The need for siblings to fight is as primal as their love for one another; they are hard wired for both. As Sarah explained to me recently, "Mom, Gabriel and I love each other very much, but we're just at that stage where we don't get along that well."
Siblings are rivals for their parents' affections, always trying to best each other in our eyes. While sibling rivalry is a fact of life, so is the fact that it takes two to fight.
Most of the time I can't be bothered to pay attention to what my children are fighting about. The particulars are generally unimportant; I just need to put a stop to it (otherwise known as, get them to shut the fuck up.) But it is easy to take the bait when negotiating these conflicts, in other words, to forget that both parties are usually at fault.
Recently, Sarah and Gabriel were fighting about something or another. Sarah had pushed Gabriel on the stairs, and I was about to yell at her for doing something so dangerous, when I realized that Gabriel, in true little brother fashion, had likely provoked her. If I had reamed Sarah out, it would have been a major score for Gabriel, and believe me, our kids are keeping track of these things.
So I stopped myself, and in my best STERN MOMMY VOICE told them that I suspected they both had a hand in this, and they needed to work it out. As I walked away, this is what I heard:
Gabriel said, "I'm sorry that I teased you, Sarah."
Sarah then explained to her brother, "Gabriel, I'm sorry I pushed you on the stairs. I need to work on my anger management."