Sibling Rivalry, and Other Mother Conundrums

sibsWhile I’m grateful to be officially recognized one day a year for the sacrifice of my figure, worldly ambitions and sanity to give and raise life, observance of Mothers Day creates a conundrum.

I want to relax and be pampered by my children, but I also have my own mothers who deserve to relax and be pampered by their children, which includes me. Providing relaxation and pampering for my mothers means I can’t really relax and be pampered.

But let’s be real.

There’s really no such thing as a relaxing day for mothers.


National holiday or not. But we do appreciate the illusionary gesture.

On this Mothers Day, I want to examine an age-old issue mothers face: sibling rivalry. A display on the subject was brought vividly to my attention during a recent “friendly” backyard volleyball game. I was throwing a birthday party for a friend who brought her kids over for some food and fun. After stuffing ourselves with grilled goodies and Dutch oven delicacies, we decided to further provoke the nausea with physical activity.

As we divided up teams, my friends’ two teenage sons refused to be on the same side. My inclination was to make them buck up and play together, but I could see my friend’s obvious fatigue with such battles so we let them be opponents. And opponents they were.


I mean, I enjoy competitive trash talk in fun too, but their exchanges were cutthroat. I only have one male offspring and one brother so I’m not used to testosteronic clan clashes, though I have seen The Lion King about a thousand times so it’s not completely unfamiliar. The scene of un-brotherly love was disconcerting.

Why does this happen?
Why can’t the heir and the spare get along?
A sibling should be a built-in friend, not a foe.

Watching the bro volleybrawl reminded me of an experience my mother-in-law told me about my husband and his older brother. They fought like dogs their entire childhood and no intervention, punishment, consequence or deprivation she implemented brought lasting resolution.

Then one summer, my husband went through a teenage growth spurt making him bigger than his older brother who was a late bloomer. One day, the firstborn provoked and #2 snapped. Wielding his new size advantage, he engaged his brother in an All-Star wrestling match, but without pulling his punches. Mom heard the battle ensue and checked on the situation. She was about to intervene, but thought otherwise. She remembered with tears, “My oldest was getting whipped but, dang it, he had it coming! So I let them fight it out.”

My husband won.

After that, he and his brother were best friends. They never spoke about that fight and they never fought again, though they still do get psychotically competitive with each other during our traditional New Year’s Eve game of “spoons.”

On that occasion, letting the sibs duke it out was the answer. It wasn’t the answer for the volleyball rivals, or for Mufasa and Scar, but that’s an analysis for another day. These are the tough decisions moms have to make daily in our efforts to raise decent human beings, which is why we deserve a day of honor–if not relaxation.

Leave a Reply