When Sibling Rivalry Turns To Sibling Love

by Angela Anagnost Repke
Originally Published: 
Angela Repke

Listening to our kids fight makes our ears bleed. The different octaves and decibel levels that come out of my kids’ mouths pierce my ear drums every single day. I envy the parents who have kids who somehow like each other—play together even. Yet, I know it’s considered “normal” that my kids argue, take each other’s toys, and even perform the occasional headlock.

My twin brother, Deno, and I were no different. It was inevitable that we’d fight. We started our life together by sharing my mother’s teeny, tiny womb. Today, she still jokes that my brother became pigeon-toed because we were so cramped in there. And after 40 weeks of togetherness, I was born first, but only because he kicked me out.

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And it didn’t get much better from there. Yes, we played house and school together when we were kids, but I was also the Queen of Antagonization. There are old videos of me squirting him in the eyes with the water hose, stealing his He-Man sword and waving it in his face, and just being a pain in his ass.

The older he got, Deno finally started sticking up for himself. I remember the times when he would retaliate my tormenting ways by grabbing a couch cushion, placing it over my face, and sitting on it. I’d gasp for breath, and after what felt like ten minutes, he’d take it off. Finally, I could breathe again.

But sometimes living with siblings feels like that—suffocating. You’re together with them all the time. Adolescence didn’t get much better for Deno and I, either. The hormones, the angst, the wanting to date each other’s friends—these were not ingredients for twins of the opposite sex to get along. But we pushed through it. In college, we’d visit each other, divulge in too much alcohol, and still bug the shit out of each other.

But something strange began to happen — we started showing each other off, too. Then, in our mid-twenties, finally, we grew sick of the fighting.

Today, he wrestles with my children on the floor and serves as their role model. We communicate weekly about our triumphs and worries that come with being a real-life grown-up. When my dad was struck with a life-threatening sepsis attack, Deno flew home. When my mom battled advance cancer over the course of a year, he flew home monthly. He grew up.

We grew up.

Bickering about the little things doesn’t seem to matter anymore. But keeping our family together does. Helping our parents age gracefully trumps any fight we’ve ever had. Supporting each other in all of life’s obstacles is what counts.

So, when I hear my kids screaming “that’s my toy!” in each other’s faces, I try to remember how the relationship with my brother has bloomed over the past decade. I know it won’t be like this forever with my own kids. One day, the sun will shine and the tug-of-wars with Legos, Barbies, and markers will cease. They’ll eventually like each other, and not because they’re being forced to. The bickering will stop, or at least dwindle.

Yes, there will come the day when they need each other—and even depend on each other. Unfortunately, later in my children’s lives—when my husband and I begin to age and even get sick—they’ll need each other’s shoulders then.

So, if my husband and I continue to encourage their relationship to be one full of love and respect, they’ll come around eventually. They’ll look each other in the eyes and realize just how lucky they are. Yes, the day will come where they no longer feel like they’re being suffocated by a pillow, or their annoying sibling. Instead, they’ll love each other, just because.

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