How to Handle Sibling Rivalry in Your Home

FIRST APPEARED IN MAY, 2013 ON VOICEBOKS

SiblingRivalryAccording to an article in Psychology Today, “We have no rituals that make, break, or celebrate the sibling bond. And family experts have underemphasized the sibling relationship, instead concentrating on parents and children and husbands and wives. Small wonder that sibling rivalry is accepted as the normal state of affairs.”

Ah, that age old problem, sibling rivalry. Damn you Cain and Abel!

The causes of sibling rivalry varies from family to family, and child to child. Jealousy, competition for attention and approval from parents, and basic personality differences can all play a part. Siblings that are close in age, their sex, and their hierarchy in the family, can also be a factor.

Simply put, some siblings can’t, and don’t, get along. Just like we don’t choose our parents, so it goes for our siblings.

A child’s needs, anxieties, and unique identities can cause him or her to push their siblings’ buttons. A child’s temperament, mood, and disposition, can irritate his or her sibling to the point where listening to them breathe is reason enough to fall off the rails and throw a Dr. Sholl’s sandal at their brothers’ head.

What part does the parent play in how well the children relate to one another? Are they role models? How are their conflict resolution skills? Are they respectful? Aggressive? Do they fight fair or do they shout, slam doors, and argue loudly? Guess what? The children are watching and listening.

The fact that siblings spend an inordinate amount of time together growing up, plays another part in rivalrous behavior. Even young children need their alone time. Stress can shorten children’s fuses, which may lead to more contention with their sibling.

It’s common for siblings to fight, and while it’s no day at the beach for the parents, in most cases, it’s nature at work. Siblings often go back and forth between loving and despising one another. And while society, and most parents, would like to believe that their kids’ relationship with one another will eventually develop into a close one, it is not always the case.

Parents, and society, need to see things as they are, not as how they wish they were. My parent’s wished that my brother and I got along like Donny and Marie. So did I. But that wasn’t meant to be. I was forced to become a solo act.

Approximately one-third of adult siblings, who grew up fighting and bickering, will describe their childhood as humiliating, hurtful and distant, when referring to their sibling. In some cases, the unique identities, and individual differences between siblings, are too great, and close relationships are impossible. These siblings don’t get along, have little in common, spend limited time together, and are often locked into old patterns,

What to do, what to do. Therapists, Analysts, Psychiatrists and parents, from Anchorage to Papua New Guinea, struggle with this question. While there is no clear cut, universal answer, the following might be helpful.

Let them work it out

Try not to get involved and see if the siblings can work it out for themselves. However, a parent must also know when a fight has escalated and needs to step in, especially if one of the siblings is in harms way.

Don’t be swayed by arguments

“It’s not fair.” Try not to be swayed by this argument. It’s not about being fair, it’s about about what’s best for the child.

Separate the kids

Separate the kids, if they can release their grip on the other one’s hair. This will give everyone a chance to cool down and then when it’s calm, a discussion can start.

Don’t pick sides

Try not to favor. I’m not sure how a parent can be impartial but it’s probably best to make an effort.

No disrespect

In order for this next suggestion to work, the siblings must respect the parents. If they respect their parents, but not one another, you can try laying down the law, and the rules for acceptable behavior. Children need to know that there are consequences to their actions.

One-on-one time

Because siblings are often vying for the attention of a parent, it’s important to give each child some one on one time.

Don’t compare

It’s not fair to a sibling to compare him or her to their brother or sister. Saying things like, “Why can’t you be smart like your sister?” is not productive and may lead to jealousy and conflict between those two siblings.

Family meetings

Family meetings weren’t big when I was growing up, back in the day, but it can be an opportunity to show the children how to talk about their feelings, without yelling, name-calling, or violence. Grievances can be aired in a safe, and controlled environment.

The last resort: Seek professional help

If sibling rivalry gets to the point where it disrupts the daily functioning of the family, or affects any of the children emotionally or psychologically, perhaps you want to seek professional help.

 

Honesty is Friggin’ Hard

PhotoCredit:Reachingforsoul.wordpress.com

PhotoCredit:Reachingforsoul.wordpress.com

Honesty is a quality of the Light. If we want to be the Light in a relationship, we need to be ourselves. I’m not saying concealment isn’t appropriate at times, but hiding things out of fear and insecurity is not really a good idea.

Of course, honesty requires courage. When we hesitate to tell the truth, it is often because we are afraid of the consequences. And sometimes we may be afraid for good reasons! But even if the initial reaction to our honesty is messy, it is sometimes better to let the chips fall where they may. That way we allow room for something more solid and authentic to take hold. — Karen Berg.

 

TEEN TOURS & HAND JOBS

mortifiedIn March, I’m going to be performing, once again, in the show Mortified.

For those that don’t know, it’s a live comedy show where adults share their most embarrassing childhood artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, art) with others, in order to reveal stories about their lives.

I’m including a snippet here from a past show. You’ll have to come see me in March to witness my new, and mortifying, tale that I’ll be sharing.

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When I was a sophomore in high school, I fell for a Senior named Peter. He bought me a journal, as a gift, and presented it to me before he left for a gig, singing Sinatra songs on a cruise to Italy, leaving my 15 year old self behind.

The following are journal entries from that time.

June 19, 1982

I’ve decided to dedicate this special book, that a special person gave to me, to the beginning of my poem career. I will love him forever… I love you!

Poems

Shitting Around

Right now I’m in Math,

But I could imagine a warm bath.

Today we got our yearbooks, we all had our looks.

But I was pinned on your photograph, yes I’m sitting here in Math.

I then tried song writing. 

Untitled

Look what you’ve done to me.

What did I ever see in you.

You’re a charmer and a man desperate for love and sec-ur-ity

but why fall in love with me.

Do you know what you’ve done, do you care.

Just go through your life in despair.

Peter and I broke up but got back together before I left on my teen tour (a busload of 15 and 16-year olds, chaperoned by 18 and 19-year olds, touring the west.) My poem notebook became letters that I wrote to him during the trip. 

July 5,

First of all, I think I’ve already told you that about 95% of the girls are all japs and I have absolutely nothing to say to them. I can’t/don’t feel comfortable around them. I can’t have a conversation with them and I have nothing in common with them, except for the fact that I’m on a trip with them. I’m telling you, Peter, for the first time in my life I feel real inhibited, afraid, shy and definitely not myself on this trip with these people.— Love you.

Apparently I had one more poem in me.

Why should I pretend that something will happen when I get back?

Just because you said you wanted something special it is definitely going to be different when I do get back.

My feelings really haven’t changed, maybe just calmed down-

I desperately hope you still feel the same, because of this relationship. I do so like the sound.

The old cliche about how time will tell seems so unpredictable.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to count on that procedure.

I think I know what I want but it will probably happen at leisure. “I know you.”

And then I met a boy. 

July 10,

Dearest Peter, I haven’t written in so long. After breakfast we started on a medium hike. It was about six miles up and down hills, mud, horse manure, rain, heat, cold and rocks, It was so much fun. We took canteens and everything. I hiked the whole thing with this guy, Kevin. He really is a nice guy. I just may like him a little more than a friend but time with tell, right? I love you.

July 13,

We finally got to the campgrounds, set up camp, took showers, then went to Macdonald’s for dinner. We were going to have a campfire but it was too damp. I had a good time with Kevin but I don’t know. I’ll write later. Love you.

July 14, 1982

We went to see “E.T.” I saw it with Kevin. I really think that I Iike him a lot but I’m not quite sure of his feelings. We’ll see.

July 16,

Kevin just told me that his grandfather died yesterday. I feel so bad. It’s amazing how I knew something was wrong. I hope he can feel he can talk to me about it. Love ya.

July 17,

Kevin and I are coming along great. Slow but good. I’m having a really good time. I’m very happy. I do love you.

July 19,

Dearest Peter, I’m having the best time. Fun as anything. Kevin and I are doing well. No sex yet. I don’t know why. I love you.

July 21,

There’s a lot of trouble with Kevin because there’s this other tour here and all of our guys are flirting with their girls and he’s sort of ignoring me. I don’t know, I’ll probably talk to him later. I love you.

July 27,

This morning we started for L.A. and to Paramount Pictures to see the taping of a new show called, Cheers. It was soo bad.

July 28,

We were off for Universal Studios. I sat next to Kevin on the tour tram. It’s so weird, because we get along. It seems the only thing that is preventing anything is the sex. Brett, Kevin’s friend, said that Kevin thought I wasn’t interested in the sex deal. Which is so fuckin’ ridiculous. If he only knew how romantic and sexy and horny I can be and am. I hope we can share something when I get home. Promises, right? I love you.

July 30,

Kevin and I are getting along better than usual and I think tomorrow I’m making a move on him. I want him to know that I love sex, and would love to fool around with him. If we had the sex our relationship would be great.

August 2,

On the bus, we made out, then we went for ice-cream. Well, I love you.

August 3,

I went to Kevin’s room and stayed late. It was nice. We went to third, but it was weird because there was no kissing involved. I guess it was the mood he was in. Tired. It’s so annoying because I can’t wear my contact lenses. Thinking of you.

August 3,

Now on the bus, Kevin and I were pretty active. He actually got hard because of me rubbing his thigh near his balls. I actually felt him. I felt so comfortable doing it too. I had told him so honestly that I wanted to be with him. He said well, why don’t you come to my room at 5:00a. I said okay. Love you.

August 7,

During the morning, Kevin was laying with me and I was thinking if I would ever see him again, if he wanted to see me, if it was just a summer thing, what he wanted??? I mean I think about it now and how he said he would love to make love to me. That he would like to be my first. Talk is cheap. I’ll write back. I love you.

August 8,

After showers and breakfast, we went to do laundry. Kevin wasn’t wearing any underwear and he would not let me go near him. I think you can imagine why.

August 9,

We went to see, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. It sucked so bad. Kevin and I previously were making out. He moaned or something and I said, like an ass, “What’s the matter?” He goes, nothing, it just feels so good. I gave him a hand job over the pants. Other times it was over the undies or shorts. After the movie we got back on the bus and were at it, but much stronger. I gave him a hand job in the raw. I actually enjoyed it. It made him feel good because he was moaning like crazy. He satisfied me just as equally I guess. I love you.

August 10,

Kevin and I went off by ourselves and it went pretty far. Hand job- bare. When we went to the campgrounds, Kevin and I slept in my sleeping bag together, just laying there. I told him about my Sweet 16 and he sounded pretty excited.

August 12,

I just got through saying good-bye to Kevin. I was crying very hard and so was he. I also wanted to tell him that I loved him, but I couldn’t. I guess it’s true that I fall in love easy with guys. It really hurts. I miss him already. I love you.

_____________________________________________________

Simply mortifying. Nuff said. 

An Open Letter To A Shrink

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PhotoCredit:Mariannewilliamson

PhotoCredit:Mariannewilliamson

Dear Shrink,

Do you actually have clients? Because I can’t imagine anyone accepting your behavior and overall attitude.

I don’t think that a prospective client, er patient, should have had to hunt you down to make an appointment. I think that a therapist, by the very nature of the job description (that of a helper), should probably have made more of an effort to return my call.

You had no idea why the initial call was made. On the edge? Ledge? Precipice? Bad hair day? You had no idea. Why take a chance.

Apologizing during the following up call, that I made, was a lovely gesture but registered on my radar as a red flag. I’m getting good at spotting those. Thank you wisdom with age.

When an appointment time was set and I arrived at your door, I’m not thinking that the first thing out of your mouth upon seeing me should have been, “Oh, the lobby didn’t call up.”

Yes, grabbing the notebook was impressive— expected but well, expectations were low. You redeemed yourself, albeit briefly, when I told you that you’re being remiss in returning my call, was not okay, and you agreed. Things were looking up.

The session was by the book. It ended with another appointment scheduled and me giving you a check for my co-pay. Thank you insurance and good for you.

When you informed me that you were going away in two weeks, and I asked if we could set up two future appointments, you responded with, “No, one will be fine.” What? Did you think I was being aggressive? Too pushy? Needy?

What did you mean by that? Most people in business like to know their schedules and that they’re making money. Are you one of those business people that don’t like making money?

During the week I sent you an email, asking to push the appointment up an hour. No response. Boy, these red flags are popping up all of over the place.

When I showed up for my appointment, the lobby called you, announcing my arrival. That must have felt nice.

When you opened the door, you were holding a mug, with a tea bag hanging out over it. You asked if I could wait a minute while got water. Clock ticking.

It was hot water that you needed, and everyone knows that hot water takes longer than your requested minute. Tick tock.

You followed up your request with, “I wanted to start this earlier so I’d have it…” And your voice trailed off, as you left the room.

In the middle of the session, you picked up your notebook, wrote something down and dropped it onto a stack of notebooks on the ground. I guess what I was saying wasn’t worthy of any more notes, thoughts, or doodling. That definitely made me feel warm and fuzzy.

You made two, pat, shrink-like, Psych 101 comments and I challenged you. Had you been reading O Magazine recently?

You called time, early I might add, and we bandied about some possible times for the following week. I had to look into another appointment, so I asked if I could email you and you agreed. I had completely forgotten about my unreturned e-mail days prior.

Your apathy and laissez-faire approach was a turnoff. Perhaps you’re going through something. Maybe you need therapy. I think that we both knew that there would not be any more sessions.

You probably have enough clients in your stable. Good for you.

Christmas With the Ex-Wife

PhotoCredit:Kiplinger.com

PhotoCredit:Kiplinger.com

Christmas came late this year with the Girlfriend Mom kids; logistics, illness, ex’s whereabouts, and good ol’ work schedules.

After much patience, persistence and a few renditions of, Frozen’s, Let it Go, I was finally sitting on the floor with the kids (the floor being one of my favorite and calming places), exchanging gifts, in our new norm.

Gift giving fills with me intense joy, while accepting is the converse; a touch of anxiety and embarrassment, with a forced smile plastered on my face, in my feeble attempt to hide my awkwardness. Tis better to give than to receive.

I requested time alone with them but there are never guarantees. Shit happens and I’ve come to accept the fact that, any time I can see the kids, no matter what friend, or parent, is around, is a good day.

Their mom left to run an errand and I was thrilled to be alone with them. We caught up with school, parties, drinking, and fist fights. Boy, that brought me back to high school, when every weekend that my parents went away traveling, meant a house party at our house.

We laughed, debated The Interview and it’s merits, (and demerits), while my brain shifted into overdrive, fighting back anger and tears.

This was unfair. I resented the position that I was put in. I resented the hoops that I had to jump through just to steal a few hours (if that) with these children, that I had known for almost a decade, and adored. Did I mention how unfair this was?

It was the second Christmas in this new norm, and I still felt like an outsider looking in, waiting in the wings, until I heard my cue, so that I could enter, stage right, and take my place onstage.

My relationship with the kids are not free standing. They come with attachments, history and memories that I cannot always compartmentalize.

The kids were poised, unlike yours truly, as I watched them open their gifts, and I marveled at how resilient and sensitive these creatures were. I thought about how challenging the past year had been, and how far we had all come, together.

And then I opened their gift for me. I couldn’t stall any longer. It was a photo album, filled with photos from their early childhood (pre-Girlfriend Mom’s arrival) to present day. I was speechless… in a stupid way. It was so unexpected and I didn’t know how to react.

You know how chaotic it is when everyone’s opening their gifts simultaneously and you’re asking your dad if the sweater that you bought him fits, while your brother tries to play his new guitar, even though he’s never picked up a guitar, and mom is nowhere to be found, because she decided that now would be a good time to make coffee, so that you’re really distracted? No? Okay, just me.

That’s how it felt when I opened my gift.

I leafed through the album, commenting on their cuteness. My Ex and the Ex-wife blatantly absent from the photos, signaling a conscious choice on the kid’s part to omit them. Why, I wondered.

Maybe, just maybe, they wanted me to have something that was solely about them… and me, for me.

I cannot say that there haven’t been times when I’ve doubted myself, questioned the authenticity of my feelings, and those expressed by the kids, and wondered if I wasn’t making this whole relationship up because I desperately wanted to be their Girlfriend Mom.

The photo album turned that around.