Sibling love? Not on your life
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London - Sunday’s National Sibling Day went uncelebrated in our home, not just because it feels like another one of those made up national days - like Ride To Work On A Zebra Day or Dress The Cat Like Your Favourite Teacher Day - but because there has been little to celebrate on the sibling front lately.
An escalating brother/sister war has been waged in every room of our house over the Easter break, making it feel like the longest school holiday ever.
Record levels have been reached on the irritation-ometer by the boy child, and the three sisters have devised increasingly unpleasant revenge plans to punish infringements of property ownership rules.
While social media was flooded with pictures of famous siblings in an array of bad outfits and haircuts, alongside captions declaring love and loyalty, I was more concerned about finding a body part in the bin. This is the dark side of family life, the bit they don’t tell you about, for no one argues with such sinister enthusiasm as siblings.
From ponytail-pulling to the torture of beloved toys, I’ve seen it all over this break. It’s been like starring in a soap, set in the rogue wing of a high-security prison. The disappearance of my nail scissors one morning was a serious cause for concern.
In fact, I’ve started to dress less like a working mom and more like a boxing referee, carrying around a wet sponge in case any blood needs wiping off the walls.
“Look at this happy picture of Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook as a child with his family,” I yell at the fearsome foursome on Sibling Day. “He, too, is one of four children. Look how peaceful they all are together, getting on with each other and smiling.
“He is now the richest, most powerful man in the world - so stop throwing socks with balls in them at each other.”
We had a brief amnesty at Sunday lunch, but then there was a fracas over who deserved the last roast potato. It led to the invention of a new word by my eldest after I ruled the smallest one, Mabel, should have it.
Mabel, who’s nearly five, is a notorious veggie-avoider who needs every morsel of fibrous food she can get. “It’s because you favouritise her,” the 13-year-old declared angrily.
I am actually surprised this word isn’t already in circulation among families of more than one child, it so appropriately describes how moms and dads apparently love one child the most.
Each one of mine went on to describe why they thought another was “favouritised”. According to number three, number one is the favourite because she gets first choice on the TV channel.
Number two, aged 12, thinks number three, aged nine, is favourite because he is the only boy and gets more cuddles than her (he initiates cuddles, whereas she recoils from them). And the eldest believes if there is a treat, Mabel gets it above everyone else.
Whatever place you are in birth order, you will believe another child is favourite until your dying day. I recall a friend telling me that at Christmas, when everyone goes home, her mom still insists no one is allowed in the bathroom until the younger brother has had the first (and hottest) shower.
“He’s still the favourite, even in our 30s,” she said. And indeed, this week, a survey of 384 families by the University of California found 74 percent of mothers and 70 percent of fathers confessed to secretly having a favourite child. It also discovered the eldest tends to think the youngest is favourite, and vice versa.
For the record, I don’t have a favourite. I am too busy making sure they reach the end of each day alive - with all their limbs intact and no unfortunate scars - to “favouritise” one. The children, of course, don’t believe this.
“It’s like being a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent,” my eldest explained in one of her lengthy teenage monologues. “We’re just performing every day to win your love and be the favourite. You’re Simon Cowell.”
Of all the parenting criticism I have received, that is the harshest. He is not even my favourite BGT judge.
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.