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Trying to Keep My Daughters from Killing Each Other

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Kate Meyers: My daughters have a serious love/hate thing going on. I had three brothers, so I don't really understand it -- and at first, it drove me mad.
I mean, seriously: I had two children because I wanted them to have each other. Annie, my oldest, never quite got over her sister Emmy's arrival. During one long-distance phone call, she confided to my mom, "Grandma, I thought they were the 'terrible twos,' but she's four and she's still terrible." (Of course, though Annie is loathe to acknowledge it, her little sister is the first person she wants to console her when friends or parents let her down.)   

They are the constant in each other's lives. They have been moving back and forth from their dad's house to mine since the ages of 6 and 9. They are with each other more than they're with either one of us. We, of course, see more of the nasty stuff -- the slapping, hairbrush-throwing cat fights; the "I-can't-believe-you-borrowed-this-without-asking" and "Stay-out-of-my room" screaming. I don't let it get to me anymore. Now, I either say, "I refuse to be a referee" or (if I'm in a humorous mood), "Why don't you two go fight until there's one man standing, and I'll hang out with the winner?" (Of course, they never take me up on that one, but my disengagement sucks the joy right out of their battle.)

Last summer while they were both at sleep-away camp, Annie wrote my best friend (also named Kate) the following: "Dear Aunt Kate, don't tell my mom, but Emmy and I are best friends at camp." This year after camp, Annie's counselor wrote this in her letter to me: "It was so adorable to see Annie and Emmy reunited after Annie's kayak trip. Annie is a great big sister and it melts our hearts to see the two of them together." 

Meanwhile, I gird my loins for the daily infighting and try to soothe my soul with the motherly knowledge that as soon as they leave my field of vision, love rules.

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