“I guess you’ll have to buy two of everything from now on,” the checkout girl remarked.
“I guess,” I shrugged, accepting a bag with two identical plastic magic wands from her.
As we walked out into the parking lot, I wondered whether this teenager’s words were just thoughtless commentary or a window into my future. Did she know something I didn’t?
I watch sisters a lot more closely these days, to see what draws them together and what tears them apart. I find myself asking friends with sisters probing questions about the nature of their relationship, because I’m starting to realize I’m not well equipped to raise two girls.
I come from a family of two kids: me and my considerably younger brother. Being four-and-a-half years older than my brother always meant we were at different stages of life. Plus, there wasn’t a lot of competition in our interests. He did karate while I played the violin. He tried football, I tried swimming. He grew up to be an engineer, I grew up to be a writer. Sure, we fought, but all in all, there was very little stepping on each other’s toes.
But with my girls, there’s a lot of room for offense. Just this week, I’ve heard screaming matches over:
- Julia “copying” Alice’s breakfast choice
- Whose turn it was to use the coveted flower spoon (I’ll have to take a picture of this thing so you can see how ridiculous this is!)
- Whether they should both be allowed to color pictures of Pinkie Pie in their My Little Pony coloring book (two different pictures, mind you)
- Alice taking too big a bite out of Julia’s imaginary tea party food (not plastic food, completely imaginary)
I could go on, but I’ll spare you. Needless to say, the bickering is enough to make a full-time mom lose her mind, especially since both girls are strong-willed and…vociferous.
With so much of the fighting over objects that might not hold the interest of a boy child, I’m starting to think that this element of conflict is just part of their relationship as sisters, who like and want the same things. I also see an element of manipulation in my kids and other young girls that I don’t see in many boys this age. It goes something like this:
“Do you like my drawing?”
“Well, I don’t like yours either!”
“Mommy, Alice said she doesn’t like my drawing!”
It’s interesting to witness the way they look to each other for validation, yet they’re wildly competitive. They’re interested in each other’s capabilities and opinions, but they don’t want to be one-upped, which usually leaves me playing referee, a role I do not relish. Even Julia, the “baby,” doesn’t blindly look up to her sister, the dynamic I had expected. If there’s this much conflict at ages 3 and 5, I’m certain there’s more to come.
But there’s got to be a way to help them navigate their closeness, right? Of course, I want them to grow up best friends. But how can that happen when they’re constantly at each other’s throats? Obviously, the relationship between sisters is complex. To be honest, I don’t know many grown women who have a strong relationship with their sister. So what is it that makes the difference?
Is it nature—a matter of genetics, complementary personalities? Or is it nurture—something parents can do to encourage them?
I can see there’s potential. My girls definitely have their moments of adorable camaraderie. Being so close means they actually want to play together in a way that makes me jealous I never had a sister. They love the same movies, they delight in matching outfits, they will play tea party till the cows come home. How do you capitalize on that?
Readers with sisters, do you have any pearls of wisdom to impart? Moms with daughters, what are you doing to bring them together? I’d love your advice!