Responding to my preschool daughter’s request, I began singing the days of the week song that I knew. I was shocked when she stopped me by insisting that I was singing it wrong.
The realization that my daughter knew words to a song I had never heard floored me. My 4-year-old daughter had a life outside of our time together, and she was learning things from people besides me. It was a difficult concept for me to accept as a young mother but one that I have come to appreciate and marvel over in the ensuing years.
Today, I experience the same wonder when I watch my daughter and her brother interact. They share a personal relationship that exists separate from their shared connection to me. Observing them, I am not surprised that sibling relationships remain mysterious and complex for researchers. Siblings can have a varied impact on one another, depending on other factors, such as birth order, age, gender and parenting style.
In our house, my husband and I encourage cooperation while recognizing our children’s unique strengths and need for independence and privacy. My daughter, the oldest child, plays teacher to her brother, but he also pushes and challenges her with his own creativity, enthusiasm and courage. Their rivalries, disagreements, adventures and their bond is a testing ground and the foundation for other significant relationships to come.
They have lives and memories beyond me. Unsettling as it is for a mother to accept that her children are outgrowing her, it is also reassuring to see them practicing skills they learned at home.