Love That Kills: On Sibling Rivalries

Rosa Martínez

Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes.

HAVANA TIMES — “Some love kills, some love hurts.” So go the lyrics of a song that is very popular in Cuba, and they happen to be very true.

The love that exists among siblings is a great example of how two people who love each other can also hurt each other deeply.

When two siblings fight or go at each other over simple things, like a colored pencil, a TV channel, a pack of cookies or a parent’s hug, though we know they love each other very much, we parents ask ourselves why such things happen.

I have not been spared those endless sibling rivalries – I wasn’t spared them with my own siblings, even though I was the only girl in the family, and I haven’t been spared them with my two little girls.

Whenever I threw a stick at my younger brother, pushed him around or laughed at his misfortunes, I had no idea I would be forging an eternal bond with one of the people I love most. This is probably the case with my little girls, who don’t know that fighting over who goes to the bathroom first or the biggest doll, or yanking each other’s hairs over school materials, is common among siblings who have been raised together, have eaten the same goods, visited the same places, gone to the same parties and laughed and cried over the same stories.

Tania, the older one, is concerned that they fight so much. “Could it be we don’t love each other?” she once asked me after a huge altercation over a velocipede that actually belonged to the neighbor.

“Of course not,” I said. “Don’t you love your sister?” I asked her.

“Of course I love her,” she replied. “But she’s always bothering me and wants everything she sees, she bothers me too much.”

“Younger siblings are like that, the same thing happened to me with your uncle Raul. He would spend the entire day bugging me and then would complain that it was me who was bothering him. You have no idea how many times I was scolded because of him. But you’re too hard on your little sister, and you don’t realize she’s too young to think things through like you can, no matter how smart she may be.”

“But she doesn’t love me, she tells on me so that you’ll punish me,” she said.

“No, she tells on you because she’s upset with you, and she does it out of revenge. But, sooner rather than later, she’s going to learn that you love, help and pamper siblings, and that you never betray them, no matter what.”