Coping with Sibling Rivalry

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If you have a sibling or more than one child, chances are that you have dealt with the ugly green monster that is sibling rivalry. In a perfect world, children born of the same parents or adopted into the same family would always love, honor, and respect each other. They would share without complaint, applaud each other’s successes, and be happy to not be the center of Mom and Dad’s attention all of the time. But, alas, this is an imperfect world, and sibling rivalry has existed since the days of Cain and Abel. We aren’t going to be able to root it out completely. So, then, our only hope is to attempt to minimize it.

Truthfully, my two boys get along well most of the time – emphasis on most. There are certainly times that one or the other or both have wished (loudly!) that they were only children, but usually they are content to enjoy each other’s company. They are close in age – a mere nineteen months apart – and share many interests and friends which is a blessing. Lately, however, we have been dealing with a serious case of sibling rivalry.

The two of them are taking acting classes at a local drama studio this year and they both love them. When auditions came for the first big play, they were both eager to try out. I hoped beyond hope that they would both either get a role or both get rejected. What happened? You guessed it – my older son got a role and my younger one did not. While it was fortunate that it was that way and not the opposite situation, it still made for some considerable gloating and jealousy.

While David had the opportunity to go out night after night for rehearsals, Isaac was stuck at home. While David got to perform in a large downtown theater five times and get catered meals, Isaac was relegated to the audience. I did try to mitigate the issues as much as possible. I reminded David that talking about the play incessantly, no matter how excited he was about it, was not being kind to his brother. I reminded Isaac that there would be other plays and he would most likely get to be in one that David wasn’t in. I also tried to spend some extra time with Isaac, doing things that he enjoyed while David was out of the house. Still, the hard feelings continued.

As a parent, I was torn. It was wonderful to see David blossom and find something he truly loves and could be good at. As some of you are aware, he has high-functioning autism. Life is hard for him. He struggles academically and socially and athletically. One of the reasons I signed him and his brother up for acting classes is that the school said that they welcomed those who were different. They said it was a place where anyone could excel. That has definitely proven to be the case. The child who fears every new situation has been excited to go to rehearsals and the performances every single time. That, in itself, is amazing.

At the same time, I did feel badly for Isaac. He wanted a part every bit as much. As much as I know that learning to be happy for someone else is an important life lesson, it still hurts to be left behind. He is the younger brother, if not by much, and most of the time he has to wait a year to do the things his brother can do. It isn’t a fun position to be in. In this case, I can’t even guarantee that he will get a role the next  time. That is up to the directors and age has nothing to do with it. I can only hope.

Yes, sibling rivalry is alive and well in my household. The play is behind us now and hopefully life, and their relationship, will return to normal – at least for a while. I know, though, as they continue to grow and carve out their individual places in the world, that rivalry will continue. Despite my best efforts, I can’t eliminate it completely. My job in all of this is to continue to emphasize their respective talents and give them the parental attention they need, and hope and pray that their love for each other outweighs their need to compete with each other.

For some good suggestions on dealing with and helping to prevent sibling rivalry, please see this article from the University of Michigan Health System: Sibling Rivalry

Copyright 2011 Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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