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The joys and challenges of mothering siblings

Two sisters play in the ocean with their younger brotherI am a busy mother of three kids under the age of five – to say that it is an interesting time is an understatement.

Each day is different from the next. It is only now that I am beginning to witness firsthand the special bond between siblings.

The multiple personalities that come out, the arguments, the apologies, the rivalry and the unbridled love and loyalty that remains no matter what. This usually occurs in the one day! At the end of it, when you look at them individually and as a whole, you realise they make sense, and you cannot have one without the other.

After first giving birth to my daughter, I always dreamed of at least giving her a little brother or sister. Fortunately, she now has both.

Even though I had a sibling, we were never close and I pretty much grew up on my own. For me childhood was lonely and awkward. I always yearned to have a sister to call my own – one to share secrets, clothes and toys with. I wanted my children to have the opposite experience. I wanted them to grow up knowing that as well as their sibling being their partner in crime, they will always find a pillar of love, strength and support in each other, especially if something were to happen to either myself or my husband.

Recently, I wrote about how I first had this idealistic perception of what raising girls would be like. I pictured two little girls playing with tea sets in their dress ups, and everything was nice and civilised.

That perception was busted the second my younger daughter found her feet and along with that, her independence. She gained this quaint confidence and no-nonsense attitude, and she was definitely not afraid to assert that. So, the disagreements ensued. They continue to this day. I was beginning to think that maybe a boxing ring would have been a good investment! On the odd occasion have I had to play referee, but from my perspective, their disagreements have actually brought along some good.

My eldest has always been a gentle and sensitive soul. Previously, when another child showed hostility toward her, she would cower away in tears. It greatly pained me witnessing this on numerous occasions. I would worry about her being bullied later on in the school yard. Even though she is a naturally confident and talkative child, she just did not have it in her to stand her ground.

Now, ever since her sister began asserting her independence, the tables have had to turn. She was, in a way, forced to toughen up and not let others always run the show. And now, she steps up to the plate and takes her big sister duties within her stride. She is now not afraid to stand up and protect both herself and her siblings.

Life with my son is a whole new ball game. He possesses traits of both girls. So, he is confident, happy, talkative, emotional, and at the same time he can have a temper, is stubborn and definitely does not like to be alone. He is known to experience a bad case of separation anxiety. Currently, he wants nothing more than to be included in the girls’ play.

The girls, while they spoil him terribly with affection and attention, they also try and put him in his place and they are fiercely protective of him. My eldest actually yelled at a boy at preschool for daring to touch her brother’s pacifier. That child simply sat on the floor and put his head down.

All three kids are inseparable – they do everything together. As a result, they have already developed a deep bond. Even though they are strongly independent, they rely on one another as well.

Whenever the girls are at preschool, my son is immediately aware that something is amiss. There is no messing with the sibling dynamic, and they will fiercely defend that. I am so proud that they will always ask about one another, and there is never a moment where one child has something that the other two do not. With kids being kids, and sharing can sometimes seem like a tedious ask, overall they will ensure that food, toys and other items are shared equally.

The beauty is in watching how the children are growing up together. Each day brings a new challenge and adventure for them. They simply grab one another by the hand and together face whatever may come.

My greatest accomplishment to date as a mother is witnessing how my children have learned to look after one another. As much as they want to assert their independence, they cannot live without the other. I have had to enrol both girls into preschool at the same time due to their blatant refusal to be separated. I beam with pride when I listen to their conversations and watch how they interact. The girls, especially my eldest, have at such a young age displayed great empathy and maternal instincts. She copies how I interact with them and other kids, and then she goes back and ‘mothers’ everyone else around her.

It is definitely challenge, but in my opinion the joys of mothering siblings far outweigh the challenges. OK, so I am never really alone, I cannot get five minutes of peace (unless all three are asleep) and trips require actual planning and preparation because I am outnumbered by children, I would not change it. I feel as though they challenge me to strive to be a better parent. I have learned that patience and understanding is key. Nothing can compare or be more valuable than the love that you feel for them, as well as the love that you receive in return.

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness – quite often the hard way” – Pamela Dugdale

Image credit: altanaka/123RF Stock Photo

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  1. Lovely article, life is hard with multiple children close in age but as you’ve suggested it makes it all worth it when you see them standing up for one another or laughing all together.



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