Sibling Rivalry Through The Eyes Of An Unpaid Referee

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We have managed to survive this pandemic for many reasons with one key factor being that I have 3 children who are fairly close in age. This wasn’t always such a braggable accomplishment, especially when they were three children at the ages of five and under. However, now I can embrace the pros of a large family, especially when so much togetherness is the new normal. With all this newfound family closeness, my children are forced to play with each other, talk to each other and interact more. Sometimes this works out to be a lovely situation and at other times things deteriorate quickly into loud, unwavering yell fests of who hit who and which one called someone else a noob. It can be exhausting and disheartening at times.

I learned very quickly that it was necessary for me to be the unpaid referee....without swift adult intervention, these episodes would often end with someone crying

I often find myself correlating the arguing with the current pandemic and our limitations of venturing out and gathering for different things. However, I realize that siblings fight. My sister and I squabbled, my husband and his brothers share lofty tales of their childhood battles and my children unfortunately have some sort of ally-ending, world war level battle almost every day. These are the same children who I am repeatedly told are the sweetest, most empathetic beings in their classes. I am happy to hear these things, but I am not sure what happens to these little people when they are trapped in our car or our home, what in the atmosphere triggers the change? Especially my younger two, they have clocked some Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa level battles and just when I am ready to send both of them packing, they are laughing and giggling and playing Roblox together.

I will guiltily admit that I get such relief and pleasure when I see my fellow parents dealing with the same issues. Nothing makes me feel better than my friend’s daughter running up to us crying because her brother called her a name or “accidentally” hit her in the head with a basketball. After getting over the anxiety of who caused the incident (praying it wasn’t one of my three), I get validation and some humor in knowing that I am not alone with this problem.
It doesn’t help that my eldest is very much a preteen and can be moody and sullen at times for no apparent reason. The last thing he is usually interested in is his eight year old sister who wants him to watch her newly choreographed dance routine to the song “Savage” (No judgement please it is called survival). And I will sheepishly admit that we often strongly suggest that he and his brother watch just one routine and verbalize some pleasure from the show. I may sometimes go further than strongly suggesting if necessary. Okay I often force them to watch…but I digress. I often try to explain to the boys that their validation and respect is so important to their little sister and she gets such a confidence boost when she feels she is supported by her bothers. On the flip side, I often tell my daughter that a full running tackle of your brother may not be the best way to tell him that you are not happy with his decision to not respond to your questions. That tackle is usually paired with a loud shrieking scream that makes your arm hairs stand at attention. She still prefers her own tackle tactic.

Our Pandemic Pool was one specific arena for drama last summer. In the midst of lockdown, I purchased this pool and sent my children out daily to play and bask in our front yard, in efforts to get them out of the house and be active. This pool allowed our neighbors the pleasure of hearing some of our battles and squabbles which was often peppered with their father or myself yelling “Stop Splashing”, “Get off of her” and “Put the hose down”! I learned very quickly that it was necessary for me to be the unpaid referee. Within seconds someone would be shooting the other with a squirt gun or submerging their sibling on float and without swift adult intervention, these episodes would often end with someone crying, another one storming off and usually the pre-teen left to enjoy the pool all on his own. I am quite sure this was often his goal.

Now do not get me wrong because if there is a challenge that arises in the streets or playground, these three siblings will be ready to throw down and defend each other to the end. And I can admit that there were many days of laughter, dancing, creativity and games in our Pandemic Pool as well. I know they love each other. And It would always give me great pleasure to hear stories of my two youngest embracing when they cross paths at school or playing Wall Ball together. Hearing them all battling it out on Roblox together whilst laughing and trading strategies always puts a smile on my face as well. All three children sitting in our living room sarcastically critiquing any and every movie that we watch, can be annoying, but their connection gives me faith. I love to see them break off into a pair and connect with each other individually as well or help each other with schoolwork or a special project. I just want them to realize that they are each other’s rock and where they should always look first for support.
So, if you ever see me smirk when you are forced to stop our conversation in order to scold one child for pinching or calling another sibling a name. Just know it’s not to poke fun, it is because I am relieved that I am not alone navigating the battles between our children. It is because I can completely empathize with your exasperation. It is because I know that our kids are going to be fine and emotionally healthy. And it’s because I’m happy that I surround myself with imperfect parents who are doing their best and their best is more than enough.


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