I’ve always said the greatest gift we’ve ever given Iris was Robyn. When sisters click, it’s such a beautiful lifelong bond that exceeds any experience or education. Of course, the path to that unbreakable bond is paved with potholes and our family is no different. If you’ve ever had a brother or sister or dealt with having multiple kids, you know the constant ticking time bomb that exists in the family: the sibling argument. The War of the Khaund Sisters can be triggered by the most mundane of things. For Cherise, this is an incessant source of frustration. A few weeks ago, our babysitter remarked on how often the bickering occurred between the girls. “I never ever fought with my sisters,” she would tell us. This wasn’t the first time we heard this observation and, at one point, Cherise admonished the kids by saying “you guys fight all the time. Why can’t you be more like her (our sitter’s) family?” With that comment. we left the house and got into the car to head out on our date night. Before I turned on the ignition, I looked at my beloved wife and went on a rare 30-second rant.
“First off, we can’t use an example or somebody is over 10 years younger than her next oldest sibling. It’s not the same. Second of all, the best thing we did for Iris was to have Robyn. One of the biggest reasons is that they’re going to argue and that could be most important skill they learn. It teaches Iris that she needs to compromise, it teaches Robyn to stand up for herself, and it reminds Iris that she can’t get whatever she wants. I know it sucks, but they’re going to be so much better for it.”
Perhaps ironically, Cherise didn’t argue the point. She agreed and we went on with our date night. I didn’t convince her to like the bickering, but reminded her there is an end goal in mind here.
You see, I don’t necessarily like watching the girls fight, but I understand how critically important it is to their development. I fought with my brother throughout our childhood. My dad was convinced that the only reason we liked sports was because it gave us something to argue about. He was probably right. I’ve developed a lifelong obsession with the Baltimore Orioles and, when people ask where it comes from (I was not from Baltimore and my only connection to the city came years later when, of all people, my brother went to college in there), I reveal that my brother liked the Yankees and we needed something to fight about. And boy did we fight about it. If it wasn’t about the Yankees and Orioles, it was about Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray. And we didn’t take time off in the winter. It moved to basketball with the Lakers and the Celtics. Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird. Seems silly to fight about something like that (especially since Bird was clearly the better player–yes, the argument rages on 30 years later), but those moments may have been some of the most critical moments of my development.
Let’s start by establishing that there’s something intimidating about arguing with someone who weighed 50-100 pounds more than me and had at least 6 or 7 inches on me until my late teens. But two things came out of that. First off, I started winning some of those arguments. It was the only way I could get what I wanted. I learned to state my case, fight hard, and not be swayed by the fear of an argument. Second, when you stand up to someone like my brother when you’re 10 years old, nobody in your 5th grade class is going to intimidate you. I gained confidence, stood my ground whenever I was challenged, and I still take many of those lessons with me today. I never had problems with bullies, even when I was the short chubby kid growing up. I had this attitude as if to say “seriously, you’re going to mess with me? Have you seen my brother? I’ll take your punk ass out right now.”
So when I see Robyn stand up to Iris, I’m silently proud & relieved. Proud that this little girl won’t take crap from anyone. I’m also relieved to know that Iris can’t just get what she wants without a fight. When I thought there was a chance that we would have Iris is an only child, my big concern was the fact that she would be the first option for everything. Now, she’s forced to share and think of how to split things up. And when she attempts to unilaterally call the shots, she often has to go through thirty-five pounds of stubbornness. It’s can be a pain for me and a bigger pain for Cherise, but I know what this is going to mean for them 10 and 20 years out. At the end of the day, like so many of the other compromises we make, it lends itself to the ultimate goal.
That’s not to say that I’ve got some Tiger Mom scheme going on where I sacrifice the good of the family for the sake of building super kids that hate one another. I’m not looking to stick them in a ring with fights to the death (“two go in, but only one comes out!”). The skirmishes alternate with this incredibly adorable interaction where they’re completely on the same page and entertain each other in a way that frees up a lot of Cherise’s time and my time, just as my respect for my brother never wavered throw those knock-down drag-out arguments. In fact, I worshiped him even more and he set the bar for my intellect. My goal isn’t to create mortal enemies, but rather engage in the give-and-take that makes relationships stronger and provides life’s valuable lessons within the confines of our loving family. As I remind him when I talk to them individually, sisters are forever.