Here’s something weird. Last night, I dreamed I was hired by the Washington Post, and my Post writer friend Annie Gowen — just sent to the New Delhi bureau — was showing me how to get started at the paper. Just now someone sent me today’s Family Almanac column from the Post, in which writer Marguerite Kelly answered a reader’s question about how to stop sibling fighting. It included the following passage:
Sibling rivalry is a much bigger problem. If children don’t learn to be civil with each other while they are growing up, they may stop trusting each other. This may make it hard for them to get along with their roommates at college; to work well with their colleagues at the office; and to have a happy and enduring relationship with their spouses, especially when life gets stressful or boring or money gets tight. And if you still don’t think that childhood squabbles can affect your children later, read “The Little Way of Ruthie Leming” by Rod Dreher, a beautifully written memoir about the author, his sister and how their rivalry sowed the seeds of mistrust, even in their garden of love.
I appreciate the mention, and cannot emphasize Marguerite’s point strongly enough. Every single day I live with the fallout of the childhood sibling rivalry between my sister and me, which extended into adulthood. Its destructive effects have lingered after her death, and I suspect will last for a very long time, permanently altering our family. For all that, I seem to be about as effective in stopping the fighting and griping between my sons as my mom and dad were in stopping it between my sister and me. It’s so sad to see this happening, and no matter how hard you try to stop it by warning them and chastising them, it continues.