There are a lot of benefits to having children eleven and a half years apart. There’s the live-in babysitter now of course, the extra set of hands during those hectic early years. Having one child reasonably self sufficient makes it a lot easier to care for the one that isn’t. Very rarely are they both throwing tantrums simultaneously.
One would think that there wouldn’t be anything for siblings with this size of an age gap to fight about. There is no need to share or dispute ownership of toys, clothing, or mutual friends. No future conflicts over automobile borrowing or boys that they both like on the horizon.
One would think that, but somehow it turns out that this isn’t exactly the case.
Kayla, the teenager, seems to think that her little sister is spoiled, getting away with whatever she wants. Her response to this is to offer her services as disciplinarian, nagging in the same manner that she ironically accuses us of doing to her. Alaina, the first grader, doesn’t seem much inclined to listen to her sister, ignoring the chain of command and channeling her frustration at never being in charge into instigation.
They argue over the television. Kayla has a small one in her room but, reasonably, thinks that she should have access to the big screen and DVR from time to time. Alaina, also reasonably, feels that since she doesn’t have that option or her sister’s proclivity to stay hidden in her room anyway that the living room should be a place for her to watch “her shows.” With football season fast approaching both are going to start being disappointed quite often.
Not as reasonably, they argue over food. I would never think of cooking something as nutritional insufficient as chicken nuggets, at least not more than three times a week, but if I were to do so it’s imperative that an even number is distributed. At the grocery store Alaina will count every item being placed in the carriage to make sure that nobody is getting more things that they like than she. The only reason snacks and leftovers aren’t labeled with their names is that I won’t allow it. Sampling something from either’s plate is an incitement to riot.
There is also a surprising amount of underlying jealousy and resentment that occasionally pops up and leads to bickering, usually about the two things that are almost impossible to distribute evenly : time and attention. One on one time with each consists of vastly different things.
The unfortunate truth, a reality that we try to make Kayla understand, is that she can be left alone while I’m at the park or hiking with her sister. Alaina can’t be left alone while the teen and I are at the movies or chowing down on chicken wings. The result is that the youngest gets to do more things, the oldest better and more expensive things. They both feel they are getting the short end of the stick. I find one more thing to wonder if I’m balancing right.
All siblings argue. Hell, any two people in the same house will argue, as any married couple will attest. What has been equally surprising is how much two sisters with eleven and a half years of age difference will bond, the love they share for each other. I often find myself standing out of sight, listening to them talk and laugh, straining to hear the whispered secrets that all sisters share.
I listen, I smile, and I make sure to eat that fifteenth chicken nugget.