Sibling rivalry is one of humanity’s oldest problems. One of the first stories in the Bible (the oldest book in Western civilization, and the story of the ancient Jewish culture) deals with the rivalry between two brothers, Cain and Abel. The older brother, Cain, was irritated at constantly having to help take care of his younger brother, Abel, and kept asking his parents: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The story of these two brothers has a tragic ending; Cain becomes so angry that he kills Abel (and this, according to the Bible, was the first murder in history). The fact that this is one of the first stories within the Bible shows the great importance given to the problem of sibling rivalry. Nowadays, most parents don’t seem very concerned with the possible occurrence of this problem within their families.
By “sibling rivalry” we mean the antagonism or hostility between brothers and/or sisters which manifests itself in circumstances such as in the common children’s family fights (which begin with a pulling of the sibling’s hair or with the unwillingness to share a toy, and which try the patience of parents all over the world) to much more serious cases such as the permanent enmity between adult siblings, or the previously mentioned Biblical case of the murder of Abel by Cain.
It isn’t difficult to find the root cause of sibling rivalry. Nature offers us many similar examples. The problem is basically one of competition for limited or scarce resources. In nature, the competition is usually for food; whenever there are two individuals or species that consume the same type of food in the same area (or habitat) they will fight with each other until one of them manages to kill or drive the other out, leaving the winner with the exclusive use of the food resources available in that area. A similar competition exists between siblings in human families. However, here the scarce resources are the Time, Attention, Love and Approval that the parents can give to each of their children. Before I go further, understand that Sibling Rivalry can be something good too; if you take case in point like David and Ed Miliband in The UK. Google them, their story is all over.
As a first born child grows through infancy to a point where they can accommodate logic, emotion and are aware of what goes on around them, they realize that there is a second born coming along the way; the second born child, and consequently the third and so on depending on how many children the parents are going to have come through. Survival tactics emerge as such. A new baby requires enormous amounts of time, effort, and attention. What the first-born feels is that suddenly mom and dad hardly have any time to spend and play with him or her, and when they do, they are usually tired and irritated. With a new child in picture, the first born, or existing child finds ways to draw attention to themselves as it were since the arrival of a new born always gets everyone focusing on the ‘new bundle of joy’. Really, it happens; look around… when Zack was born for instance, the parents were Mama Zack and Baba Zack… with the sister coming in second, everything without a memo changed to Mama Ebby and Baba Ebby…
As the children mature, the younger ones will always strive to be different from the older one. They will tend to upstage the status quo, to claim their place and chart their own course. The older ones will in most cases bother the younger ones, find a way to keep them in check mostly just to seek parental recognition and to seek the attention that they have lost with time to the younger ones.
Parents don’t help as much either… in most cases. I will take an example of mine. Whenever the eldest of the children makes a mistake or goes through a situation that isn’t as well planned and thought through. Ridicule is made very clear, so that the rest are aware that what their elder sibling did was wrong. How does this make the elder child feel? In some cases for instance, when the younger one makes mistake, the elder one is still reprimanded for having not guided the younger children appropriately.
I am a first born; ninety percent of the time (90%) I am an example. When I fail, the rest are told not to be like that ever. When I excel, Dad will be shouting at the top of his voice when visiting his restaurant or garage. Yeah, he likes to brag a lot! I am only a thirty sixth of that and yet I am considered so too. My life wasn’t as easy through school to when I got my first employment offer. I was introduced to a Step brother who we are a few months apart in age (don’t look at me funny, it was Dad’s escapades). My life changed drastically from what I knew it to be. It didn’t help that my entire life was not just going to be the guinea pig for my parents attempt at parenthood, but I was also going to be a guinea pig with ‘enemy number one’. I don’t know how to mince my words on this subject so I will hit it straight home. I am not a fan of his and neither is he of me. We spent our childhood growing up at each other’s neck. He chose to excel at what I was weakest at and I returned the favor too. It didn’t help that with difference in age by just eight (8) months, we did everything at the same time.
Really, I always joke that the sole reason he is a fan of Arsenal F.C is simply because I am a fan of Manchester United 🙂.
Enough bitch mode there…I am not a parenthood expert but I believe Parenthood is probably the hardest, but also most fun responsibility in one’s life. I am not yet one. My Girlfriend always asks me why I love kids so much, and why I want so much to be a father, well. I want to make it the second best job I will ever have, right after being a Husband… my employer and the rest of business prospects and ventures… are what I usually call appendices to my main tasks in life.
The childhood I had, the challenges I experienced, the interest I hold in being a better father are what I hope to take to my parenthood, someday. Yeah, she says we will only have one Child, so no rivalry. That kid will probably suffocate with awesomeness! What was I saying again? Yeah… that…