Sunday, 30 September 2012

Friends for Life

Relationships seem to be the lens that I am looking at the world through at the moment. So I am going to continue the theme and share with you my thoughts about siblings.

A few months ago I found myself saying to Orlando "you need to learn how to be Matilda's friend. She is the friend that you will always have, she doesn't go away..." this got me thinking about the importance of siblings.

As young children, we originally don't really care who we play with. Our play is mostly solitary or parallel.

 We then learn to develop friendships, but we often change our friendships as often as we change our underwear! It all depends on who is playing the game you want to play or explore what you want to be exploring.

As we grow, many of us find a special or "best" friend, or three, whom we play with most of the time. There are rules to games that are revisited over and over again. Everyone takes on roles within the relationship and we all play these roles. These friendships are strong, but not often strong enough to withstand some one moving, changing school etc.

High School is often the time that we start to develop friendships that last. I know I as an adult still have friends I met at high school.

Long term relationships/friendships take a lot of work! You need to learn how to:
- listen to each other
- know and celebrate each others differences
- support each other
- protect each other
- share the leadership role
- negotiate on decisions
- respect each others decisions
- be empathic of each other
- respect each others right to make their own decisions

Through  my observations, it seems that the person you get to learn all of this from and get to experiment with is your sibling!!!!

They are one of the first people who you have (that isn't an adult) to work all of this out with. They are going to be in your life for a long time and it is important to work on this relationship right from the beginning!!

I think this is part of the importance of sibling rivalry. We are fine tuning the relationship tools we are going to use for the rest of our lives and our poor sibling are our experimental puppies!! This obviously works  two ways. The older sibling is the one to try most of it on first, as they are hopefully at a more advanced level of social development.

To begin with they get to learn about what power feels like and what it is like to control others and to be the boss. When this goes too far or goes wrong, they learn about the boundaries of bossiness. How to look after a care for a younger sibling and how to fix a problem when you go too far.

From a younger siblings perspective, they get bossed around a lot. From this they learn how to say... "no, that's not ok with me" they become more assertive and learn to stand up for them selves. They learn how to express them selves in a way that means they can be heard over their older sibling.

As the younger sibling becomes more vocal and assertive, the older sibling receives a new set of skills. How to listen, take others thoughts and wishes into consideration. How to negotiate how a game is going to go. If you don't, then you're likely going to be left with no one to play with!

The younger sibling then learns what it feels like to be listened to and have power. They then need to learn how to use this power for good, not evil or all hell breaks loose. To sustain a friend to play with this power play needs to be kept in check, from both parties.

This, I think, is the underlying understanding of the whole process. Our sibling is the person with whom we learn about power, and the effects our use of power has on a relationship. I know this is where the main fights and atrocities happened between my sister and I. This is also the main area of conflict between my two 'angels'.

This is all only able to develop in a positive manner though support. Kids and siblings need to be able to work things out for them selves.... Yes, BUT, they also need the support of a more competent 'relationship-er' to assist them with the skills that they need. To be the reflective party, the new ideas person, the mediator.

Through supporting our kids to have a wonderful relationship with their sibling/s, I hope we are empowering them with the skills they need to have many rich, satisfying and rewarding relationships through out their lives.

During our time away, we have had ample opportunities to assist the kids with this process. In 5 intensive weeks, we have seen such an amazing difference in the way they work together. There are no other kids to play with, no other friends to get that playing satisfaction with. If you want to play with other kids then your sibling is the only choice you have... This is great motivation to make the relationship work.

Orlando and Matilda have developed a wonderful friendship. The fighting is to a minimum and usually when everyone is tired and skills fly out the window. Other wise they spend all day immersed deep in imaginative play. Such adventures they have! We often have to search to find where they have got to, together they feel safe and secure and so often travel a little too far. Often we look for them and find them in the grass, having a cuddle and chatting about some idea or another. Makes my heart sing :)

I hope that this intense experience and having us around as referees when they have needed it, will support them to continue this wonderful relationship when they get home and hopefully for many years to come!

POST NOTE: I wrote this a few weeks ago but haven't had internet to post it and wanted to add a little Tilly quote: Orlando had found a little boy to play with at camp and was wonderfully immersed. Tilly was wondering aimlessly calling "Orlando! Orlando! Where's my Orlando!" I had a chat with her about where he was and she said "But I love my Orlando and I need him back.... Orlando! I need my Orlando!"

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