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When I was pregnant with my second child, a kind acquaintance farther down the path of parenting more than one child passed on a reading list of helpful titles. I was an eager student, especially given that seven long years passed before I became anyone’s sister. I grew up dreading my friends’ summer vacations and envying families where there was a built-in playmate. My babies, however, would be just thirty three months apart, and society told me exactly what to expect. Competition. Struggles. Drama. Vying for my attention. Jockeying for position. Whining. Tattling. Bickering. Rivalry.
At the very top of the list of suggested reads, I found what I was looking for: Siblings Without Rivalry. I immediately went to the library, checked it out, and dug in.
I poured over advice on how to love my children uniquely, as individuals, creating safe spaces for them to express their feelings, allowing them to express their negative feelings about one another, and helping them to understand that they couldn’t let good feelings in without allowing bad feelings out. By the time I had finished the book, I was pretty sure that there was absolutely no way my children would be friends, let alone love one another. It was just too tall an order. There’s a reason so many brothers and sisters aren’t close, I decided. It’s too much work.
And yet, by the grace of God, my experience has proven the book title true. We have siblings without rivalry. Not because of any advice contained in those pages; when I think back on my time with the book now, it strikes me as largely, well … useless. I’ve never consciously applied the principles, although I guess it’s possible I’ve inadvertently adopted a few. My guidelines for encouraging sibling relationships have come more from the Bible than a secular bestseller, and have given us peaceful playtimes, willing teammates, and older siblings eager to help younger ones try their hand at something new. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for my favorite Bible verses for siblings.)
Does this mean that the children in this family never argue? That we never have hurt feelings, bad moods, grudging apologies, or “oil and water” seasons?
They’re human, after all. And still children. They are going to make mistakes, be selfish, sin against others, disobey, and lack self-discipline. We have squabbles over whose pj pants were left on the floor and younger brothers who play the part of Godzilla in taking down sand castles uninvited.
But do they love one another? At the end of the day, if they had to choose who they’d see in the morning, would their siblings make the list?
They wouldn’t even pause, not one of them. They love each other with the kind of dedication that makes a Momma’s heart swell, and I am grateful. So grateful.
In the end, there was no magic. No formula laid out in a self-help guide. And no inevitable slide into the apathy or anger we’re so often told to expect, or constant teasing and bickering that we’re lead to believe is part and parcel of children. Brothers and sisters can, indeed, dwell in unity. They can even like it. I pray that your home enjoys the same spirit of love, cooperation, and joy. There truly is nothing quite so beautiful as seeing it lived out right before your eyes.