My Mom is a true pacifist. She craves peace: genuine, co-operative, Kumbaya, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along peace. She finds the debating and discussion our family dabbles in unsettling. She prefers to play for fun, and not to win. She is quick to point out the dark side of competitiveness and ambition. And she has ZERO TOLERANCE for violence.
My Sisters and I
As the (much older) sister, this meant my fights with my sisters were semantic, never physical and rarely even verbal. Just a simmering annoyance and sly pokes at one another. At 7 and 10 years younger, they were always the babies compared to me. I couldn’t get away with much, without coming across as the bully. So, I teased and tormented one and babied the other.
My Mom’s strict censure on all physical conflict had an unintended side effect for the youngest two. In the space between the back of the couch and the living room wall, my sisters found a way to battle for dominance anyway.
Not a word. Not a sound. Just an all out brawl in absolute quiet. Until one would burst into giggles, at the ridiculousness of it all, and the other would stomp away angrier than ever.
Now we’re all grown up. And though we were told repeatedly, “you do not have to be friends, but you do have to treat each other with respect,” I not only respect, but consider both to be friends. The kind of friends that you don’t have to keep up with regularly, but can still pick up and hang out with when life allows. The kind of friends who can disagree fundamentally, but still laugh and wax nostalgic and know that it doesn’t really change anything important. The kind of friends who actually have a lot in common, and not just our back story or complexions, but our taste in books and sense of humour.
My own kids
I want that for my kids: a true, meaningful friendship. And not someday. I want it right now. I want to be the Mom who says, “they are so close, they love spending time together and they get along so well.”
But they don’t.
Sure, they spend a lot of time together. The two oldest share a room. The two youngest enjoy the same toys and shows. They play together and enjoy each other. But never for very long… inevitably fighting ensues.
There is nothing semantic about the conflicts in our house. When B is upset she will systematically remove all of her brother’s toys from his room and hide them in her own room. S is much more straightforward (being both a boy and 2); he screams at the top of his lungs and charges (watch the teeth). I’m not sure which one is more problematic.
The big girls are even worse. They are ones who really worry me. And frustrate me. And make me say things like, “I don’t want to hear it” and “work it out” on a regular basis.
The phrase, “she can outpester any pest” comes to mind when C decides she wants something from her long-suffering roommate. While C is prone to emotional outbursts, we’ve been around long enough to realize that L is often the one poking the bear, then sitting back with a contented smirk while little sister gets herself in trouble. There is no issue too small, no provocation too absurd, no slight too obviously imagined to escape their notice.
They are both kind girls with tender hearts. They are helpful and gracious. They are generous and considerate.
To everyone else.
Is this normal?
I’m told it is. I hope it is. For some reason we are our worst selves to our siblings. Because we can. Because they’re there. Because they’re ALWAYS right there in our space and into our stuff and generally making us crazy.
I find myself saying it a lot these days: “You don’t have to like each other, but you DO have to treat each other with respect.”
This sibling rivalry must have been hard on my peace-loving Mom. I know I long for the days when they will finally cut each other some slack. They would never dream of treating anyone else the way they do each other.
They are each other’s worst enemy. But, even though they may not admit it, they are each other’s best friend too.
So here’s me, feeling a little bad for the way I treated my sister. Sorry Esther Pester.