Sibling Rivalry and Caregiving
No matter how old you are, when you get together with your siblings, your five-year-old self shows up too. All of your old stuff is present and accounted for, as well. Remember those triggers that your big brother always managed to set off? Forget about the elephant in the room, those triggers are bigger.
So, what’s a caregiver to do? It’s a tricky balancing act. You have to manage your adult self and your five-year-old self while keeping in mind what’s best for your aging parents. That’s not always an easy task; however, it is doable.
Who’s in Charge?
Typically, there seems to always be one family member who steps up to the plate more than the others and is a natural choice for aging parents to live with. With the daily task of caring for an aging parent, it’s easy for the child to become the parent and vice versa. Moreover, it’s easy for that person who bears most of the burden, to take the position of leader.
I realized I had done this in my situation. There were choices to be made and even though mom and dad both lived with me and the bulk of the burden was on my shoulders, taking too much control wasn’t working.
When I stopped and listened to the points of views of my siblings and gave up control, I came to an important realization. Even though it’s my house my parents are living in, they were still my siblings parents, as well.
Being open to suggestions and trying different things works much better than being in control.
Re-write Your Stories
It’s so easy to revert back into old childhood stuff like trying to win the affection of a parent or believing that one is the favorite, the smart one, the in-charge one or whatever story you’d like to believe. However, you can rewrite a new story.
Rather than going back into the past, create new memories, tell new stories and keep the real issue at hand – what’s in the best interest of your parents. Wouldn’t they love to see their children all getting along and working as a team? Wouldn’t that make your heart sing when you get older?
As your parents age, you get a new opportunity, as siblings, to come together, to bond with one another and to show up as – oh my – grownups.
I’m Sorry we Fought
When you do fight – and you will – a simply “I’m sorry we fought” works wonders. It alleviates the he said/she said and gives you a new place to start; it’s a clean slate.
You’ll notice when you say this, your sibling will probably come back with something like, “Well you said this/did that.” Repeat your mantra and nip this in the bud. Don’t engage in being triggered or in laying blame. Ask them if they believe those kind of statements bring you closer together or if those kind of statements alienate you further. Let them know you don’t want to re-hash who said/did what; rather you want to move forward and are saddened by the fact you fought in the first place.
Remember one thing; it took years of triggers and plenty of memories from childhood past to get where you are today. It’s going to take time, patience and above all – the greatest of these – love; love for your siblings even though they trigger you and love for your aging parents. It’s a gift you’ll be glad you gave.