Sibling Rivalry's Happy Ending

They bubbled with shared laughter as they cruised up the road together toward the movie theatre. Then my 18-year-old daughter suddenly stopped laughing, turned to look at her 15-year-old brother sitting in the passenger seat beside her saying, "Josh, seriously, what are you doing here?!"

Maybe I should back up. See, last Saturday afternoon, my daughter Ashleigh had organized a group of friends to attend a showing of Iron Man II. Just to clarify, this would be eight of her high school senior friends.

Since the show they were attending started fairly late, she'd invited everyone over a few hours beforehand to hang out and eat pizza. The house was soon filled with laughing, chattering seniors while freshman baby brother Joshua said a quick hello and resumed playing his X-Box game.

It wasn't long before a few of the boys from the group drifted into the family room to witness Josh shooting his yucky weapons at icky bad guys. He invited them to join him in the game and soon a small cluster of boys was either wielding yucky weapons or merely enjoying the icky show.

In the midst of one battle, I overheard this:

"Hey you know what, Josh? You should come with us to the movies."

"Yeah, Josh is cool, why don't you come Josh?"

"You wanna come with us?"

I was working in my home office so while I could hear the discussion, I unfortunately didn't have the luxury of observing the shocked play of emotions that must have danced their way across my daughter's face as her thought process churned due to this unexpected shift in the conversation.

Do I look like a complete jerk and say, no WAY is my baby brother coming along with me and my friends?

Will Josh get the mental vibe I'm sending him right now and just politely decline the offer? Josh? Josh?!

Uh, no. No such vibe made it past that sweet baby brother smile and gracious, "Sure! That'd be great, guys."

And so it came to pass that our freshman son left with the group of seniors to attend the 9:05 p.m. showing of Iron Man II. And despite one glitch when Ashleigh felt forced to give Josh a meaningful big sister glare, relegating him to the end of the row when she suspected he was trying to plunk himself in the middle of the group as they filed to their seats, she was actually a pretty good sport about the whole thing.

I couldn't help but think back on their childhood sibling rivalry stage. It was actually a rather brief phase in the whole scheme of things, although it didn’t seem like it at the time. For some reason, I had absolutely zero tolerance for any type of sibling rivalry behavior. There was no name calling and no physical stuff. Period. And whether it's bad or good, I never subscribed to the concept of "let them work it out, as long as no blood is drawn."

Nope, the minute I saw or heard a situation beginning to degenerate, I would take immediate action. Sometimes I would put them to work doing chores in separate areas of the house. Occasionally, I would sit them both down and have them play something I called "The Compliment Game."

They would have to give each other three genuine compliments concerning something they loved about the other. And it could never be something superficial such as, "I like your shirt." After a few instances of implementing this "game," one or the other would wail, "No, not compliments AGAIN!" But almost inevitably they would end up giggling by the time they were done.

Don't get me wrong, they still have their occasional moments. "He's always hogging the TV." "She's still on the computer mom!" But for the most part, we've moved into new territory. And it's been pretty cool watching their progression from loving toddlers, to sibling rivals and now to witness them becoming true friends.


Vivianne's Vista said...

Compliment Game- I like that idea! My children are driving me MAD with the constant arguments and I am fresh out of ideas. I know its just a phase but heavens, when will it be over?

I really enjoy your posts about your children Holly. They are so sweet.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I promise, eventually this too shall pass, Vivianne! Don't forget chores make a great distraction as well. :o)

Terri said...

Very amusing, my dear! Waiting for the rest of the story . . . something about a car??? ;)

I definitely got a kick out of your compliment game. Something like my ploy: I'd make them sit together, holding hands on the couch until they were civil to each other. Thankfully, they didn't figure out ways of gouging each others' eyes out in the process!


Heidi Willis said...

Are those your kids in the pic?? They are ADORABLE!!! And I LOVED the story about the movies! It's great to know that can happen!

My kids are 11,9, and 7 and they still count each other as their best friend. I know that will be changing over the next few years, but I'm enjoying it for now, and I look forward to a scene like this one!

And the compliment game? BRILLIANT! I'm instituting that today!

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Ha, ha! That's great Terri! And uh...let's save the car story for another post, shall we? ;o)

And yes, that is them, Heidi--about a decade ago (sniff, sniff). Sounds like you're doing a GREAT job with your own kids. Maybe you'll be blessed and your kiddos will completely skip the whole sibling rivalry phase.

Annette Piper said...

What a WONDERFUL idea (the compliment game). I will try that tomorrow when we're all in the car for 5 hours (!!!). Mine are at a love/hate stage - you do that when you're 12 and 9 I'm sure! Love that he got to go to Iron Man 2 and can just imagine the 'glare'!

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

Awwwwww!! I love this post. And I love that your daughter let him come. I hated that my little sister got to hang out with me and my friends when I was in high school. But now we are the best of friends and I look up to her in so many ways. PS I'm totally stealing the compliment game. That is such a great idea!

Annette Piper said...

Had to pop back and let you know the compliment game didn't work AT ALL in the car trip the other day. They were NOT going to like each other come what may. Oh well, I'll try again another time.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Awww, I'm sorry to hear that, Annette! Now that I'm thinking back, I started using the compliment game when they were fairly young--preschool age, I think.

Trapped in a car together--hmmm, I wonder if anybody has found a great solution for those occasions yet? Well, other than, "Don't make me come back there!" Ha, ha!

Paula@One Mom's Corner of the World said...

Love the picture! I'm visiting from MBC. I signed up as a new follower. Stop by my blog when you get the chance.