I don't know why it’s caught me by surprise.
I grew up with sibling angst, and a sister who to this day (upon every family visit) will wrap both arms around me, rendering me powerless as she tackle-throws me down on a bed.
Not that there have been many of those visits lately.
I haven't seen or spoken to my sister in a year (to say we see things differently is an understatement).
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
I am the elder to this sister of mine, yet despite her later birth year and smaller stature was always physically stronger, a tiny brat who could take me down whenever the urge to do so moved her.
My daughters, now five, have begun the sibling power play.
My first-born Sophie is strong, free, and wild. Her twin, Grace, is quiet, sensitive, and observant.
Fire and water. Heat and ice. Night and day.
When they fight, it's nasty.
As I walked past their room the other day I heard Sophie tell her sister that she "hated" her.
More than once, Grace has stood face to face with her sister, arms crossed tightly over her chest, growling, I... WILL ...NEVER ... PLAY... BARBIES ...WITH ...YOU...AGAIN!"
The most recent comment that stopped me in my mommy tracks (causing me to stomp my mommy boots) was, "I wish X was my sister instead of you!"
What is it about sisters that cause normally sweet girls to turn monstrous?
My worry prompted me to ask my friends with daughters, "Do your kids fight?" and, "Do they fight mean?"
Turns out I’m not alone, making me feel a little better about the current status of things.
After doing some research I learned that sibling rivalry isn't at all uncommon. Many things cause the rivalry (from birth order to general personality differences), and it happens with brother/sister siblings, too.
Being forced to spend all your time with one person naturally causes an increase in conflict.
Most interesting to me is that parents often (innocently) instigate the rivalry by comparing their children to one another, once again making true the statement, “If it's not one thing, it's your mother."
But there’s a special relationship that sisters have solely on the basis of their sex.
Faced with my latest in parental turmoil, I've had to pull myself up by my bootstraps and buckle down on my parenting style.
Yelling about it has done nothing more than increase the noise.
Fighting about it amps up the stress for all of us.
Separation? Time outs?
You try moving an angry set of five-year-olds with just the weight of your calm, yet stern voice.
The only solution, which speaks to my inner search for peace and harmony amongst all beings, is a good old fashioned "hug it out." It takes effort. Good parenting always does.
"Go hug your sister right now!" has not been met with many smiles.
Until they are close enough to be face-to-face, arms wrapped around their sister, do they relax and laugh and stop the madness.
In that moment, if only in their five-year-old hearts, do they recognize that the recipient of the hug is the closest person to them in the whole wide world.
It’s made me re-think my relationship with my own sister, and all of that tackle-tossing.
Maybe it started as rivalry, but over time turned into something else entirely.
Without question, when and if we see each other again, I am sure I will fall victim to her strength.
I won't fight back.
She'll let go when she’s good and ready.
And despite all of our differences, the love will be there, because time and distance can’t change the fact that we’re sisters.
No matter how insane we think the other to be.