Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sibling Love: 6 things to do to make your kids actually like each other

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I've spent a long time writing and then deleting this post over and over again, because it's something that is hard to properly put down into words. It's hard to explain and I didn't want it to come across as though we had it all together or somehow figured it all out (because we certainly haven't). But then finally after almost deciding to scratch it completely and just head off to bed, I decided to just write without thinking. Sometimes that's just the best way around it. It means that it's truly honest and unedited. So here ya go:

Jen and I have been getting a lot of the same questions from curious mama's, all who are trying to figure out how to raise their children to have the same type of close relationship that Jen and I have. We've gotten emails asking "How do you do it?" or "What is the secret?" and "How did you as siblings end up actually liking each other so much?".  They would tell us over and over again how they hope that their own kids will be as close as Jen and I are when they're older, but they just don't know how to get them there.

I love getting these emails and questions asked to us because I am totally the type of person who is right there asking other parents for ideas, suggestions or advice that has worked for them. I don't think there are any better teachers than those who have been through it before.

So I've thought about it a lot. Thought about what to tell people. How to explain it. How to help people help their own kids to love each other, depend on each other and ultimately be each others best friends.

When I think about Jen and I as sisters, I hope and pray that my kids will have the same as we do as they grow up.

Jen and I have the type of relationship where we just get each other. We trust each other. We help each other. We know each other.

We literally see each other every single day, so much so that our kids are truly growing up as siblings instead of cousins. Not to mention, we bought houses only a street a part from each other, intentionally.

And those tough mama days? Well, we show up unannounced at each others front doors, teary eyed, tired, with screaming kids in our arms and pass over our crying lovies to outstretched arms. Because that's what sisters are for.

And when babies won't nap for their mama's, a phone call is sent out and all of a sudden a sister shows up and somehow magically gets that baby to fall asleep. Or when one of us is barefoot and pregnant, running after a toddler all day long and just...so...tired...we show up unexpectedly and take that wee toddler away for the day, so pregnant mama's can rest. Because that's what sisters should do.

And when someone hurts your feelings or stresses you out? Well, you call your sister because you know that she will make you feel better about it. She'll be sad when you're sad, mad when you're mad and rational when you're completely irrational. Because that's what sisters are good for.

I want this for my own kids. I want them to love each other to the ends of the Earth and I want them to grow up caring for each other, helping each other and actually liking each other.

But let me tell you, it's also not all perfect. Nothing ever is. Jen and I grew up having our fair share of fights, screaming at each other over stealing each other's clothes, hurting each other's feelings and saying things that we now wouldn't dare say at this (more grown up) point in our lives. We're not unlike so many other sibling relationships out there. But now that I've had so many people ask me directly how we ended up being so close, I've really had some time to think about how we've come to have the relationship that we do. So, here you go...a few ideas that I'll write down so that I can also refer back to this post when I'm sure there will be days in the future when I feel like my own kids don't want anything to do with each other.

Here are a few things that our family (or my parents) have done which have definitely contributed to Jen and I being so close:

1) Our parents purposely make a point of never EVER favouring one child over another.  
At first glance, it may seem like this has nothing to do with sibling relationships. But it really really does. When one sibling feels like mom/dad likes them more, spends more time with them or spends more money on them, it builds resentment and jealousy--which can ultimately destroy any relationship. Even to this day, my parents continue to be hyper vigilant about making sure that Jen and I know that they've spent the exact same amount of money on each of us for birthdays/Christmas etc. and they always make a point of spending equal amounts of time with us and our children. There's no chance on Earth that Jen and I could ever look at each other and feel jealous or resentful of one another--and no matter how many times you tell mom not to worry about making sure that she spends the exact same amount on both us and our kids, she'll always say "No, it has to be equal", which is exactly what I will tell my own kids one day too.

 2) Whenever we would fight as kids my parents would always remind us that we have to learn how to get along no matter what, because "your friends will come and go, but your sister will be in your life forever". 
If you hear this a million times during your childhood it's bound to sink in eventually. I never believed it as a kid, but it turns out they were right all along.

3) Mom and dad encouraged us to travel together--just the two of us. 
*please excuse the low quality pics here--I'm apparently so old that these were taken way before the world of digital cameras 
There's no better way to have to learn how to work out your differences than being a million miles away, stuck in a hostel or hotel room together. From fun trips to California and England, 

to more intense experiences like living with each other in Africa...

we came out of our travel experiences closer than ever.

4) If we get into a fight, Jen and I hash it out right then and there and GET OVER IT and MOVE ON.
No lingering hurt feelings. No unsaid words. We just figure it out right then and there. And even if one of us doesn't want to talk about it, we force the other one to--no one is allowed to run away, because the rational one in that moment knows what's best for both of us. We don't hold on to and remember hurtful things that we've done or said to each other in the past-and then bring them up as ammunition (one of the most unhealthy things of all to do, my parents have always said). We just completely let things go and move on. 

5) Mom and dad always encouraged us to have a sense of humor.
If there is one thing that our family does, it's laugh a lot. We don't take each other (or life) too seriously...

and we've learned (through watching our own parents live) that it's important to find the good in others--even when it's hard to do sometimes. So we try to laugh at each others little idiosyncrasies instead of getting annoyed, and we laugh off things about each other that might otherwise make us blow up. It's all about being able to laugh at yourself, not get offended when others can do the same (out of love, of course), don't take things so personally and relax a little.      

6) Mom and dad always encouraged us to spend time together. 
They'd encourage us to play together as kids, which led us to wanting to hang out together as teenagers, which led to us wanting to live together and go to Teachers College together as adults, which led us to living a street apart from each other as mothers and wives. It all started with purposely encouraging us to do things together, play together and ultimately taught us to like being with each other.   

So, there you have it. No magical solution. No one specific thing. Just a few things that I know that I will try to encourage my own children with as they grow up--while continually telling them and reminding them that family always comes first (and knowing that family relationships can be complicated, messy and wonderful all at the same time). 

Now, in saying all of this, I only have a sister--not a brother. Can anyone tell me...as I think about Carter and Mya, is it possible for a brother and sister to be as close? If so, is there anything else that anyone would suggest in order to encourage a strong sister/brother relationship? I worry that since they're not the same sex, they might not be as close.  I hope I'm wrong though!!

Happy Tuesday!!
Erica xo 


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