They Used To Be Attached At The Hip, But Then One Kid Went To High School

Of all the many relationships we may experience in life, I’ve heard it said that a relationship between siblings is among the longest lasting.

So, is it really any wonder that parents worry when siblings squabble?


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Friends From the Start

When my daughter was about three, she started asking for a sibling. Toddlers and preschoolers can sometimes be egotistical little creatures and they either love or hate the idea of sharing the spotlight with anyone.

But Payton was unwavering in her requests for a sibling.

I grew up with a brother just two years younger than me and my husband has four siblings — a big Catholic family. So in my head and my heart, family has always meant more than one child. (But that’s just me.)

After we adopted our second baby, my daughter couldn’t keep her hands off the new addition.

“In my head and my heart, family has always meant more than one child. (But that’s just me.)”

Payton was the child pushing the stroller to the library or the grocery store, or pulling her younger sibling behind her. She was the one pulling the wagon or toboggan gently to make sure no one got hurt.

She asked to hold her new best friend constantly and sometimes wanted to help with feeding them.

As they grew, they played and read together all the time. They protected each other and enjoyed each other’s company because they were best friends.

That is, until my youngest turned about 10. 

The Next Stage

So, what changed?

Well, high school I guess. And hormones, maybe.

When Payton moved on to high school, my youngest seemed “butt hurt” and angry.

They walked around as if this were a choice their sibling had made on purpose to desert them. Loud explosive arguments were the norm and not the exception.

Eventually our youngest graduated Grade 8 and headed to the same high school as Payton, who was already flying through Grade 11.

We figured they’d reconnect and the relationship would thrive.

“Loud explosive arguments were the norm and not the exception.”

And for the first six months of high school that might have been true — my oldest worked to include my youngest, showing them around the school and helping them join some clubs.

But midway through that first year in the same school, it was apparent this was going to be a bumpy road ahead.

My younger child has always been headstrong and that was true at school too. I suspect my oldest teen at that time distanced herself a bit because she was not interested in the conflict that had arose in school.

As teens, both kids dated other people and grew into their own groups of friends, in and out of school. They mostly socialized separately.

Door Slamming Arguments

But the arguments.

BOY.

When they blew up at home, they really blew up.

Doors were slammed. Insults hurled. It was often the tiny things that created giant outbursts. Mostly stop-taking-my-stuff arguments or pleas to the stay out of their rooms.

When kids are little there are many ways to resolve these conflicts and every parenting book out there talks about sibling rivalry. Leave them alone to resolve their own issues. Buy an oversized sweater and put them both in it until they agree or make friends with each other again. Create opportunities for them to problem solve together. But I don’t think you can exactly apply most of those tactics to teens or tweens.

“These days I wonder if maybe we should have worried less.”

These are the things we sometimes agonized over — or at least I did:

Would the kids ever be there for each other as young adults and adults? How could we help? Should we intervene?

We lost sleep over these concerns and more. Because as an adult, I know how important the support of a sibling is — especially as parents age.

There are a million times in the future that I envisioned our kids having to work together. How would that work if they couldn’t even stand each other’s company?

These days I wonder if maybe we should have worried less.


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Relationships Evolve

During the pandemic we had numerous ups and downs like many families. Relationships grew and changed. Some stopped and started or fizzled out. A child started university and another struggled with online schooling. I changed jobs once or twice and we all kept going.

At some point in the last six months our kids slowly found their way back to tolerating each other and friendship. At the end of the summer, one day I returned home after work and the kids had taken the bus together to go get sushi at a restaurant.

“That was one of the best days of my life,” my teenager told me as I listened to the details of everything they’d done on their day off. “Mom, there are days I wasn’t sure we’d ever be friends again. But we’ve been working on it.”

“They grow together and apart and back together again because their roots are strong.”

There are more days like this now than there are screaming fits in the hallways upstairs. Some days they walk each other to the bus stop before school. Other days they just peacefully coexist and that’s progress from where we were during the dramatic teen years.

With both of my kids perched on the cusp of adulthood, I can say with some confidence they have seasons or stages.

They grow together and apart and back together again because their roots are strong, and they can weather more than I think.

https://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/siblings-fight-but-that-doesnt-mean-it-isnt-hard-for-parents-when-they-do