When Does Sibling Rivalry End?


My older brother was always my hero, even if for a short while there, I hated his guts.

It’s the same old sibling rivalry story. When we were small, he was the man. He shared his Dr. Seuss books and taught me to spin a yoyo. Then around puberty, wham. Maybe he was shunned at school and had to take out his frustration on someone. Or he just didn’t have much use for a starry-eyed kid trailing him but for a couple of years, our bro-sis bond was mighty thin.

Then I hit my teens and wham again. From one day to the next, he went from being a bully to my BFF.

Every time I told my kids this story, they’d shake their heads. She’s so annoying, my son, then 13, would say of his 11-year-old sister. He doesn’t like me, no matter what I do, my daughter would insist. There were angry voices, eyes filling. With logic, I tried to force the friendship. She’s younger. Give her a chance to catch up, I would tell him. He does like you. He loves you, I would say.

But they were living on different planets. He liked the solitude of his room and she wanted nonstop chat. Plus, at only 20 months apart, they both saw everything as a race. Then there was that sick feeling all siblings have that their parents love the other one just a little bit more.

Whenever I ended this story, I would remind my two oldest kids that one day soon, they’d become friends, real friends, and by saying it aloud, I hoped it would be so. But the truth was, I wasn’t sure. There are people out there who just don’t gibe with you, who make you feel itchy, or get off on pushing your buttons. Not everyone will like you, I realize now. Not everyone gets along.

When they first started sleepaway camp, I’d speak to my son before sending them off. Look out for her. Be kind. You’re the older brother. It’s part of your job. And he’d sigh and say, Oh please, Mom, she can take care of herself.

And she would. And he would. On their two separate planets, with their separate sets of friends, inhabiting their own space.

Then, last year, after seven weeks away, they stepped off the bus and there I stood, my heart soaring at the sight of their tanned faces. But this time, my joy wasn’t mirrored back. In fact, Mr15 came home downright sad and it turned out there was nothing I could do to help.

Leaving the cabin raids and late night campfires, and all he had loved and learned behind, was too hard. He had no interest in hugs from people who couldn’t relate. All he wanted was to hang out with someone who understood.

For the next hour, I heard my kids’ voices from behind a closed door – laughing, singing, whispering the fading details. They were home, but nothing could erase the time they had spent away, the months they’d used to grow up, without us annoying parents around. They had each changed, and so had their relationship. In the kitchen, later that day, Miss13’s eyes were red.

“He said he’s so happy I’m his sister,” she told me, and I nodded.

Becoming BFFs with my older brother felt like the high note in a song, but until it happened to my kids, I forgot about what came next. As a BFF sib, you develop this glue that cements you together. It’s composed of all these new secrets you share that your parents aren’t privy to. From that bonding moment on, you’re a member of an exclusive teen club.

I had hoped for so long that my kids would be friends and now they are. And now they wield double the power in our household. No longer can I go into my daughter’s room to whine that my son is ignoring rules or making me nuts, or vice versa, because they will stick together, and even lie for each other if need be.

Since last summer, I have had to learn to deal with the SuperTeen force – kids who will guard the sibling code, no matter what. And now I remember what comes next – that moment when they will start laughing about us hilarious old folks behind our backs.

For the past year, I’ve been nagging the teens to be nicer to their little brother, the tween. He’s constantly trying to break into their club and get them to see he’s cool, too. But as they all get ready for camp again, I’m rethinking my position.

They’ll grow into their relationship soon enough, and when they do, Mr47 and I will be locked on the outside in some small way, forever looking in. Time to choose my wishes wisely.




About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.

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