E+E Column: Siblings and the love/hate paradox

I sat down last night to write a column about the complete and utter lack of sibling harmony in our household recently but then today, in the way that only children can, they threw me completely off by getting on better than they have for weeks. Since Christmas, the relationships between the small folk in our house have felt quite fraught. I’d been hoping that rather than a new phase, this was primarily a result of this appallingly wet and windy winter we’ve been having that has resulted in us spending a lot more time indoors than usual. Today though, I’ve decided to give up on trying to analyse what causes them to one day shove each other into shelves in the co-op (a particularly embarassing moment in my parenting journey) and the next to be curled up on the sofa under a blanket reading books together.

I’m going to borrow and distort from Jane Austen and state that it is a truth universally acknowledged that the sibling relationship is a truly unique one. Bound to each other by family and proximity, it is the only time in your life that you have housemates thrust upon you with no choice in the matter. I guess it’s only natural that there will be periods of both harmony and dischord, sometimes within the same three hours. I feel like I might have written about this before and don’t want to bore you all with repeated platitudes but I think there is still a lot that can be said about the nature of siblings and how to effectively peacemake when things take a particularly dour turn.

The main approach that I’ve started to take recently is to try and not get involved so much. There is a fairly constant low level of bickering that exists in our house and I was tearing my hair out trying to appropriately deal with the aggrieved parties. I’ve decided that unless it is a ‘biggie’ I’m going to leave them to it. Most of their problems stem from a lack of communication so I’ve been reminding them (sometimes gently, sometimes not!) to just talk to each other. And although it’s early days I’m hopeful that it is making a difference. Instead of coming to tell tales to me, when they actually stay calm and explain why they’re upset to the other, more often or not, they manage to resolve it themselves. Of course I’m still getting invovled when they are struggling to deal with each other and of course they still fight like cat and dog at times. Isaac in particular seems to know exactly the most effective way to wind up Sophia and she takes the bait every single time. Oh joy! But (and I say this tentatively), I’m hoping that we are on our way to maintaining a reasonable level of cooperation in our house. They may not have chosen each other, but they’re stuck together for at least another 12 years so here’s hoping they realise sooner rather than later that it’s easier just to get along!


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