Monday, January 20, 2014

All day, every day

Like every mother, I would like my daughters to grow up the best of friends. And they are certainly very attached to one another and play nicely much of the time. Because they are so close in age, they can do pretty much everything together. It's really heart-warming to look at them drawing together at the table, or observing a tortoise they found in the yard, or kneading little bits of dough into bagels and pretzels that will go in the oven together with the challah I'm making. 

However, many mornings we are waken up by horrendous screeching, which usually means that someone snatched a toy away, or someone pushed or, as a friend of mine very wisely put, they are simply "fighting over dead air space". 

I know this is normal. A quick search of the web produces results which state only too plainly I'm not the only one with a problem of sibling rivalry. Some people offer advice such as "make sure each child has a room and toys of his own, so they don't need to share as much" or "send them to different schools". I don't believe this really solves the problem; I probably have to deal with more sibling rivalry because we are home all day, every day, together - but it simply means the issue is always on the table and we can't avoid working it out (if we want to keep our sanity, that is). 

Then there's the fact that we most often have to rely on our own resources. We only have one car, and my husband uses it. We live in an outpost. This means we can't just pop into the store, the post office, or the swimming pool - all those things require planning. My children, unlike almost any other children I know, don't go to extra-curricular activities. Of course, neither did I as a kid, and it didn't hurt me - I just made up my own. I drew, wrote stories and poetry and, in my teens, learned a foreign language all on my own. But it still makes me feel a flutter of panic when I consider that another five-year-old goes to ballet class, sculpting class, and an English class. We don't buy any workbooks or "education advancing" equipment. We just rely on plain old paper, pencils, paint, books, basic craft supplies, and whatever we can make out of it all. 

What we do have are surroundings of beautiful nature and interesting wildlife, books, the Internet, and each other. We also have a well-meaning Mom who often fails to keep her temper but always gets up next day and tries again. 


Miriam said...

I had no idea sibling rivalry existed until I had 3 children aged 1-3. I do have 2 sisters and a brother but they are 9-14 years older than I so I grew up as an only child, accompanied with an imaginary twin sister. As long as I can remember I dreamed about a bunch of children who could be able to find at home someone to play with. Little did I know. Yes, there's always a playmate near, but so is someone to fight with, too...

I guess sibling rivalry should be called something sophisticated, like: practising negotiating tactics, or How Do I Make My Point Clear -class, or Mastering Sharing (it's difficult, the class takes at least 20 years...) What do you need extra-curricular activities for? ;-)

Lady Anne said...

Sibling rivalry is nothing new. Seems to me Adam and Eve had a problem with it, too. ("Dad always did like you better!")

Like yourself, I grew up in a household with only one car (at that time, two was an unspeakable luxury for middle class folks), very limited TV, a mile walk to the library, etc. We survived and thrived. We wrote stories, drew pictures, read books, made up plays, sewed doll clothes, rode bikes. At 70+ I still love the chance to get on a swing for a little while. And we had chores to do - wash the dishes, help hang out the wash, mow the lawn.

Although we were "allowed" to join after school activities, we were expected to find our own way home, which generally involved a five mile walk, so neither my sister nor I bothered with that.

Separate rooms are not always possible, and we did our share of she's-on-my-side. Don't be afraid to step in and bring the girls "back down to earth". Sometimes my sister and I would get to bickering and I, at least, didn't know how to stop it, and was secretly glad when one of my parents came into our room and told us to cut it out.

Laura Lane said...

I'm smiling. Not only do our girls share a room, they also shared a bed for many years. Eventually, we were able to get them bunk beds.

It's good for them. Keep reminding them that they are "best friends for life."

Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

Luba said...

You are doing a wonderful job as a mother, Anna. Children don't need to be entertained as much as they need to learn to occupy themselves. As a young child, I read, helped my mother with housework, and played with dolls. When I was in fifth grade, my parents allowed me to learn a musical instrument.

It's very important for your daughters to learn to share a room, toys, and space. Is that not what they will be doing if they get married? It's good training for life.

Thank you for your blog. I am so glad I found it.

G-d bless you and your family!

Harper said...

I have three sons, and the older two are each other's main playmates. They do bicker, and there are fights over "air space", but I don't call it sibling rivalry.

It takes practice to learn how to live in the same space with another person. My husband and I had to learn how to live together, roommates have to learn how to live together. It is no different for siblings. Personally, I think the modern practice of having siblings live their lives separately (separate rooms, different schools--or at least separate classrooms, different activities, etc.) marks it difficult for them to learn how to live together, and difficult for parents to learn how to live with their children.

As an only child, I can say with some certainty that not having to share space with siblings made it harder for my husband and I to learn to live together.

Practice makes perfect.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Harper, I can absolutely relate to what you are saying. I, too, was an only child, and always had my own room. My husband, in contrast, was one of five, and grew up in a 1-bedroom apartment (the children slept in the living room). Adjusting to life together was VERY hard. I was so bent on having my own space I felt I'm literally suffocating whenever my poor husband "infringed" on my liberty. I still struggle with this issue.

Mrs. Anna T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peggy said...

I had 8 siblings. The youngest was 16 years younger than me. My father said even though she had many more things than the rest of us , we at least had someone to fight with.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,
I'm no expert about children, but I can bring you my experience as part of a couple of sisters who argued a lot during childhood but also grew up very close.
My experience is that yes, growing together helps you learn to share and live together with other people... but at the same time everyone needs some individual space.
This is especially true if one of them has an introvert personality (as was my case) and the other doesn't... sometimes you just NEED to be apart.
In my experience, my relationship with my sister improved dramatically when our parents finally decided to give us separate rooms. I am a bit older than my sister(4 years) and most of the time I just needed to have some quiet time on my own, which was impossible with my little sister around. That doesn't mean we didn't play or talk or share things anymore... just not ALL of the time.
I'm not saying that separate rooms are mandatory, but perhaps you could schedule some activities that are different from one another? (say, now your youngest can help you bake a cake or whatever while the other can play or draw in peace).
As i said, i'm no expert so perhaps that's an awful idea, but I remember very well the feeling of wanting my parents to treat me as an individual and not just as part of "the girls". :)


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you use available resources - and nature - to teach your girls. The Waldorf method of teaching espouses just that. Their toys are deliberately plain so as to encourage children's imagination. They explore nature. And people spend a lot of money to send their children to a Waldorf school.