The Rockwood Files: Sibling Rivalry Turns Civilized

By Gwen Rockwood, syndicated columnist and mother of 3

Sometimes when I get up in the morning, I wonder if, instead of the usual jeans and t-shirt “mom uniform” I put on to make breakfast, it should be a black and white striped referee shirt. Because on some days, as soon as the first cup of juice is poured, the arguments begin. When there are three siblings – ages 7, 4, and 2 crowding around the table – there’s always some bickering to contend with. There are times I find myself yelling “Do not sit on your brother’s head!” way too often in the course of a week.

But lately I’ve noticed a change – an encouraging one. Sure, there are still a few knock-down-drag-out fights to break up now and then. But more and more often, the kids are not only avoiding a fight, they’re playing together – real, honest-to-goodness sibling interaction punctuated by giggles, laughter and the phrase “Wanna play again?”

It’s music to a mother’s ears, to see that the kids she loves so much are beginning to show signs of loving each other, too. The day goes along smoother now that they’re mature enough to work things out on their own – negotiate, compromise and even comfort one another.

As I write these words on a Tuesday morning, my 4 and 2-year-olds are playing peacefully in the floor together and I’m working and glancing over at the round-the-clock television coverage of the inauguration in Washington, D.C. It seems our house is not the only place where cooperation is the theme of the day. For the first time in a long while, it feels like people in the nation’s capital – and people all over the country – are realizing we’re all on the same team. Despite the inevitable disagreements over how to do things, people seem to be coming home to the idea that we’re all in this thing together.

It’s amazing, really. The change of power that is so often violent and bloody in some countries is completely different in our own. Not only is it civil, it’s also grand, reverent and downright cordial. It seems to set the tone for how we hope the next four years will go.

But experience and reality tell us there will most certainly be some fights – like the one popping up right now between my preschooler and toddler. (They both want the same Kung Fu Panda book, and things are starting to get a little ugly.) Disagreements aren’t all bad, though. Families and this country are defined, in part, by our ability to have vigorous debates and yet still work together for the common good.

Perhaps part of our President’s job is to be the parental figure in the midst of brothers and sisters squabbling about what they want – to be the calm, steady voice that says “Enough! Go find a way to work things out.” When passions run high about the myriad of national and global issues we face, we need someone full of conviction and compassion who can see past the arguments to the progress waiting on the other side. Someone who’s less interested in backing a certain side or group of people and more interested in the well-being of the family as a whole. I sure hope President Obama is that person. We need that right now. And I pray that the legislators, leaders and citizens around him will stay in the spirit of maturity, cooperation and hope that permeates Inauguration Day.

Here’s to the next four years – to high hopes that my family and yours live in health and harmony and that this nation of ours finds its way back to better days. Godspeed.

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