A friend of mine just had his second child. His first is three and a half years old, and he told me that he felt that this amount of spacing between his two children would help to prevent the worst of the sibling rivalry. While I wanted to be sensitive and understanding to someone who was still in the glow of new parent bliss, I couldn’t help but let a little peep of disbelief escape my lips at the thought of someone thinking they were going to escape sibling rivalry. Well, actually, it was a bit more than a little peep. Or even a big peep. It was more like this:
Just one, but that was enough to make him pause and say, “So you don’t think that’s possible?”
Although I hated to burst his bubble, I kind of already had, so I just shook my head sadly and said, “No.” I could have added that I knew siblings who were born ten years apart, as well as ones who were born ten months apart (“Irish twins,” we used to call them), and that the level of animosity between them was the same: intense. The truth is, thinking that there is some way to avoid sibling rivalry is the same thing as thinking that there is some way to avoid death: think it all you want, but in the end, you’ll be just as dead.
Having thus destroyed his dreams of family harmony, I felt like I should at least offer him a few words of comfort–something along the lines of: “Don’t worry–it only lasts a few years.” Alas, however, it seemed as if my ability to lie was all used up for the day, and I couldn’t even do that. Because, actually, if anything, I’ve noticed that the sibling rivalry thing just gets worse. Or at least more creative: the kids who were only pinching each other in grade school are practically hiring hit men to take each other out once they enter high school.
So why, you may ask, does anyone have a second child? If it causes that much strife, why not stop at one? The answer, of course, is the same one we give for every disagreeable thing we do to our children: it’s for their own good.
If there is one thing that is certain in this world, it’s that, at some point, you are going to have to deal with unpleasant people. And what better way to prepare for that then by having siblings: the most unpleasant people of them all?
Think about it: the room-mate who used your toothbrush after every one of her bulimic episodes, and then denied it? At least she was actually using it to brush her teeth. And the coworker who stole your lunch every day? At least he wasn’t farting on it and then telling you about it five minutes after you finished eating it. (Not unless you work at Dominos.)
Seriously, I am convinced that much of who we are–how we handle responsibility, stress, and unfair circumstances–can be traced to our early interactions with our siblings. You show me someone who can endure an ambush-style job review, and I’ll show you someone who grew up with not just one, but several older sisters.
Of course, just like with all of the other things we do for our children, the benefits of having siblings is something that most kids will only appreciate years down the road (if ever), And, I must admit, that when I have to physically separate them for the duration of an entire eight-hour road trip, I have trouble seeing it too.
Someday, however, I am sure that it will all be worth it: one day they will look at the siblings we gave them and then turn and thank us profusely.
Did I just hear someone say “Ha!”?