New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Oh Dear! I Made My Two Daughters Hate Each Other

Sunday Vision-I do not know exactly when it all began, but I am afraid the matter is getting worse. My two daughters can no longer stay in the same room for even two minutes. I admit I have been quite unfair to my first daughter Mirembe (not real name).

As toddlers, I always gave them the same share of everything; same clothes, same type of school bag, same dolls. I did all this because I did not want complaints about loving one more than the other.

The battle takes shape:

However, my youngest daughter Naava (not real name) has always been jealous of her elder sister. She would always complain that people loved Mirembe more, that Mirembe was brighter and prettier.

I did not want her to feel small, so I decided to console her by giving her the kind of attention that Mirembe was getting from her aunties and uncles.

I started giving Naava more time and in the process ignored Mirembe's emotional needs. Naava used this opportunity to tell me bad things about her sister and would always ask that I do not tell Mirembe because she could get angry with her.

I remember when Mirembe finished her senior six, she got a partial scholarship at Texas Christian University. I was supposed to pay for her the other half of tuition fees but Naava cried out her heart begging me not to let Mirembe leave the country.

She argued that if Mirembe went to an American University, she might forget about us or even come back to Uganda and look down on us.

I do not know what I was thinking, but I shattered Mirembe's dreams of studying from an American University. When Mirembe found out about my prejudices, she was so mad that she spent six months without talking to me.

She joined Makerere University and graduated with a second class upper degree. I was relieved when she forgave us and we were happy as a family once again. Naava graduated from Kyambogo university with a second class lower degree. This meant that Mirembe was still better than Naava.

The gap widens:

I tried to give my children equal time and opportunities, but I realised that my betrayal had left a big scar in Mirembe's life. She could not trust me anymore, so I ended up spending more time with Naava.

This increased the gap between Mirembe and myself. I did so many other injustices to Mirembe, things I cannot even mention, just because I wanted to please my other daughter.

Mirembe was always understanding; with a big heart, loved everyone and treated people with respect. She always did good to even us who hurt her most. People continued to love her and praise her, while the opposite was true for Naava.

This strengthened Naava's hatred and jealousness for Mirembe to the extent that she even planned to beat her up and eventually carried out her plan.

On the other hand, Mirembe somehow realised that there was a big gap in our family and she tried to bridge the gap by buying me gifts but I would always give them to Naava instead.

Mirembe gives up:

After graduation, Mirembe proposed that she lives with Naava in the same apartment. I welcomed the idea thinking that it would bridge the gap between us. But ever since the two started living together, Naava's complaints increased.

On the other hand, Mirembe never complained to me about her sister, which made me think she was proud and selfish, just like Naava used to describe her.

However, one day, I was surprised when Mirembe called to inform me that Naava had thrown her things in the compound and it had rained on them. She was crying and so heart broken, but instead of listening to her, I told her off and asked her to get somewhere to go if she could not live with her sister anymore.

Naava on the other hand was not remorseful at all and said it was a simple matter that Mirembe was magnifying.

Mirembe maintained her cool and continued acting normally while planning to leave the apartment. When I called her, she asked me to leave her alone, adding that she had given Naava an indefinite suspension from her life. Mirembe does not want to pick my calls and does not want to see me or her sister anymore.

But now that she does not want anything to do with me, I recognise my mistakes. I have been so unfair to my own daughter. I gave her all the material needs, but I deprived her of emotional support and love. Naava on the hand is so happy because she will have the whole apartment to herself.

Different personalities:

As a child, Mirembe always loved playing with other children and she hated violence, so in turn, she won the love of everyone around her, including her aunties, uncles and cousins. Mirembe always loved reading story books and listening to stories. She also loved singing.

When she grew up, she became withdrawn and rather shy. She does not seek too much attention and spends most of her time reading novels, inspiration books or thinking of how to make money. She is very entrepreneurial and I have been very supportive of her ideas by giving her capital whenever she comes up with a new business idea.

On the other hand, Naava was very hot tempered, stubborn and loved fighting. She would always destroy things around the house. She would tear Mirembe's story books and this would lead them to fight. Mirembe would let it pass and life would move on.

At times I would discipline Naava, but sometimes, I just let her be, thinking that when she grew up, she would change.

When Naava grew up, she became so outgoing; she loves clubbing and staying out the whole night. She spends her money on shoes, handbags and clothes, leaving no room for entrepreneurship. What puzzles me though is that she at times feels jealous of Mirembe's successful businesses yet she spends her money lavishly.

Way forward:

I acknowledge that my role has been very big in creating rivalry between my children and I am undergoing counselling so that I can learn to love my daughter, Mirembe the way she desires to be loved.

I have admitted to Naava that I have been very wrong in supporting all her tantrums and bad deeds against her sister. But most of all, I want my daughter to forgive me. I will do anything for her to take me back in her life.

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Expert view

By Vision Reporter

Jude Nyanzi, a counsellor at Arise Foundation defines sibling rivalry as jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters. It is a big concern to all parents with two or more children and the problem mostly starts with the birth of a second child. The rivalry can extend to adolescence or to adulthood hatred.

Nyanzi says the desire for siblings to define their talents, interests, activities or showing that they are different is one of the major causes of rivalry.

"Unequal amount of attention, responsiveness and discipline from parents is also another cause," he adds.

Nyanzi adds that other causes include ignorance of how to get attention from parents, family dynamics or parenting styles and parents' attitudes towards aggression/fighting among siblings

Little or no family time spent together to share as a family, stress in parents' lives and how parents treat and react to conflicts are also major factors that lead to sibling rivalry.

Parents can curb rivalry:

Nyanzi advises parents to stop the violent fights immediately and encourage children to cooperate not to compete for their love, attention or anything else

"They should take record of when the quarrels happen, know the problems and teach positive ways of getting attention from each other," he notes.

Nyanzi also discourages favoritism. "Do not compare children by talent, ability or academic superiority. Do not label some with names like cute, angel, handsome, beauty, etc," he says.

He adds that each child is unique; so parents should work with them to develop positive and important skills like cooperating, respect and seeing each other's point of view.

If children are older, set family meetings to air out grudges; involve children in setting ground rules and consequences and define the position of each child in the family and let them know that they are all loved.

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