My husband John and I were both only children, so by having two kids, we knew we were setting forth into a brave new world.
Both of us, like many only children, always dreamed about having a sibling we could pal around with. Of course, these were imaginary siblings, the pinky-swearing, truce-keeping pretend siblings who were so much better than the teddy bears we dressed up and had conversations with.
Actual siblings, if our friends’ siblings were anything to go by, tend to take your stuff and tell on you, whenever they aren’t busy punching you in the stomach. We witnessed plenty of that too, while growing up.
So when we had two kids of our own, we did our best to encourage a good relationship between them. We took pains to give our older daughter Brontë plenty of attention after baby Bridget was born, hand out toys and snuggles in even doses, and reward them for treating each other nicely.
One thing we’re quickly discovering, however, is that siblings fight, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. Now that Bridget is walking and talking, we’ve had to lay down a couple of rules: no hitting and no calling each other bad names.
Aaaaaaand… it has been fascinating to see our kids come up with workarounds.
- Bridget Tactic #1: Holds something big and whacks her sister in the head with it, then immediately gives her an “I’m sorry” hug, before whacking her again.
Poor Brontë keeps falling for it. It sounds a lot like this: “Aww, her being nice now… OW!”
- Bridget Tactic #2: Flails her arms around wildly while walking closer and closer to Brontë until Brontë *happens* to run into her arms.
- Bridget Tactic #3: She has figured out that Brontë is so afraid of the dark, she’ll flip out if you switch the lights off during daytime. So, game over…. all Bridget has to do is run around flipping switches and her sister is a quivering mass of panic.
But Big Sister is developing her own strategies.
- Brontë Tactic #1: “Not” calling Bridget names. It sounds like this: “SISTER! You are NOT a poo-poo head and you are NOT a stupid-head!”
- Brontë Tactic #2: Rolling into a sobbing ball whenever Bridget bumps into her while yelling, “OW, I’M HURT! SISTER HURT ME!” Sometimes she has to purposefully walk into Bridget’s path to get bumped.
- Brontë Tactic #3: Shoving her little sister into the bathroom, shutting the lights off, and closing the door. This one is very effective, as Bridget will immediately scream bloody murder.
Clearly, these kids are motivated to fight, and sometimes it’s hard to not laugh at their creativity.
But just as I was wringing my hands in parental despair, I witnessed an incident that reassured me that deep down, the girls actually do love each other:
We were recently all at the Children’s Museum in Sacramento, a fun place for kids with lots of toys. Bridget was playing with a big train set while Brontë was across the room, playing with blocks. There was a little boy building a giant wall out of cushioned blocks, a wall as tall as he was. Brontë decided it looked fun and tried to get in on his game.
Brontë walked over to him and smiled, saying, “HI! I’m Brontë!” The little boy scowled.
Brontë picked up a cushioned block and put it on his wall.
The little boy grabbed her block and chucked it as far as he could, saying “GO AWAY!”
Brontë looked hurt, but decided to give it another shot. She walked up to the boy, smiling, and asked, “Friends?”
The boy put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her to the ground, barking “GO AWAY!” I jumped up to intervene, but before I could, I caught sight of Bridget stomping across the room.
Bridget was livid. Fixing the boy with a cold, hard stare, she kicked a hole in his wall with her tiny foot. Then, like a Baby Godzilla, she kept kicking his masterpiece into rubble.
The boy thrashed and screamed, but what could he do? It was a baby.
When every last cushioned block was scattered to the floor, Bridget swirled around and smiled at Brontë before walking back to the train set.
Brontë watched her for a moment. Then, looking at me, said, “Her a good baby.”
Ah, siblings… it’s a complicated relationship, yes?