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Love thy siblings, or you are grounded!

Aug. 11, 2008

by Jen Bakken

While I’m thankful for my younger brother and sister, I do remember a time when they drove me crazy, and sometimes they still do.

My brother is five years younger than I am, and it seemed he was good at everything. My sister is 10 years younger, the baby of the family, and it seemed like she could do no wrong.

As the oldest, it felt as though I was blamed for everything.

“Well, you are older,” my parents used to say. “And, you should know better.”

As a young girl, I swore I would never convict my oldest child on his age alone – but this has been unpreventable.

When my oldest put a wad of silly putty in his little brother’s hair, requiring him to sport a bald head for a few months, I was screaming from the rooftops, “Well you are older, and you should know better!”

Siblings argue, fight, or tease each other, and many times parents have no idea who the most guilty party is. I can’t count how many times I’ve pleaded with my children, “I don’t care who started it, just end it, please!” just like my parents used to do.

Once while fighting with my little brother, over who had to clean up a mess in the play room, he poked me in the eye, and I shoved him to the ground.

Yes, I was old enough to know better, but he started it. Besides, he was annoyingly good at everything, and in my mind he deserved a bloody nose.

Another time, I was hiding in my brother’s closet wearing a hockey helmet. My mom tucked him into bed, then left the room, and I waited for him to settle in for the night. I listened to his breathing, and when he sounded like he was about to fall asleep, I jumped out of the closet with a growl.

Yes, I ended up grounded, but in my mind, at the time, it was worth it. Besides, he was such a whiny wimp! (I wonder if he sleeps with his closet doors open now?)

With a sister 10 years younger, I was often forced to have a shadow follow me around. I couldn’t talk on the phone or have friends over without her sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, embarrassing me, and driving me crazy.

The thing I hated most, back in those days, was to babysit my younger siblings. It never mattered that I didn’t want to because I was ordered rather than asked, and wasn’t paid for it either.

I remember begging my parents not to make me babysit. Complaining about my brother and sister never listening to me and just making messes to clean up.

“It’s not fair!” I would whimper and stomp my foot.

It’s funny how things turn around in your life. The other day, my middle child was complaining about his little sister.

“It’s her fault, not mine,” he insisted. “She always starts it, and it’s just not fair!”

I thought he was going to say he hated his sister, which is something I do not allow in my house. Telling someone to “shut up” is also a no-no in my mind; they are just as bad as swear words.

I know it’s not as easy as just telling the children to love each other or they are grounded. They can be sent to their rooms on a daily basis but it won’t prevent the sibling battles from ever happening again.

After the most recent sibling squabble, I told my kids that I am thankful every day for my brother and sister. It’s because of them that I have wonderful nieces and nephews to love. Thanks to my siblings, I have someone to call when I need to talk, someone to spend time with, spend holidays with, and I don’t know what I would do without them.

Then, I sent them to their rooms to think about the situation, and what I had just said.

A while later, one of them came out of their bedroom and asked, “Am I grounded ‘til I love ‘em, cuz I’ll be grounded forever then!”

Fortunately, I know that one day they will be thankful for their siblings.