I remember the joy I felt when my second daughter was born just twenty-one months after her sister. Two girls! They would be best friends. They would play together and share interests and find great joy in experiencing life together. It was going to be awesome!
Instead I got a Hatfield and a McCoy, or a Capulet and a Montague. They seemed to dislike each other from day one.
During their toddler years, they did their best to ignore each other completely, until one of them dared touch the other’s toy and then their shrieks were of glass-breaking intensity and pitch.
They became far more creative in grade school. I have boxes of notes that read something like this: “Dear Mom, Please tell my sister that she is an ugly snot-face. Thank you. Your nice daughter, _____.”
In spite of all of my refereeing practice, nothing prepared me for the PRETEEN years! Take two sisters, close in age, add hormones, and you get nitroglycerin (a highly unstable substance, where any small nudge can set off a violent explosion). Of course there were lots of nudges and so the explosions were huge and almost constant.
I tried everything: intervene and try to teach the girls problem solving skills, or refuse to get involved and make them solve their issues themselves (not always the good idea you think it is!). One day, they were having yet another one of their battles over nothing and I had had it. I told them to sit on the couch together and that they couldn’t get up until they said something nice about each other. They were of course furious and proclaimed me to be the worst mom in the world. The silence was deafening. I didn’t care. Finally, some peace and quiet. I hummed while I made dinner and congratulated myself on being probably the most brilliant mother in the history of mothers. They would be forced to say something nice about each other and they would learn to look at their sister with some love. Fifteen minutes went by in stony silence and then finally my firstborn cleared her throat. This was it! I couldn’t wait to hear what she said about her little sister. “Danna,” she said in a sarcastic voice, “I really like your zits.” Yep. That was the compliment. All my mommy brilliance flew right out the window. I had been thwarted by my strong-willed, hormonal daughter.
Now, they are adults. They still have completely different personalities and they can still count on each other to be brutally honest. But, they can also count on each other! They’re the first one the other one calls with good news or sad news or to ask for advice. They go to concerts together and take sister road trips, just the two of them. The girls look back on all those battles and laugh. People told me this would happen, but I didn’t believe them. How could I? All proof pointed to a lifetime of war. My advice? Be firm on a no violence rule. Enforce a no disrespectful or foul language policy. And then, give them and yourself a break. It really will work out in the end.