A 30 Second Chat to Turn Fights Between Sisters into a Foundation for Friendship

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“Hey, hey, HEY! What is going on in here? In this house we don’t fight with our sister, we fight for her.”

The Fights

This seems to be a common refrain for me these days, as I seek to break through the chattering cacophony of little girl voices seeking to be the most strident, shrewdest and scrupulous of them all. I have three daughters, and as their legs get longer so does the resolve to fight for their ground, their wants and their rights.

But you know what? They are 11, 8 and 6, so their ideas of what this means are seriously flawed, and I blame it on their underdeveloped brains. Someday they will be adults and see that it didn’t really matter where Barbie slept in her dream house, they should have let it go when someone was wearing their socks and it’s okay to sit up so that everyone can share the couch. But, alas, today is not that day.

Ultimately, I love watching my little ladies grow. I try to teach them the balance between being gutsy and gentle, and am impressed by the ways they are willing to take on the world at such young ages. Part of that has to do with the fact that they have been willing to go toe-to-toe with each other, so I better mom-up and take the time to coach them well.

This is their training ground. Here among sisters, I am determined to do my best to help them learn how we maintain unity, keep a bond of peace and forgive one another. They get to test out how to apologize, and unfortunately get to witness the pain they inflict upon each other. For the burden of a sister is that she is always beside you, but this becomes beautiful if you learn what a blessing a sister can be.

The Foundation

Look, I am not saying that I enjoy the disquietude that sometimes blows through my house like a prepubescent hurricane of hormones, but I am glad they have each other. It gives me great hope for their futures. So although the bickering is brutal, to see them standing together sings peace into my soul. My hopes for them is that they know what I have known. A sister means you have a friend for life.

There is no one alive that I am more likely to intentionally torture than my little sister, but she is also one of my favorite people. She is the reason the sisterhood squabbles of my girls don’t cause me to panic. As the oldest child, I had a certain amount of entitlement flowing through my psyche. I can’t even remember all the ways I oppressed her in an attempt to starve off irritation. Don’t worry, she still reminds me every once and awhile.

Yet I possess this joy; all the memories of childhood controversy have been overshadowed with recollections of tears, laughter and sacred moments. We’ve been with each other through broken hearts and finding love. There have been parking lot chats and long silences. We've dove into the happy and the hard together. Weddings, hospitals, babies and funerals; we’ve done them all.

Then my brother just got married and my sister and I piled her family of five and my family of six into the vans, and drove 12 hours to sleep at Mom's and celebrate. There was a moment of tension about the couch, but guess what? We have fully developed brains now, so it wasn’t a thing. Then we welcomed in another sister, and our hearts overflowed.

The Chat

So you can bet that the following 30 second conversation will keep happening in my household. As the years go on, I want to do my best to ensure the next generation fights for the beauty that is worth the burden of sisterhood:

“You see that girl over there,” I say to my daughter as I point to her sister.

“Yes, Mom.” She says as her eyes roll.

“Who is that?” I ask.

“MOOOMMM.” she whines.

“Who is it?” I repeat. At this point she knows the answer, because I have told her time and time again.

Then in a monotone voice filled with drudgery she says, “That’s my friend for life.”

I pat her on the head as a signal that she is excused from our little mother/daughter chat and say, “Yep, and don’t you forget it.”

An earlier version of this post first appeared at The Portland Moms Blog. You can find more from Chara Donahue at PMB, on Facebook and at Anchored Voices.