Frustrated by the arguing, nitpicking, and occasional bad attitudes of certain unnamed individuals in our home, I have started reading a book to my children. It is called Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally. The authors are siblings with obvious life experience who discuss the challenges and joys of siblings, while applying the unique perspectives of their birth orders.
The Mallys suggest reading the book with the children, which is a bit different from most parenting books I have read. Typically the parent reads the book, and then applies it to the children. In this case the desired change, to a large extent, must come from the kids themselves, so the book is written to them, and they are in on the solution. I have great hopes for this book.
When Evan, who is 5, heard the title of the book, he stopped me and asked, wide-eyed, “You mean your brother and sister can be your friends?” Yes, it is true, little guy. But really, our children are not so terrible together. They do have times when they get along great and clearly enjoy one another, and I love that. I just want to see more of it. More friendship, less snark and accusation.
It kills me to see my children hurt each other. I grew up as an only child, always dreaming of and begging for a sibling. Someone to play with and go through life with. And while I realize that a certain amount of conflict is inevitable when people live together, I want love and kindness to be a strong foundation of our family. I have given my children the gift of each other, and I must teach them to appreciate it.
Contrary to the book’s title, I do not plan to measure our success with this book based on my children becoming true best friends. If they do, great. But I just want them to get along better and enjoy one another more. A little less competition and self-centeredness. A little more kindness and empathy. Is that too much to ask?
So last night we all assembled in the living room, and I began chapter one, which helped us consider why family relationships can be such a struggle. Each chapter contains sections by each author, giving their own special perspective. Anna enjoyed some of the comments made by Sarah, the firstborn. Will liked it that the middle child was a boy, Stephen. He also teased that Evan is a girl (Grace, the youngest), which of course did not go over so well with Evan and nicely illustrated the reason for our new book.
While I read last night, it seemed that the kids were listening and thinking. At least they looked pensive to me, though maybe it was my own wishful thinking. Anyway, I am hopeful we will see some improvement in relationships and behavior in the days ahead… either from real changes of heart or an attempt to appease me so I won’t read such books to them anymore! But change is change, and I’ll take it.