The time we are living in right now is unprecedented. It’s a time I never knew I’d see, a phase I couldn’t have ever fathomed, a situation that had you told me about it a year ago (heck, two months ago) I would have laughed in your face. And that situation is…despite a world in disarray, my kids are getting along incredibly well!
Now hold up, I saw you roll your eyes and could hear your inner thoughts. This isn’t a piece about my “perfect children”—they are far from that. At this very moment, they are in the backyard screaming at each other over a hula hoop. This piece is about how in front of my very own eyes I’m witnessing a relationship deepen and flourish like I never believed it could at their young ages. Somewhere between the quarrels and giggles, disagreements and conversation, I’m seeing these kiddos truly building a strong relationship with each other, and I’ve heard of this same phenomenon being witnessed amongst other friends with their children, too. Our children’s siblings have become their only playmates, and in many households, something pretty magical is happening.
I have three children: my daughter is nine, my son is seven, and my youngest daughter is three. It’s not uncommon over breaks from school that my oldest two will ask if they can have a sibling slumber party. Sometimes, it’s in the living room by a lit Christmas tree; others, it’s in a tent set up in one of their rooms. Every time they do this, I always love to listen in on their late-night chatter, laughing, and whispering. A couple of days into “Spring Break” (it warrants quotation marks, don’t you think?) they asked if they could have sleepovers the rest of the days off before school started again. That was a big request that I didn’t know if I could deliver on. They weren’t fully aware of what was heading down the pipeline, but my husband and I were beginning to see the writing on the wall. But we agreed to the sleepovers. Within 24 hours, school was canceled for the rest of the year.
So, the sleepovers began and have continued every single night for however many days it’s been. We thought about ending them after a couple of weeks, but seeing how these sleepovers have been very therapeutic for them, we just couldn’t. When they are in their bedroom, there is no fighting, only conversation.
Throughout this extended sleepover, I’ve heard them discuss some of their concerns over what is going on and I’ve heard them comfort each other’s fears. And I know for a fact that they have been sharing some “sworn to secrecy sibling secrets” that neither my husband nor I am privy to. They’ve whipped together plans, working hard to convince us that if they can take good care of a stuffed animal husky named Lucky while quarantined, then they will be completely prepared for a real-life dog as a pet (that’s not happening).
As I thought about what was unfolding in my home, I began reading up on the science of siblings. Over the years, science has shown that our siblings greatly shape the people we become. According to a Penn State University study, “by the time children are 11, they devote about 33% of their free time to their siblings—more time than they spend with friends, parents, teachers or even by themselves.” Thirty-three percent. That statistic seems almost laughable now, given our current situation, doesn’t it?! So imagine now the influence siblings are having on each other’s growth and development since they began spending such concentrated time with each other during this pandemic. Beyond influence, they are growing in their conflict resolution skills with each other and walking side-by-side through some pretty scary times.
As an experiment for myself, and selfishly so I can have a little time capsule history of my babies during this crazy time, I decided to sit my oldest two down and ask them some interview-style questions about their pre-quarantine relationship and where it stands as of now. I opened up Voice Memos on my phone and recorded our conversations and was elated to hear them confirm the same feelings about each other that I thought I was witnessing.
I asked them if they felt their relationship had changed since this all started and they both said that it had changed for the better.
- My daughter Lucy said about Quinn, “He’s always giving me a good laugh. Whenever he or I am feeling down, we’re always together and helping each other out.”
- And when I asked my son if he considered Lucy one of his best friends, he responded with, “More!”
- And in a message from Lucy to Quinn for him to hear in thirty years, Lucy said, “I just want to say thank you for sticking around with me through this hard time.”
Cue this momma’s tears.
I don’t know what our post-quarantine life will look like, but my prayers are that my kiddos come out of this stronger than before, better than before, and with a deeper friendship and love for their siblings that will carry them through the rest of their lives.