How Can There Be Rivalry When They're On the Same Team?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Let's talk about sibling rivalry, shall we?

See, I read something ages ago that said that the way siblings interact in the early years is hugely indicative of how their future relationship will pan out.  "Got this!" I thought, as I watched a very young John Paul snuggle baby Cecilia, watching a newly-mobile Cecilia crawl after John Paul and lick him repeatedly while he giggled, watched the two of them sit quietly in a "reading nook" corner while he read books to her...

But then, see, Cecilia started having an opinion about things.  And showed herself to be just as stubborn as John Paul, if not more so.  And given that these two were born of two of the most stubborn people on the planet, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me that I'm playing referee to the two opposing sides for most of the day ever day, right?

I mean, don't get me wrong, when they play together well they play really well.  I'm talking hours in their room playing Magic School Bus, or going to the basement for quiet hours to play board games (and clean them up. Seriously, they went through Cranium, Diplomacy, and Stratego yesterday and cleaned it all up).

See?  Best friends!
It struck me just how beautiful it is to see their relationship growing as Andrew and I sat on the couch watching them play in the basement today - John Paul suddenly discovered he can pick Cecilia up, and they spent a loooong time with him picking her up, staggering a few steps, and then dropping her on the floor.  She pulled him down on top of her and the giggles were CRAZY infectious.

And of course, you add twins to the mix?  Too cute to resist.

A snapshot:

John Paul is quietly playing the piano.  Cecilia is setting up a bed on the floor with a couch pillow and a fleece blanket, only to realize that Elizabeth has thrown her whole body on the pillow.

"Ewizabif!  Dat's my bed!  I'll make you your OWN bed!"

She runs off and gives Elizabeth a new pillow and blanket, then lies down again only to find Mary Claire is sitting directly next to her on the pillow...

"May Cwaire!  You're my guardian angel!!!"

And thus begins the game in which Cecilia runs away from her "guardian angels" and tells them to "Get back to heaven!!!"  Giggling everywhere, including from the adults in the room.  Seriously, the frantically giggling and running and falling toddlers?  It's really too much.

Cooperation at its finest

But then...

We can't get used to that kind of harmony, now can we?

Within minutes John Paul and Cecilia have been banished from the basement for doing something stupid, and I'm trying to get them to play together in their room so that I can make dinner in relative peace.

3 minutes of quiet and someone's wailing.

I return to find that they're fighting over who gets to throw the pink ball in the laundry basket.

Insert lecture on taking turns and sharing.

5 minutes later, I return to wailing and find them on the floor, tangled up in Cecilia's sheet, fighting over who gets to play with it.

A sheet.  Yes, they were fighting over a sheet.  And then John Paul stood up and he was sitting on his own sheet.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

2.5 minutes later, Cecilia comes running into the kitchen because "JOHN PAUL PUNCHED ME!"

"Why did he punch you?"

"Because I was tryin' to leave and I said I wouldn't pway wif him."

John Paul comes running in yelling...

"John Paul!  Did you punch your sister?"

"Yes, because she wanted to leave and I wanted to play with her!!!"

So John Paul is sent to his room for a time out and within a minute Cecilia is running back in there to play with him and wailing ensues yet again...

At this point I just separated both of them to different rooms for quiet time, but really?  How long is this going to go on?  I'm thinking years...

This is like, 8 months ago.  See, no crying!

The thing is, when they are good they are so very very good and so independent and so wonderful and lovely.  But when they're bad?  Oh they sure are horrid.

See?  So cute?  So loving!
And they're ONLY bad with each other, they never try to hit other kids and they share sooooo well with everyone else.  But they just go craaaaaaaazy on each other, and then forgive each other immediately.  No consequences, in their minds, except those imposed by parents.  And I don't know how much I need to step in and how much I should let them sort out themselves...

So I'm thinking it's time to find that "Siblings Without Rivalry" book I started reading and then abandoned and maaaaybe try to learn from it again?  Because I feel like all I'm doing right now is babysitting and refereeing, and there's not a whole lot of mothering going on...  And surely there's something I can do to fix this a little bit, right?

Because really, the fact that while he was praying evening prayer he kept kicking her (she was yell-singing "AL-LE-LU-YAAAAAAAAAAAA, AAA-LE-LU-PAAAAAAAASTAAAAAAAA, NOODLE NOODLE NOODLE!!!" when he was just trying to pray!) shouldn't be indicative of their future relationship, should it?

Make me feel better?  Tell me some ridiculous stories about your kids or about you and your siblings?  I know mine aren't the only ones who fight this way!

Is it terrible that I just want them to be like this all the time?


  1. No ridiculous stories but I absolutely loved this post and while part of me is a bit terrified I can't wait until my kids are old enough to interact. (Other than Michael trying to klunk his baby brothers or poke them in the eyes ...)

    1. Also at first I thought you had a tag that was "Crazy JP" until I realized it was two separate ones, hehe!

  2. Okay..this probably isn't reassuring but my older brother and I still can (verbally) fight like cats and dogs somethings (we are 36 and 38 LOL)!. We get along fine the majority most of the time ,but occasionally we have been known to still get into it. . According to my psycologist SIL it is because I am have one personality on the Myer-Briggs scale and he has a differnt one and those particular two personalities do not tend to get along well. Neither one of us ever fights with any of our other siblings, just with each other.
    Also, according to my SIL those types of scenarios are more common when the children are gifted and close in age...or something like that anyway.

    Anyway....Siblings withour Rivarly is a great book. My 2nd and 3rd children are a lot how you describe John Paul and Cecilia. They get along beautifully some times and are the best of buds, and then other times they fight like cats and dogs, but then get over it and all is forgiven. Most of the time, I leave them alone and don't really get involved (they never really fight physically, more like yelling) and I mostly stay out of it and let them work it out themselves (which they usually do).

    I think just certain personalities are more likely to clash and I think the siblings relationship is the perfect way for kids to learn how to get along and compromise and all that. And, really the fact that they forgive and forget just as easily as they get into it, is wonderful and I think that is most important thing to learn. I think the forgiving and forgetting and not holding grudges is a wonderful relationship skill and the fact that they are developing it is awesome.

    1. Yeah, gifted and close in age definitely describes the two of them... It's just so ridiculous to see them both reeeeeally egging each other on because they're still so young!!! Ah well, their physical fighting has yet to get really bad, their hitting is soooo gentle and Cecilia was the first one to start hitting anyway! I'm sure we'll look back at this and laugh, it's just so overwhelming right now because I'm trying to deal with it while the twins are sobbing and demanding to nurse and there's only so authoritative I can be while tandem nursing!

  3. My input is be glad you have girls thrown in there. The past few days my older two have had peeing contests off of the top bunk onto the bottom floor/mattress.

    They don't fight or bicker often but when they do it usually involves punching, biting, or kicking. I usually just let it go and tell them that if they want me involved , they go to their room; or they can work it out themselves ( this only sometimes works)!

    1. Oh man, the peeing contests! I can't even! We had one incident in which they tried to use the toilet at the same time and I couldn't stop laughing because it was sooooo funny when Cecilia leaned back and peed on John Paul... But thank goodness it hasn't occurred to John Paul to pee off the bed!!! I can't believe it!!!

  4. Paddy and Peggy were the very best of friends. And they adored their little siblings, who adored them right back. And there were giggles and songs and games.

    And then they learned how to disagree. And gradually Patrick and Meg became not such good friends. But when a real crisis comes, they stick together like butter and toast. Those hugs after Daddy died . . . well, there's nothing like siblings who actually stick together.

  5. My brother and I used to pull hair, punch, bite, etc. We played together too, but we fought HARD at times. And now we are very close; and while we don't always agree with each other, we are able to speak our minds without being nasty My three get along well sometimes, and sometimes they FIGHT-no biting or hair pulling (yet), but lots of yelling and hitting.
    On the other hand, my husband says he NEVER fought with his brother. The two of them can't stand each other now.
    That's my anecdotal evidence.

    1. It's gotta be character-building, right? But goodness is it exhausting!!!

  6. Sibling rivalry is in full force here. Josh and Elizabeth are my 2 that really go at it. I read the Siblings Without Rivarly book... it was worth reading. It bascially taught me to stay out of it and while there are times I wonder WHAT that is doing to help, I guess they are gaining skills during all their spats. Crazy siblings!

    1. Seriously, they'll be expert negotiators by the time they're in high school! Or just really good at manipulating ;)

  7. My mom had 6 kids, and she says she thought we were going to kill each other before adulthood. And we were good kids! That always makes me feel better when my kids won't stop. We have 2 things we do when they are all over each other:
    1) Make them go outside (or take them somewhere outside) to burn off energy.
    2) Delegate them all to separate rooms.


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