God gave you children so death won’t come as a disappointment. So said Joan Rivers, and many of us would agree.
One of the most difficult aspects of being a parent is living with sibling rivalry. This begins as soon as the second child appears. It automatically usurps the center of attention from the first-born. No matter what it cannot be avoided. It depends on how it is handled by the parents that determines the degree and outcome over time.
If the child looks like the parent or someone they like it will affect the relationship. If the child has a personality that the parent responds to in a favorable way, that will play a part.
Siblings always eye one another and measure themselves against one another in a variety of ways. How they look, their accomplishments, and above all the stage is set by how they feel accepted and loved or favored by the parents. Many dynamics can be played out here.
If the marriage is a solid one the parents will behave as a unit. If not, one may favor or play a child against one another. Often a child will be favored or not favored at different points in their growing up.
My own personal favorite was taking a long car trip with my two daughters who are about three years apart and hearing commotion in the back seat with one screaming, “She’s looking out my window!” There is just no dealing with that. When each child at some point says, you are nicer to her or him then you know you are doing a good job.
As small children, there is stuff like what each child has as gifts for example that set them off. The values that the parents live by are ingrained into their children at young ages, so if a father thinks being a good athlete is a high priority and one child excels in this fashion the other child will naturally resent the brother or sister and try to gain the father’s attention and affirmation in other ways, sometimes with little or no success. This of course, affects the sense of self worth.
One of the most difficult things is for a parent to love and truly accept a child who is different from them in looks, values or accomplishments. Sad examples exist where parents have actually emotionally removed themselves from the lives of their children. This often happens when they do not approve of the choice of a mate their child has made. So when children do not feel they are accepted for who they are and a sibling is accepted and in a different position, they act out. The two or more children can take sides for or against a parent, or against one another.
There are any number of examples of siblings who revert to childlike patterns no matter what their ages when in a family setting or around parents. Think of all those holiday dinners and the tension or out and out verbal subtle and not so subtle messages. The real feelings are always there.
When adulthood occurs it is the wise ones that put aside childish slights or hurts and feel confident in who and what they are that makes the playing field equal. The siblings accept their own and their siblings’ differences.
The oldest will always have privileges and different responsibilities, and then if they succeed it will go on to the next and so on. If the first one messes up the hopes of the parent may be transferred to the next or another sibling. The baby will always be the baby and these children may never really grow up.
Nora Ephron said the successful parent is one who raises a child who can pay for its’ own psychoanalysis. I think it is a parents’ job to make each child feel good about themselves and although a bit of sibling rivalry can be healthy and push people on too much of it can erode a family’s true happiness, and that is the fault of the parents from long ago.