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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Siblings: Remember It’s a Win-Win

 "I don’t understand how people learn to live in the world if they haven’t had siblings. . . . Everything I learned about negotiation, territoriality, coexistence, dislike, inbred differences and love came from (them).” Anna Quindlan (Siblings)

It’s a whole different thing than my last visit a couple months ago, I realize, as I watch my grandchildren jog the loop around from living room through hallway over and over. The almost-two-year-old boy can now run, and that makes all the difference. The four-year-old girl is like his puppet master---she slows down, he slows down; she goes faster, he tries to keep up and hardly notices when he falls down in the attempt.

She catches him and tumbles him to the ground and he laughs with delight—until it’s suddenly too rough and the laugh turns to tears. Game over. As the substitute referee, it’s a tough call, figuring out if each tackle is within the bounds of the game or not. Pro football doesn’t have to take into account the psychology of sibling relationship issues.

(Flashback: I clearly see my son--the present-day dad--as a four year old, casually sticking out his foot to trip his toddler sister as she devotedly followed his every move. She had no idea what happened, and just picked herself up and kept on following--it was worth it just to be with him.)

Dr. James M. Herzog suggests that enhanced learning from an older sibling can begin as early as 15 to 18 months, which is the time the younger child’s motor skills allow him to imitate the physical accomplishments of an older sibling.

I notice especially the musical tutoring that’s going on daily. The older one says something in a certain tone and pitch, and he imitates it exactly (without real words, which makes it truly comical). She comes home from pre-school with a new song and he sings along, not knowing the song at all, and imitates her hand motions, just for the sheer joy of doing what she’s doing.

As the little one’s skills are growing day by day, his big sister is his best teacher. After all, she is a magical creature to him---someone much closer to his size than grown-ups but still worlds ahead in knowing how the world works. At the same time her confidence in her knowledge grows with his adoration, and all in all, it’s a win-win for them both.

And for this subjective/objective observer it’s a win-win too. I hope you too can stop once in a while, in the midst of all the little and big sibling rivalry issues, take the long view, and recognize it as a win-win too!

“You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.” - Desmond Tutu

Sweet Dreams,

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