Siblings at peace
Does family have to equate with bickering? Not in my house.
(Getty Images)
I’ve often wondered if my family is weird. We don’t do lots of the things which are apparently normal. Example. Siblings are supposed to be relentlessly cruel to each other, 24/7. My children are 14 and 6, with an often visiting 2-year-old cousin thrown in for good measure and they don’t do that. 90% of the time they get along perfectly. IS there something wrong? Should I be worried? 

According to every single American sitcom ever shown, this is abnormal behaviour. Okay, not the best research perhaps, but sitcoms are called stereotypical for a reason, right? I’ve seen it in many other families too. Teenagers ignoring younger siblings, only acknowledging their existence long enough to commandeer the remote, or the front seat. I’ve seen little brothers mercilessly teasing their elders, poking fun at their baggy jeans and making kissy noises when they’re on the phone. And then there’s the general low-grade bickering which rumbles constantly in the background, without anybody really noticing, like aircon.

I’ve been around many of these ever-squabbling families, and I find it exhausting and sad. According to most of the parents, it’s no big deal. Again, maybe I’m weird, but I think it IS a big deal. I know that all families argue and fight sometimes, and that’s okay. I know that when children are small, they are still learning kindness, sharing and tolerance, and they will continue to improve these skills as they grow up.  Right, fine.

But I don’t think it means that siblings should be allowed to hurt each other’s feelings or treat each other badly, just because it’s “normal”. There’s a line between “play-teasing” and being cruel, and too many families cross it. Surely you’re supposed to be teaching them to be kind to those they are closest to?  To care about those they will be left with one day when you are gone? Many parents will argue that even though they fight, their children will be there for each other when the chips are down. I’m sure that’s true. But I don’t see why they should have to wait for a traumatic event to happen before they know that their brother or sister cares about them. No matter what the age gap between siblings, I believe they can always be taught to show tolerance, to respect each other’s interests and enjoy meaningful time together. It just takes practice and patience, like most other good things.

I see my family doing it every day. It’s in the way they ask how each other’s day was, how they know the names of each other’s teachers and friends. It’s in the way they know what the other would want for Christmas. It’s in the way he plays musical statues with his sister when he’d probably rather be watching TV, and the way she tells me off for being too harsh when I moan at him. We’re not a sitcom family, we’re real.  And if that makes us weird, it’s weird I like.

Is your home a war zone? Or do your kids get along weirdly?

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