Siblings, you can’t live with them, can’t live without them; until about adulthood when it becomes clear that they weren’t simply born to annoy you. Should I really be surprised that my girls, aged 12, 10, and 8 haven’t quite figured out the beauty that having a sibling brings?
Each morning in our house begins roughly the same. One of the girl’s shouts, “who took my…you name it…bag, bracelet, phone, hairbrush, sweater?"
As the hunting child becomes more aggravated, another, motivated not by the truth, but a natural avoidance of conflict, finally responds “not me.”
“I did,” says the sister who is ready to fight it out.
And then it happens, the inevitable explosion that rocks the house. Insane yelling commences between the two, “I can’t believe you did that without asking, its mine, give it back!”
“You let me, you said I could, you promised, and mommy is my witness, and I’m telling!”
In such moments, we wonder why we invested so much in speech therapy. The argument ends without much of a clear resolution, and there are always tears. Commensurate vows that they are never speaking to each other ever again are exchanged, which lasts about 20 minutes until they walk to school together, and we hear them yelling at each other through the window as they storm off.
This past Wednesday morning started with the familiar bickering, but the topic this time was the use of the bathroom. By the way, I don’t have an alarm clock anymore, the yelling is my signal to arise.
“Get out of the bathroom!” was the shriek that woke me that lovely Wednesday morning, followed by the counterattack.
I stifle a yawn; do I really want to get involved? Definity not, but its six-thirty and I don’t want to add grouchy neighbors to the list of upset people in my life. I push the covers back and stumble down the hall, my feet and brain still not properly working with each other.
One child points an accusatory, rage-filled finger at her sister, “she is taking too long in the bathroom.”
The other continues brushing her hair calmly, knowing how much that angers the other one, and coolly replies “it’s my bathroom too.”
“Why don’t you use my bathroom?” I offer to the put-out sister.
“No,” comes the reply without any consideration of the offer.
“Because the mirror is bigger in our bathroom.”
I sigh and turn her. She has her arms crossed, her big brown eyes demanding that I handle this situation the way she wants it to be handled. I pull her out of the bathroom and fix my calm, mommy voice.
“Let’s give your sister a few more minutes, please.”
“Fine, but only five.”
“All right, I’ll put on a timer,” slightly taken aback by the sudden change in attitude.
“I have a better idea.” I should have known better.
She proceeded to take a piece of paper and make a sign. She wrote out, perfectly spelled in Hebrew (news to me she could spell finally, by the way):
Five minutes in the bathroom
Longer = 5 Shekels (paid) to me.
She taped the sign to the bathroom door, and shouted, “anyone who uses the bathroom for more than five minutes will have to pay me. My mouth fell to the floor as I witnessed the other girls check the time and obey their younger sister’s orders. WT…?
They each spent only five minutes in the bathroom, and everyone was ready on time for school. I was tempted to keep the sign up, maybe I could use a similar concept for limiting screen time? I must admit...she may have stumbled onto something.
At the end of the day, my girls came home laughing and singing, telling me all about their day. Am I the only one who remembered their morning? I will keep it that way for now, until of course, I retell the story at a family gathering when they are older and can laugh about all their petty fights; but that day is not today.
In the future, I hope they will see what a privilege it is to have a sibling. I know how grateful I am when I get to visit with my older sister. When we get together, we stay up late talking and laughing and remembering all times we used to squabble about silly things. I still recall the time I bit my sisters head off because she dared to read in bed while I was trying to fall asleep. I got up and told her to stop turning the pages, because, and I quote “the noise was bothering me.” Oh, the problems eight-year-old deals with! Can I have them back?
Maybe, one day in the not so distant future, my girls will look back and laugh about all the fighting they did over the bathroom or the items they lost and blamed each other for losing, or the fact that she really couldn’t enforce the five-shekel fine.
But even more than that, I hope they remember the times they helped each other up when they were down, the trips they went on together, the adventures they shared, and the love I know they have for one another expressed in words and in gestures. And maybe, just maybe they will realize sooner than later just how wonderful having a sibling can be.