I had always hoped my daughters would be friends, despite their three-and-a-half year age difference. I knew it would be a long time before the years between them would dissipate and allow them to share common interests, but I longed for them to at least play together. About a year ago, when they were 3 years old and 6 years old, it finally happened.
My older daughter loves to be in control, and my little one simply wants attention. This seemed like a perfect match, and it was, until sibling rivalry reared its ugly head. Not having grown up with a sister I never experienced the phenomenon of sibling rivalry firsthand until I became a parent. But now I am viewing it in almost textbook form.
My older daughter, who is very serious and precise, gets frustrated with her free-spirited, adorable little sister, who refuses to adhere to her very specific instructions. She is brilliant and beautiful, but tortured by the jealousy that comes with having a cute blue-eyed, blonde shadow whose smile inspires hugs and kisses from everyone around her.
This lethal combination inevitably deteriorates into name-calling. The big sister has a litany of words that we have banned as a result of her inability to tolerate her little sister. They include: ugly, stupid, "meaner wiener" (don't ask), and phrases like "I don't love you" and "I'm going to rip your head off." The little one has a very small arsenal of her own and usually comes crying to me about her big sister's tirade. I handle this not very deftly by comforting her and, in turn, scolding her older sister for the hundredth time about using words that hurt feelings.
The irony is that ultimately, no matter what cruel things my oldest daughter says, my little one still wants to play with her. Unlike most adults, she forgives and forgets quickly, ready to embrace her older sister again even before her tears have dried. She is also the first one to come to her big sister's defense when I scold her and threaten to punish her for her transgressions. Often she'll run to her and hug her much taller sister around the waist and cry, "She didn't mean it Momma, really she didn't. Don't be mad at her."
The truth is that my youngest daughter has a soft heart; a heart that I know will make her journey in life much gentler. My older daughter on the other hand is full of drive and ambition -- traits that will make her successful, but will also lead to frustration and disappointment at times. My hope is that with the support and encouragement of her younger sister, she will be able to achieve her goals. In turn, I hope that with her older sister's direction, my youngest daughter will learn about being responsible, working hard and following her dreams.
My dream is that they navigate life together into adulthood with the understanding that unconditional love is a gift to be cherished.
Amanda lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters.