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the karma of siblings

2014 February 14
by Rachel Turiel


karma2Why is there a tent set up in our house? In our 800 sf house? Dan? Daaaaan?



Col: let’s throw paper airplanes at the spinning ceiling fan! Rose: yeah!

Yesterday, outside: Col on skateboard, Rose on scooter, me performing the Winter Olympic event of soaking up the low-slung sun. Rose ditches her scooter and somehow finagles the first two laps down the hill on Col’s skateboard. After her second run Rose steps off the long board and shouts from the bottom of the hill, full-sass, “Come and get your skateboard!”

I feel something hot and sharp catch in my sun-bathing throat, something like indignation and protest; something like the words: Hey, that’s not fair! I look up at Col, who’s already walking down the hill to retrieve his skateboard, whistling a cheery February tune.

I swallow and say nothing.

This is not my protest in which to hoist the banner of my opinion. There is no one to protect, no one to scold. Col and Rose have their own karma.

Karma, (as defined by and wikipedia), refers to the principle of causality where our intent and actions influence our future. Karma is the result of our own past actions and our own present doings. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. 

Sibling relationships are a wild and mysterious thing. Something deep and old and unknowable is working itself out while it looks like Col and Rose are simply arguing over who got the best toy at the dentist.

My squirrely little mind wants to control, fix and steer. It wants to wave my red flag when I hear Rose commission Col to build her a lego computer for $3 (3 weeks allowance!), and then again the next day, when she demands a full refund. But who am I to say what’s best, right or helpful? They get to snap the pieces of their relationship puzzle together. If the pieces don’t fit, they can rotate or reconfigure them, sand them down, trade them out. Meanwhile, I swallow a wad of my own judgment and wish them peace.

Filing Col and Rose’s relationship under sibling karma is not a lazy way of checking out of my parenting duties. It does not mean that I don’t lead by example, or step in when the finger-claws come out. Rather, this allows them to engineer (and continually re-engineer) the terms of their relationship. Rose will come to kindness and generosity without me waving the Book of Morality in her face. Col will stand up for himself without the bodyguard of his Mama rushing in to protect him.

In fact, there may be nothing to protect. As an anonymous person said, I don’t have to attend every argument to which I’m invited. If Col even got the invite to attend a power struggle at the base of Skateboard Hill, it appeared he tossed it in favor of sailing down the asphalt. Maybe choosing not to be offended offers the reward of rewiring neural circuits, overlaying tired pathways that insist It’s All About Me. Maybe there was no choice, no victim, just a boy retrieving his skateboard.

These kids, and yours too, bring their whole complicated deep selves to every interaction. I get uncomfortable, dogmatic and righteous while their arguments crest and then wash out on grudge-free shores. Often, the best pep-talk I can give is to myself, to stand by quietly and trust them to work out their own tangled, mysterious and beautiful karma.

ps: Happiest of Valentines Day to you all. Thank you for coming back to this place again and again.

pps: And of course, only children have their own karma, too.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Mollie permalink
    February 14, 2014

    Right on.

  2. Edward Oak permalink
    February 14, 2014

    “Something deep and old and unknowable is working itself out,” My favourite definition of Karma that I’ve heard so far. Thanks, Rachel.

  3. Andrea permalink
    February 14, 2014

    Awesome. Boy child is the only child. Not planned, and I have overwhelming grief for him because of it.

    But what you are saying, about letting them define it for themselves. Handy advice for all relationships, not just siblings. Like when my two best friends can’t get along. Or when I over hear hubby getting short with the oil change guy. I cringe, and then remind myself I am not the behavior police.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      February 14, 2014

      “I am not the behavior police”
      Way to break it down.

  4. Becky permalink
    February 14, 2014

    good advice for all of us

  5. Jessica permalink
    February 14, 2014

    Will you ask Rose if I can borrow those pink knee socks? They’re awesome! : )
    And, your cat always has the most contented look in every picture she appears.

    Happy Valentine’s Day to you and thanks for making this a place that I want to come back to.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      February 16, 2014

      Of course you can borrow them, however, you might start hearing the 80’s play on repeat in your head.

  6. February 14, 2014

    What a powerful post! I LOVE it! It resonates so much with me. I need to be reminded of this again and again… I notice more and more how my twins especially have that agreement, that very unique karma. One of them will let so much slip, I want to protest, but it is their agreement, their constellation and I am opting out more and more. Thank you for this! I love reading you.

  7. February 17, 2014

    works great in school and after school settings as well. :)

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