At age ten and seven, my sweet children have just begun to bicker. You know, incessant arguments about nothing. I guess I should feel grateful that it took them this long (some kids begin way before this), but maybe that’s why this behavior hurts my heart so much. Growing up as an only child, I always longed for a brother or sister and felt so lonely without a built-in playmate. My husband, on the other hand, can’t remember a time when his only brother ever wanted to play with him. My husband was always just the annoying little bother. Sadly, he and his brother never really outgrew this dynamic. Worse yet, their relationship potential was tragically stopped short when my husband’s brother passed away before his time. Now he will never have a chance to feel what it is like to have a close sibling. While I know my husband’s scenario is unfortunate and hopefully not the norm, it still lingers in the back of my mind each time my kids argue with each other. I am certain my husband’s parents tried to foster a good sibling relationship between the boys. Somehow, though, it never worked. I don’t want this for my kids. I want them to stay close throughout their lives and to value each other.
I think it is especially important since they are both adopted. My ten-year-old daughter is just now beginning to ask deeper questions about her adoption, about her birth parents, and about her birth. I work really hard to answer every question as honestly as possible, letting her know there are no “off limit” questions. I am under no illusions, however, that both my children will always feel secure enough to discuss the things they wonder about. I am hoping there will come a time when my daughter and son can talk together through these types of adoption-related issues. I’m hoping they can be traveling companions on the road to reconciling their birth stories and their adoptions. Perhaps this deep hope in my heart makes it even harder for me to hear them argue. I know they will need each other in ways that perhaps biological siblings don’t.
As “Love and Logic” parents, my husband and I usually handle their bickering with a “get along together or play apart” type of approach. So far they always choose the “get along together” option. That is comforting. And they still have lots of fun together and most times can put aside their differences. I’ve heard many different tactics for handling conflict between siblings, from the “get along shirt” to having them hold each other’s hands and tell five things they love about one another after a fight. I haven’t adopted any of these. For now, I just talk to them about how lucky they are to have each other and about protecting each other’s hearts. And I pray—a lot.