Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sibling Rivalry

My son is home (briefly) from university.  I tell myself that he comes home because he misses his family and relishes having his very own double bed in his very own double room with (because he’s the only boy in the family) his very own en-suite bathroom.  In reality I know home comforts have nothing to do with it and he simply wants me to attend to the vast suitcase he is trailing.  Namely because it contains a fortnight’s worth of washing.  Not to mention ironing.

So I open the front door and yell, ‘Yoo hoo,’ to nobody in particular, ‘Rob’s home.’  Mr V is at work, so obviously no response from him.  My step-daughter Rianna is not visiting, so ditto.  There is a creaking noise from the landing.  The sound of the dog hauling herself out of her basket.  It goes on for a bit.  The hauling that is.  The dog is getting on in years and her waistline gave in to middle age spread years ago.  Eventually there is a thud as all four paws finally connect with the landing.  Seconds later the dog makes a lethargic appearance and dutifully wags her tail at Robbie.  So where is the youngest?  I peer up the stairwell.  Eleanor’s door remains resolutely shut.

Now at this point perhaps I should mention Robbie is nearly 19.  He’s a young man. Independent.  Screamingly clever.  Motivated.  An A* student who knows exactly where he’s going in life. Whereas Eleanor, 14, has freedom hampered by her age, is clever but lazy, and not particularly motivated unless you mention words like ‘shopping’ or ‘Harry Styles’ (who she wants to marry one day).  Is it any wonder therefore that Eleanor is jealous of her brother.

I knock on her bedroom door and tentatively go in.  A sullen face regards me from behind her laptop screen.  ‘Yes?’ she asks curtly.  ‘Your brother’s home,’ I say.  ‘Yes, I heard you,’ she snaps.  There then follows a little chat about the vagaries of being civil, saying hello, making conversation to a family member who now only has his big toe in the family nest.  ‘Why should I say hello first?’ Eleanor demands.  Does it matter who says hello first?  Apparently so!

In due course Robbie finds his sister and says hello.  ‘Hello,’ I hear her mutter.  As he turns his back to walk away I catch my daughter apparently bowing down to Mecca (in Robbie’s direction) and worshipping the floor.  But her facial expression is not one of adoration.  I pretend not to see.

I cook dinner and we eat altogether.  This in itself is a rare event.  Mr V is still not home from work and if we waited for his arrival frankly it would be bedtime.  Usually Eleanor takes her meal to the kids’ room to watch ‘documentaries’.  For this read ‘reality programmes’.  And I take my plate off to my computer where I bash out a few hundred words between mouthfuls.  By the time my meal is finished it is always stone cold.  As we sit down at the table Eleanor’s lip curls into its familiar teenage expression.  ‘I always know when my brother is home because napkins appear and we sit up at the table.’

By the time dinner is served a spat is in full swing.  Finally Robbie snaps. ‘Just what is your problem?’ to which Eleanor rumbles, ‘You, oh favourite child!’ It’s only when I threaten to make free with roast potatoes and collapsing broccoli that the two of them become silent.  ‘I have no favourites,’ I tell Eleanor firmly, ‘you are both unique and amazing people who I love dearly.’  To which Rob smiles and Eleanor sneers.

In due course I clear up and the two of them disappear upstairs.  As I load the dishwasher every single nerve within my body is on full scale alert.  When will they kick off again?  I hear noises.  Gentle at first.  Then rumblings.  And then the sort of din that has me abandoning everything and hot footing up the stairs two at a time.  I fling open my son’s bedroom door ready to break up World War Three.

But instead a joyful sight greets my eyes.  The noise they are generating is one of happiness.  My children are sitting companionably together on the edge of Rob’s bed, half watching a funny clip on You Tube but also gabbling about university life, school life, teasing and taking the Mickey out of each other, gossiping about their friends, telling jokes, roaring with laughter and generally behaving like they are two long-lost best friends.

I guess this is what sibling rivalry is.  A mixture of both loathing and love.  But right now it’s love.  Long may it last...






12 comments:

  1. Hooray, you've started blogging. I love this post. Email on the way!

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    1. Well not so much blogging as bashing my head against all those books in the background...spent ages trying to work out how to post my...post! Thank you for your lovely book which arrived this morning. Will be taking it skiing with me to dip into apres-ski while the daughter is making eyes at Italian boys (she is soooo such an unfavourite child that she's coming skiing with me leaving her sibling in London!).

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  2. Hi Debbie
    I have an Eleanor also, but she is the oldest of my two. Interestingly, there is a similar age gap as your children. Alex has just turned 7 and Eleanor will be 12 in May.
    In terms of sibling relationships, there doesn't appear to be an inbetween, does there?
    In times of trouble, though, they are there for each other and it's two of them against the world.
    I've made myself emotional now, so I'm off to sort the washing....
    Laura x

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    1. Weep into your washing Laura, I do on many an occasion!

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  3. Oh, I remember those days. My three were the same. Enjoy the rare moments. :)

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  4. I am and I do Glynis, they spit and they spat but thankfully they hug too!

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  5. A great start, and a really interesting read. My siblings and I still don't hug, but I think we're OK :)

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  6. My sis and I aren't 'huggers' either...strange really because we're actually very 'huggy' people independent of the family unit. I think it was our upbringing...it was loving but not huggy! Which is probably why I'm always suffocating my own children with bear hugs!

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  7. Fun post. Where is the link for the tag-party blogfest?

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  8. Oh God, have I not posted it? I copied and pasted a massive link...what the heck have I done with it. Back in a bit....

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  9. Hi Debbie, popped over the tag party... are you doing it?

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  10. Yes - hopefully Kate...Rebecca is kindly helping me because sometimes I'm thick as two planks when it comes to computers (silently screams)

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