Lessons from Sibling Conflict



Last Friday night we went to a place called Jump, Rattle and Roll here in town for the Y Family Night event.  It is one of those places filled with inflatable slides and mazes,  huge bouncy house big enough for the grown ups to play on, too.  Its super fun... The kids always have a great time, and are exhausted when we finally pile them into the car.  Add to the exhaustion the fact that this was our fourth later than usual night, and you can imagine how things went when we got home...

We walked into the house and encouraged the kids to head upstairs to get on their jammies and brush their teeth.  We were way ready for them to be in bed and to enjoy kid free time.  The kids were wound up like tops, and the thumping and giggling coming from the second story of our house was proof that getting ready for bed was the last thing on their minds.  In hindsight, it would have been helpful to them for one of us to head up there, and use our presence to keep them on task.  Instead, we just kept hollering up at them, "Come on you guys, leave each other alone and get your stuff done!!!"  Parenting from the couch is always sooooo effective....

All of a sudden we heard a huge THUMP followed by a howl - you know, the howl of a real injury - and them Rowan came flying down the stairs.  The howl got me moving and when we met, she looked at me and burst into tears.  This drives me crazy, one kid hurts the other and then turns on the waterworks when they catch sight of the parent.  But then she caught me by surprise - she cried out, "Ian is really hurt!"

I raced up the stairs, my heart pounding, and saw Ian, laying on his back on the floor, crying that awful cry.  Rowan had given him a huge shove and he had fallen hard onto a wicker basket that we keep at the end of our bed.  He had slammed his arm down on it, and the inside was bruised and skinned, and hurt a lot.  It took a long time to console him and calm him down...  He finally let me put a cold washcloth on it and started to relax.  He was okay.

Rowan on the other hand, was totally hysterical.  She felt so terrible about hurting her brother.  She apologized over and over, and her tears of remorse were so genuine and heartfelt that it sent Ian back into his tears, so I had to take her out of the room.  When we were alone in her room she told me that she had been so scared.  That she had watched Ian fall and thought that he had slammed down on his face.  She felt so terrible and hadn't meant to hurt him...  It was really very touching.

As we were tucking in Ian, I saw Rowan lurking in the hallway.  I asked her if she would like to say good night to Ian.  She went in.

"Good night, Ian," she said.

"Goodnight, Rowie."

"I'm so sorry that you got hurt," she said, a little tearful.

"It's okay Rowan, I'm okay, you didn't mean to hurt me."

"I love you," she said, in a small voice.

"I love you too."

Oh my gosh, I thought, what an incredibly sweet moment!!!  It was so amazing and pure and real.  The kids really connected and felt each other's feelings.  They have so much love for each other...  My heart swelled.

I felt good about how I handled things that night...  I was calm and loving with Ian when he was upset and hurt.  I allowed him to fall apart while I offered quiet suggestions.  I didn't allow my emotions to send me into angry mama bear with Rowan.  She felt awful about what happened to Ian, and didn't need me to add to that.  I had faith in Rowan about her ability connect and make amends with Ian, contrary to my desire to tell her to say sorry before she was ready.

The kids will continue to have conflict and push the limits with each other.  I am hoping that this experience reminds them how easy it is for bugging to become hurting, and how bad it feels to hurt another person.  I love that Rowan felt so bad about what happened.  And I love how in the end, Ian seemed to console her, letting her know that he was okay, not to worry.  What a gift they are to each other and to me!  Hoping this good vibe lasts for a while....