Life Issues: Sibling Shenanigans


If you were to ask me to describe the school holidays just gone in two words, I’d say Sibling Shenanigans.

With three boys aged 9, 7 and 4, there are always shenanigans.

It’s a given.

That said, with all boys, I’ve always been grateful that they have a lot in common and generally like to play with each other.

But, in between all the noise, wrestling on the trampoline and hours spent in each other’s bedrooms playing Lego, there’s plenty of biffo.

Increasing amounts in fact.

And frankly, I’m finding it all a bit exhausting.

They are best friends one minute, sharing party lolly bags with each other and pining for each other in the other’s absence.

Then five minutes later, someone’s screaming blue murder. (Although sometimes the person screaming is me as I intervene just before an arm gets broken on the trampoline. Hashtag stressful).

Even when they are watching TV, a supposedly relaxing pastime for both parent and child, it’s on for young and, well, younger.

Trying to choose a movie or a TV channel? It’s Armageddon.

And don’t get me started on the car shenanigans. I’m amazed every single time I arrive safely at a destination and marvel that I can actually operate machinery despite overwhelming sensory conditions.

But I’ve also begun to notice more subtle dynamics – competition between them for each other’s attention; shifting allegiances and occasional exclusion; and the impact of their ages on their interests and tolerance for each other.

With a twenty three month gap between my eldest two and a three year gap between the middle and the youngest, there’s a clear divide age wise. The older two are often inseparable, have similar interests and can’t really recall life without the other.

Meanwhile, my youngest idolises his eldest brother but seems to have more in common at this stage with his middle brother. They both compete for the eldest’s attention though, bringing them in to regular conflict.

Did I mention regular conflict?


Perhaps it’s that age old dynamic of three: someone is often left out. My parenting journey lately sometimes feels like an exploration of the pleasures and pitfalls of odd numbered offspring.

Or is it a boy thing?

Or a normal sibling dynamic?

Conversations with friends have revealed many similar frustrations. School holidays really shine a spotlight on how well your kids get along.

It has me scratching my head, tearing out my hair and debriefing endlessly to girlfriends:

Why can’t they just GET ALONG?

What IS IT with siblings?

Is it going to get easier or, heaven forbid, WORSE?

But truth be told, siblings have always fascinated me.

I love hearing about people’s siblings and watching siblings together.

I marvel at the differences between them and look for the similarities. I see in them the different variations of their parents’ physicality and personalities and wonder at the endless possibilities and combinations.

I wonder why some sibs get along while others don’t.

I also wonder if there is a key – something their parents did or omitted to do – and I think about the impact parents have on the quality of their children’s relationships with each other.

Or whether it’s mostly about personalities and age differences. I know I’ve observed some really lovely, close sibling relationships where there’s a significant age gap.


Thinking about all of this also makes me reflect on my own experience of sibs and the impact my siblings have had on me and my parenting.

I’m the middle of three, with an older sister and a younger brother, all born within 4 and a half years of each other. It must have been crazy town but my Mum always tells me how much she loved it and how easy we were. I wish I could say the same about my own experience. Maybe I will in another thirty years. I’m not sure.

Anyhoo, I think for me, having a brother prepared me for sons on some levels but not on others.

From my experience (and I’d love to hear yours) the dynamics of one brother with two sisters, particularly in a girl – girl – boy family, is completely different to having two or more boys in a family.

My brother was a placid, compliant, affectionate little dude although he was the most annoying person on my planet for a while there. I expected my boys would be the same – placid, easy, happy to stay close.

But they’ve been completely different although there is a physical resemblance between my brother and my eldest son. My youngest son perhaps bears the most resemblance to him in personality.

And yet, having a brother has always filled me with confidence with my own boys. Maybe that’s because I like my brother, and as a result, I’ve always liked boys and felt comfortable around them.

Looking back it wasn’t always smooth sailing always though – my brother was constantly excluded, especially when my sister and I were playing Barbies. I still laugh about how my Mum bought my brother a Ken and a Gene Simmons doll in an attempt to encourage us to let him to join in – desperate measures circa 1982!

So yes, I’ve been thinking about my children as siblings a lot lately.

I want them to be friends with each other and to treat each other with respect and kindness – if not now, then hopefully sometime before they are adults. In the meantime, as I parent, I’m trying to nurture their friendships with each other without interfering too much.

So I’d love to hear from you. What’s your take on siblings? Has your experience (with or without sibs) impacted your parenting of your kids? Does the whole sibling thing make your head or heart hurt?