By Debby Shulman
Watching Sibling Conflict Disappear
Watching my teenagers become friends with each other is a new and welcome stage of parenting. As my kids mature and become more in tune with who they are, they seem to appreciate their siblings for who they are and it has a ‘trickle down’ effect that manifests itself in many ways. When did my bickering siblings suddenly turn into friends?
When my oldest son graduated high school and left home for college, it was a hard transition for the younger ones left behind. They missed their leader, their confidant and their live-in camp counselor. In fact, it was hard for all of us. I kept making too much food, I walked into his room too many times, and maybe I smelled some of his sweatshirts.
But as the weather turned cooler, I noticed an interesting transition; my college son and my middle son were skyping and talking just about every other night. They had never had that relationship in high school. That sibling rivalry and jealousy seemed to have disappeared. Having the opportunity to explore their relationship independent of their family life gave way to a new and meaningful friendship that they had not explored before. And wouldn’t you know it … they became best friends.
When our middle son came out, our oldest son was his most favorite companion. He felt that his brother understood him better than anyone and relied on the late night calls to talk about what he was going through. Our daughter, six years younger than her oldest brother, was too young to know much of what was going on. But the boys flourished and it marked the beginning of a deep and sincere friendship that has given them solidarity and love.
Now that my next son is about to graduate high school, I see our daughter grapple with losing her playmate and it breaks my heart. She is sad. She confesses to trying to understand this hard stage; she knows that the two of them bicker because fighting with her sibling is somehow easier emotionally than being sad. She knows that it’s too hard to think about what next year will be like without him and she knows that she will be alone. That is the most overwhelming thought for her. Both her buddies will be gone.
Over the last month, my husband and I have noticed a change in the tenor of their friendship. All of the sudden, her friends are not quite so ‘young’ and his friends have invited her along. They have begun to share nights out together. There isn’t a trace of sibling jealousy. Their relationship is more about enjoying each other’s company, instead of siblings fighting. They are becoming more aware that it’s nice to have your sibling as your friend.
As parents, watching our teens become friends has been an unexpected surprise. And it’s wonderful.