It could start any number of ways, but it was clearly always my sister Erin’s fault. (Says the first-born child.) She might sit too close to me. She might eat a big spoonful of peanut butter and breathe it in my face, something that I could not abide. Once, I discovered she actually wrote her own memories in my diary.
It would erupt, moving quickly from small-scale bickering to a full-on fight. If our mother were on the phone, those days still rotary and tied to the wall, she would move as far as the spring of a cord would take her. She’d snap her fingers to get our attention and then make the international signal for “cut it out” at her own throat. “You are in trouble,” she’d mouth. “Wait. Just wait.”
Of course then Erin and I would make of a big show of loving each other, a regular Norman Rockwell picture of sibling love. We didn’t want to find out what happened when the phone call was over. (As it turns out: nothing.)
We grew up, and Erin and I, along with our other two sisters, count each other as our closest friends. But does it always work out that way? And, more to the point, was there any way our mother could have avoided the ongoing headache that is sibling rivalry?
Katherine Ozment, a mother of three, looks into just that. Whether you’re a sibling, are parenting siblings, or both, you have to read this piece. Because there’s nothing funny about peace, love, and understanding.
—Jennifer Niesslein, co-founder of Brain, Child magazine
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