I am an only child so the sibling relationship is alien to me. My two children are my first real experience of it and, while I knew they would argue, I have been amazed by the extent of it. There are some days when I feel like it’s just my children who are like this.
At school pick-up, I see other children rushing to greet their older siblings with a hug and my newsfeed often features photos of siblings snuggled up in bed together. In the case of my children, my daughter complains bitterly about the fact we have to pick her older brother up at all and the only time they “snuggle” is when one has the other in a headlock. However what has really amazed me is what they fight about.
I don’t mean the plastic tat that parents often refer to as rubbish, I mean literal rubbish. Empty toilet rolls, cereal boxes, yoghurt pots, junk mail. Basically anything I intend to throw out and have only one of. My personal favourite was the fight that broke out in my car over a pay and display parking ticket.
What to do/watch/play
The first fight of the day is usually about which cartoon they watch before breakfast (a fight I am in no way ready to deal with as I haven’t had any tea yet). This theme then carries on throughout the day with fights about who gets to choose the game, who gets to choose the book and who gets to sit in the front seat. Each of these is also followed by its partner argument about whose turn it is.
Who goes first
One of the earliest things they argued over was who gets to go down the stairs first. They where probably two and four when it started and it’s one of the hardest for me to accept. The urge to scream “who f******** cares” is almost too strong to resist. This argument has now expanded to include who washes their hands first for dinner, who goes to bed first (although for this one they are both fighting for last place) and on a really bad day, who goes through the door first.
Who has more
Again, this one usually starts early in the day with the cereal and carries on at each meal time, with added fights over whose meal is “better” (by some standard I am not clear about). There are also regular fights about who has more toys, more stickers, more friends and more adult attention. The last is particularly evident anytime a grandparent is visiting, with them on occasion ending up in the middle of an actual tug of war between the children.
Who did it
Also known as he/she hit me first, this is one I never really know what to do about. This fight only ever starts when I am out of the room and as both of my children have been known to lie to avoid getting in trouble, I never know who is telling the truth. As I rule I refuse to intervene when the complaint is along the lines of “she blew a raspberry at me”, “he called me a poo head” or, the perennial favourite, “she looked at me”. I also don’t intervene in accusations of physical harm that haven’t resulted in tears. I have had to accept that, short of installing CCTV, I will never really know “who did it”.
I sometimes ask my husband, who has a younger brother, if all of this is normal. He assures me that it is and tells me he and his brother were sometimes worse. It makes me feel very sorry for my mother-in-law and very grateful to my mum for keeping me an only child.