a middle child of three) is much better at letting things “roll off his back”, ironically his name means “duck” in spanish, perhaps that is why the annoyances and difficulties of relationships don’t seem to penetrate his thick shell. In any case, he is forever telling me to let things go or not to get so upset by small offenses, whether real or perceived.

I often wish that I could put his suggestions into practice and somehow become impervious to the button pushing of the more difficult people and situations that I inevitably face on a daily basis. Although I am often unsuccessful, I make a real effort to teach that character trait to my children, as it is an invaluable lesson for them to learn for life and certainly for a peaceful existence with each other.

Unfortunately until I can cultivate that kind of tolerance and self control in my children I have to stop writing to go mediate the screaming match about who’s turn it is to pick the movie and settle the dispute over whether they watched 12 Dancing Princesses or Transformers the last time. Or maybe, instead of deciding who’s right or wrong, I could just convince them to compromise and watch Kung Fu Panda…then I win!

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