Sibling Rivalry

The results are in.  The truce reached between Chloe and Sophie lasted about one day.  I’m not surprised.  Disappointed, yes.  But not surprised.

After the girls managed to studiously ignore one another a little bit, we all went to the Great New York State Fair in Syracuse on Thursday.  The experience has taught me that state fairs bring out the worst in kids – and adults, too. For the first two hours they went on rickety carnival rides together and seemingly enjoyed one another’s company.  They even split the cost of buying a huge package of candy buttons. Not much bickering, teasing or arguing took place because they were too busy to realize they were actually getting along.

And then I asked them to do something that was apparently too difficult for them to do together.  In anticipation of our puppy’s arrival, I agreed to buy a collar from Critter Gear, a vendor that makes adorable handmade toys and supplies for canines and felines. The catch was that they’d need to choose a pattern they both liked.

Yes, I did this on purpose.  And yes, I am sometimes a dope.  The truth is, they need to learn to compromise and work together, not take each other for granted and not fight all the time.  But as soon as I gave them their “assignment,” I knew that I had made a big mistake.  Twenty minutes later, the girls were still arguing about which design would be best for our puppy.

Chloe stormed away in frustration. You see, Sophie (as I’ve said many times before on these web pages) knows how to push her older sister’s buttons.  And she was naysaying Chloe’s choices not out of any principled belief that her own selections were better, but simply because she knew that being contrarian would piss Chloe off.

We walked away from the display without buying a collar for the puppy.  Chloe and Sophie were steaming mad at each other.  And I was steaming mad at them.  And I moped through the cow barn and sulked during the “Mutts Gone Nuts” show.  And started to wonder who was really the child in all this mess.

After spending the next 24 hours recovering, Chloe and Sophie agreed to go on the vendor’s Web site yesterday to review the collars with fresh eyes.  They each made separate lists of their favorite designs and then compared them to see if there was any overlap.  They managed to narrow down their choices and I served as final arbiter. The puppy will indeed have a collar to wear when we bring him home in a few weeks.

But, boy, was it painful to get there.  This episode is really just a symptom of a larger problem. If they can’t team up for something as trivial as a dog collar, how will they ever work together to make more difficult decisions?  When I recall my childhood years, my biggest regret is that my brother and I didn’t develop any real rapport until after I left for college.  We were so antagonistic towards one another that we even fought over my mom’s homemade french fries. I was a jerk to him and treated him like dirt, and he in turn figured out how to torture me. It makes me sad that we weren’t closer when we were kids.

I don’t want Chloe and Sophie to have the same experience.  Life is too short for them to be arguing all the time.  Deep down, Sophie looks up to Chloe and wants her approval.  But Chloe sometimes forgets how much younger Sophie is and doesn’t filter herself well, which results in lots of hurt feelings.  And Sophie needs to understand that not all teasing is mean-spirited, to develop a thicker skin and to learn to appreciate Chloe’s sense of humor.

I would love to see them get through a day without fighting.  And manage to do it while actually spending time together. In the meantime, school starts up again in two weeks.  And they’ll be spending more time together – and maybe absence will make their hearts grow fonder.  Wishful thinking, I’m sure.  But I’m holding out hope.

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