THE EMPATHY OF SISTERHOOD
Over two bowls of oatmeal, an argument erupted between two sisters. Insecurity had settled in and the early morning wake up call did not assist the sisters in thinking rationally.
“I know one thing… you are NOT cute.” said one sister cautiously, her eyes glancing sideways towards her mother. “Really?” – said the other sister, clearly hurt. “I don’t believe that.”
Thirty seconds of silence beckoned for a sentence of apology. “Neither do I. But I am SO angry with you. We are NOT going to speak for the rest of this day.” The determination was made.
“That is MINE! GIVE IT BACK!” shouted one sister. “NO WAY! You don’t even play with it anymore. Mom says we MUST share our things! Don’t you want to be a share-er?” said the other sister with hopefulness in her question.
Who knew a doll, who was at the bottom of the toy chest and had been forgotten for months, could create such havoc and loud-misery for two, little souls?
As an only child, I entered the parenting arena a bit ignorant on mothering sibling relationships. The depth and dimensions of sisterhood ebbs and flows in its' complexity. One sibling holds the fishing pole with a big, juicy worm of hurt and nasty words, while the other sibling, as if on cue, chomps down on that hook. The wrestling match of words, sideways glances, and very loud volume begins.
My girls also have this love for one another that takes the breath from my lungs. In between the moments of frustration, they love each other so hard with no-strings-attached. They know, even in the midst of not-knowing, that they are a permanent in each others lives.
One moment, best friends: I-will-fight-for-you-to-the-end-of-life.
Next moment, complete enemies: I-will-fight-with-you-for-the-rest-of-my-life.
I spend my days pondering ways to help keep the peace. I have behavior charts where they can earn sticker after sticker for not arguing. I have dusty knees from begging God for wisdom and discernment.
And lets just be honest…I have, on occasions, a hoarse voice from “stop the madness” moments. I mean, there are only so many times a mama can remind her cherub-like-loves to “STOP ARGUING!” and also keep her own junk together.
Arguments over pony-tail holders, who gets the ‘good’ seat in the car, whose turn it is to pick the song, who will have their hair done first, who may help set the table, who will take the first shower… because, "I CALLED IT!" certainly must secure your spot at all of these tasks.
Every moment, every detail, every situation has the potential for a random act of arguing. I didn’t have this understanding as a child. I had no one to argue with, fight with, or race to the ‘good seat’ with. I had no idea this complexity in life existed.
We only kids are a bit brat-ish like that. (I can say that, I am one)
In the middle of the sibling arguments, I whisper up prayers of "Help!" and "Give me words to navigate this". All of those prayers and pleas boil down to one hope. One wish. One desire.
I so want my little loves to have empathy for one another and see each other for who they have been created to be…incredible image carriers of God. I know this is a vast-reaching and complex understanding for a child. Yet, it is also so simple.
Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy declares someone valuable, worthy, and loved. Weapon Words (as we call them in our home) declare others less-than and prove I’m all about me. I want more than that for a sisterhood I am trying to help cultivate in the soil of their childhood.
My hope is for my children to know they matter and then in return understand that everyone matters to God. How incredible for my kids to learn and then know that we treat others with respect and dignity, because Jesus modeled that for us. He treated everyone with honor and love…even when wrong had been done to Him.
This understanding reaches far deeper than my homemade behavior chart. It puts roots in their hearts to honor others more than themselves. It makes it less about behavior change and more about heart change.
Sisterhood can be a powerful relationship where two people become each other's cheerleader, confidant, spur-er-on-er, and hand holder through the hard and lovely parts of this life. Yet, as I type these words, I am convicted of authentic sisterhood community in my adult life.
Do I have empathy for those around me?
Do I honor others more than myself?
Do I treat all people with respect and dignity because everyone matters to God?Am I a cheerleader, confidant, spur-er-on-er and hand holder in my adult friendships?
Instead of wondering about my girls, perhaps I need to check my own self, my own motives, my own actions. Here is my hope for my little loves and myself...
Sisterhood: Empathy, Honor and Love.
Susan is Wife to Ed and mama to three courageous kids from Ethiopia. Susan blogs about life, kids, ministry, church, adoption, marriage and anything else that moves her heart or crosses her thoughts. She loves connecting with other moms on her blog (www.susanwanderer.com), and on Facebook or Instagram as @SusanWanderer.