The importance of encouraging a sisterly bond


Two-year-old Lily is at a very possessive stage.

Everything is hers.

“Hi Dad, this is my mom,” she tells Brad, pointing to me.

“Hi Mom, this is my fluffy De-way-we,” she tells me, hugging the cat.

“Hi Georgia, this is my pretty dress,” she tells the neighbor, twirling in her favorite purple dress, replete with glittering tulle.

According to Lily, if it’s in sight and something that looks the slightest bit interesting, then it must be hers. Even if she doesn’t know what it is.

“No! That’s my this!” she yells at me, grabbing the lint roller.

(I feel as if claiming ownership of an object she can’t even identify by name might be the defining moment of being human, at 2.

Meanwhile, Jovie is at a very curious stage.


She crawls around the house, stopping to examine everything from toys to pet water bowls to carpet fibers (and, of course, at her age nothing is truly evaluated until it’s gone through an oral inspection as well — which means I’m constantly fishing out sopping pieces of lint or dirt from her mouth).

Lily, left, and Jovie are caught in a rare moment of sisterly affection (submitted photo).

She pulls herself up on the couch and reaches for whatever is close — the remote, my phone, Lily’s foot.

“No Jovie! No! That’s my foot!” indignant Lily yells (this claim at least justified).

The timing of these stages is unfortunate. It means that during their waking hours, interaction between the two plays in a frustrating loop:

Jovie crawls toward Lily.

Lily kicks at her, “No! Jovie! No!”

I intervene, scooping up Jovie. “Lily, don’t kick your sister.”

I put Jovie down, redirecting her attention away from Lily.

Jovie picks up an object.

“No!! That’s my (insert name of object Jovie just picked up — today it was one of Jovie’s socks)!” Lily yells, grabbing said object from Jovie.

“Lily, don’t take things from your sister. You weren’t even playing with that.”

“That’s mine!” she insists.

Jovie, unfazed, crawls to the next thing.

“No!! Jovie!!”

You get the picture.

Some days it’s hard to see them ever being friends.

When I found out I was having another girl, I was thrilled that Lily was going to have a sister. I’m the youngest of four sisters, so I know the unique and irreplaceable bonds that can form between two people who are both friends and siblings.

At the same time, I understand the competition that can exist between sisters — especially ones so close in age. Lily and Jovie are 19 months apart. My sister Sarah and I are 14 months apart.

I idolized Sarah as child. Everything she wanted to do, I wanted to do, too. But she was more daring, creative and cooler than me. I was never brave enough to attempt the stunts she tried on her bike or visionary enough to build the Barbie dream houses she did out of old cardboard boxes.

And despite always being on the receiving end of her hand-me-downs, I was never as fashionable as she was either (my minor obsession with overalls through high school didn’t help matters any).

We were inseparable until we hit middle school, when new interests and new friends set us different paths.

But we found each other again in our 20s, and now that we’re both moms, we’re back to being best friends.

It might be silly given how young they both are, but I’m impatient to see my girls have the same sort of relationship I have with my sisters. Maybe that’s just because I want a little time off from playing referee.

But I guess — as it goes with all parenting-related matters — I just need to give it time.

At this point I know where Jovie stands. Despite the fact that her big sister is a bit of a megalomaniac, anytime Lily pays Jovie the slightest bit of attention, she gets a huge grin on her face and squeals with delight.

With Lily, it’s a bit more hit or miss.

Every time she pushes Jovie down from standing in front of the TV, I have to remind myself about how she loves to make Jovie giggle when the baby’s crawling through their play tunnel.

When she tosses an unwanted toy at Jovie’s head, I have to remember the day she sat down and showed Jovie how to do “Patty Cake.”

There are the times she insists on feeding Jovie — smearing the excess from the overloaded spoon on to her sister’s face in an attempt to clean it off. Or the nights she stands in the doorway to their bedroom and sings a lullaby along with me as I put Jovie to bed.

Finally, the other night during the girls’ bath time, Lily said the words I’d been longing to hear.

“This is my best friend Jovie,” she said, wrapping her arms around her little sister in a big slippery hug.

There’s hope yet, I thought.

Then Lily shoved Jovie to the back of the tub.

“This is my bubble bath!”

Baby steps, I reminded myself.


Susan Jennings is mom to Lily, 2; Jovie, 9 months; Snacks the dog; and Bart, Peanut Butter and Delaney the cats. She is also wife to Brad the human. Read her blog at www.myinsidevoices.com.

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