Sugar and Spice and … Oy Vey!
I was recently privy to a discussion between two women. One had just had her fifth son and was expressing her longing for a daughter, while the other was a mom of two older boys and a younger daughter. This mother of three remarked that she too had yearned for a girl after having her two boys and for the longest time dreamed about how wonderful it would be to have a daughter to bond with.
“My boys were unpretentious, lovable and undemanding kids … taking much less out of me than my long-awaited daughter, who turned out to be a whining spoiled brat. But I wish you better luck…” she said.
Yeah, I guess luck has a lot to do with the way our kids turn out, but from my own experience and observations, little boys are easier on their parents than girls. Boys tend to have a laissez-faire attitude and unassumingly “go with the flow,” while girls are moodier, fussier and overall harder to please.
I can sooner see a warm camaraderie between two brothers than two sisters. Chronicles of March 21 – “Siblings: An Unbreakable Bond” – would bear that out. (In that same column a mother laments her two girls’ quarrelsome relationship, which you responded to by citing the closeness and rapport of the Krauthammer brothers, as described by Dr. Charles Krauthammer.)
Little girls do seem to have minds of their own, even before they learn how to verbalize their thoughts. Yet general opinion has it that boys are more difficult when they’re younger, with girls becoming more challenging in their teen years. Gender differences come into play, since boys and girls are wired differently. Studies cite that their brains develop at a different rate, and of course we’ve known for ages that girls mature faster than boys.
Needless to say, contentious relationships among sibs have always been known to exist. When altercations occur in childhood there’s more hope for reconciliation down the line, since the passing of time and maturity often helps heal rifts.
In extreme cases, however, it may not be in their children’s best interest for parents to sit back and bide time with the hope that “maturity” will fix things. Take the next letter, for instance…
I was intrigued by the letter written by a mother of two daughters who don’t get along. It was as if I was reading about my own girls, who are also eight and ten. The older one’s dislike of her younger sister is unsettling, to put it mildly.
Both “Lily” and “Riki” are attractive, bright girls who do well in school and are popular with their teachers and peers alike. As Lily, the older, is a bit on the short side and her younger sister somewhat tall for her age, they are equal in height. Both of slim build, they’ve swapped clothing over the years, but Lily has taken to hiding hers to keep Riki from getting to them.
We have tried to reason with Lily for the longest time about her unseemly behavior toward her younger sib and have lectured her on the ugliness of the trait of jealousy. Her chilling response: “I’m not jealous, I just hate her!”
Rachel, we are at our wit’s end about this irrational resentment and animosity in our midst, which seems to be intensifying rather than abating with the years. And it’s not even like they are vying with one another for sole attention. The two happen to be middle children, sandwiched between older and younger sibs whom they each get along with fine. We are truly baffled by our daughter’s display of malevolence for her younger sister, a festering enmity that defies logic.
The details in your letter (edited per your instructions) reveal an inner turmoil and rage in your 10-year old, despite her relatively calm façade.
Lily’s deep-seated hostility to her 8-year-old sister most likely began way back when Lily was the adored baby in the family and garnered everyone’s attention – until a new baby suddenly appeared on the scene and stole the spotlight from the then two-year old.
Lily states with conviction that she is not jealous and probably believes what she says. It would be difficult for her to grasp that her negative emotions toward her sister developed when she was a mere baby herself. To see her baby sister now on a par with her in size and fitting into her dresses certainly can’t be helping matters any.
The reprimands coming her way also don’t help and may in fact be making things worse. Though she might not be aware of it or come across as such, Lily requires validation from you and has been craving it ever since when…
Your 10-year old is in need of counseling. Talking things out with a neutral party might help her get to the root of the pain that’s eating at her. Hopefully she will then begin to acknowledge the harm she is inflicting on her innocent sib, herself and everyone around her. As parents you owe it to your children to help them in any way you can. And by all means, allow Lily her own personal wardrobe.