Battling Sibling Rivalry One Sister Day at a Time

Sisters' Day | Paper Doll Tales

My hair is an electrocuted halo.  I screech like a teenage demon who has pounded three too many  knock-you-flat cocktails of hormones-social life disaster-sibling rivalry.

The instigating problem is the Little Sister.  And the empty bottle of Pantene conditioner.  I am certain she has pilfered every last squeeze of MY Pantene conditioner for HER hair.

The ensuing problems are as follows: her ninth-grade social life is infinitely less important than my eleventh-grade social standards that must, under penalty of social death, be maintained…her hair looks great–smooth, shiny, untangled and worthy of a commercial hair toss–while my hair looks like…

Sibling Rivalry | Paper Doll Tales

…the school bus will arrive to subject me to social inspection in 10 minutes or 2 minutes or whatever comes disastrously first…and finally, PANTENE people!  Anyone who has ever been a teenage girl in the 1990s understands that Pantene, along with Birkenstocks, choker necklaces, and a Tori Amos anthem is absolutely essential, no substitutions accepted, to surviving a day with any shred of social credibility.

And my sister, my darling Little Sister, I am convinced, has ruined my life by using my Pantene conditioner without asking.

To this day, she claims she did not steal my Pantene conditioner.  To this day, I’m convinced the judge (read: mother and sibling arbiter) read the conviction wrong.  Guilty.  Definitely guilty.

Here’s the most amazing part of this story that I know has you weeping and twisted with sympathy for teenage me: We lived Happily Ever After.

No really.

Happily Ever After.

Not in the Prince and wedding bells sort of way but in the Elsa and Anna at the end of Frozen sort of way.

Sisters' Day | Paper Doll Tales

We came through the hitting-scratching-“Moooooommmmmm-she’s-looking-at-me-funny”-clothes-borrowing-Pantene-stealing-battles with a deep-seated camaraderie and respect.  These days we actually choose to vacation together, babysit each other’s kids, share clothes nicely, and can swear hand-to-God we haven’t touched each other’s beauty products without asking first for years.  (In fact, she’s recently recommended a non-Pantene conditioner that I’m just dying to try, because turns out little sisters actually know a thing or two worth knowing!)

Once upon a time, I witnessed my two daughters performing some sort of elaborate crane-dancing ritual that involved a lot of hand flapping and arm windmilling.  My detached brain watched for a moment’s breath before it dawned on me–this was NOT love.  This was Pantene Wars!  I didn’t recognize it at first without the conditioner bottle held squarely between them, but it was a girl fight, no question about it.

Sisters' Day | Paper Doll Tales

They’re 5 and 2 years old.  Sometimes they love one another, insisting on hugs and kisses before bedtime and trading back and forth beloved stuffed animals and drawing scribbles holding hands labeled “Me” and “You.”  Many other unfortunate times they’re whaling on each other like crazed whooping cranes.

Caution: Parenting sibling rivalry may result in parental ulcers.

Daily I feel entangled in a battle I can barely hope to mediate, let alone win for either side.  I dread that razor-edge moment when the sweet voices shift to screech owls.  Is there a way to guide sisterly steps on a path of sisterly love?  I’m hunting down the parenting book that will illuminate that path and administer a dose of Pepto Bismol to boot.  Can’t someone guarantee that my daughters’ story will write like my sisters’ story?  That we’ll contain the collateral damage of growing up with a sister and boost the chances of growing into sister-best-friends?

Sisters Day | Paper Doll Tales

In an effort to exert some influence over Little Friend and Little One’s relationship, we celebrated National Sisters’ Day this year.  It involved thinly veiled bribery of milkshakes and a trip to the Dollar store to buy presents for one another and an outing to the local splash pad.

Sisters Day is about celebrating the sweet, selfless parts of having a sister.  It’s about sweet treats, and presents, and outings that remind us that life is better with a sister by our side.  When Sibling Rivalry attempts to show her ugly, tenacious head on this most holy of sister days, she gets immediately squashed and herded back into a corner until tomorrow.

Sisters are a constant reflection of who we are–our family, our similarities, our shared pasts–and who we aren’t–we look alike but we’re not, we sound alike but don’t, we share personality traits but have our own unique mix, we choose different paths through life.  Until we really settle into knowing who we are, sisters are a reminder of the difficult parts we can’t control about who we are not.  No wonder we’re constantly swinging between love and hate as we grow up and grow into ourselves together but separate.

Sisters' Day | Paper Doll Tales

I can’t remove the Pantene Wars from my daughters’ lives.  But I can grease the wheels of their relationship with ice cream and memories of smiles, giggles, hugs, and Dollar Store treasures.  I can help them lay a foundation of love, that most enduring gift of family, under the layers of struggle.  And then I must step back, take a slug of Pepto Bismol, and wonder–for the next 18 years while I watch them girl fight over seemingly everything–will it work?

If I’ve learned one thing in life it’s that nothing works as well as Pantene conditioner.

Strike that.  I meant to write that princes, kingdoms, fancy gowns, and hair products come and go.  Sisters show up.  Sisters don’t leave.  Some day that will be a good thing.  Love melts even the most frozen heart.

May these girls live happily, sisterly ever after, too.

Sister Day will be coming back around on August 2, 2015, although I’m of the mind to squeeze it in wherever it works best on the family calendar.  To enjoy one of our favorite Sister treats, check out The Milkshake Factory in Pittsburgh.  One shake and two straws is a perfect equation for Sibling Day!  If your hair needs an upgrade from Pantene, I have it on the best sisterly authority that Bathvs has the products to try.

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  1. It is proably no mistake that the chairs in the last picture look like angel wings on the girls.

    September 26, 2014
  2. Nancy Taylor said:

    They do look like angels.

    September 26, 2014
  3. Jo Schoeneck said:

    Wow. Beautiful. Yes, our family is forever defined by Pantene Conditioner! I have to tell you, the only time I wasn’t weeping was the picture of the cat. And I laughed so hard! That looks EXACTLY like Emil two days ago, being washed after his cat litter debacle!!!

    September 26, 2014
  4. Kami said:

    Beautiful words and beautiful picture of your girls!

    September 27, 2014

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