Sibling Rivalry: It’s what happened when we stopped sending kids down the coal mines!

by Penny Cook

matrix of colourful squares with distorted borders in the centre

At what point did sibling rivalry become 2 separate words? Anyone with 2 or more children knows it’s actually one word….because as soon as you have a sibling, there is rivalry. All our good intentions in planning the ‘best possible’ age gap between children goes to play dough as soon as there is a second child and is there to stay for subsequent additions to the clan.

Sibling rivalry is one of those primitive dispositions in children’s lives that we don’t like to deal with, let alone acknowledge as a normal and healthy part of socialisation. I’m not saying physical abuse is ok but when children ‘rival’ with each other for the same amount of dosh for pocket money or who’s done the dishes more times or had more turns on the computer, they’re actually exploring ‘fairness’, which is a concept we would like them to know about. Our struggle as parents and grandparents is how to teach them understanding and negotiation for equitable outcomes, compromise, empathy and generosity in sibling rivalry, cos God knows, often it’s easier to send them all to their rooms!!

Sibylesque Sibling Rivalry Awkward family photos

When we stop and talk children through what they’re experiencing and how it might work for them and others we are doing the whole of society a big favour. Now, this isn’t going to be possible with every squabble but acknowledging and naming feelings and being a fair arbitrator not only builds trust but let’s children know that situations can be solved and builds their skills in doing so. They will learn far more about equity from watching and experiencing the actions of the trusted adults in their lives than any social learning program. So grown ups, when you feel disempowered by the ‘rivalry’, remember, there’s a learning opportunity and a purpose in all of it.

Of course, at times, the darlings may just be being little so and so’s. That’s what bedrooms are for. If they won’t go there, you can!!

Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …’s never too late!!…….


Photo source: Awkward Family Photos



I love my mother but I don’t want to have children!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque parent worry quoteWhy would a  daughter who loves her mother not want to have children? Be careful what you wish. We feminist mothers wished that our daughters would be free to make their own decisions in life. Nevertheless, we are the first generation of mothers, who cannot assume that grandchildren will appear. I understand why young women, who had difficult mothers may not want children. But young vibrant women who love their mothers … that is a different group. Why wouldn’t they want children?

I had the opportunity to ask a young successful professional woman, this question. She adored, and was also grieving for, her mother who had recently died at the age of 71. The young woman had postponed child bearing until her forties when, fortunately, she gave birth two much loved children when she was 42 and then 45 years of age.

Sibylesque girls with pram 2

So why don’t feminist daughters of feminist mothers want children? Or, some of them, at least. The young woman first cited failed relationships. Some young women stumble through their twenties and then their thirties from one failed relationship to another. I would add job security as another factor. Some young women worry that they cannot afford children.

Nevertheless, this young feminist felt that feminist mothers are so adamant that their daughters establish independent careers, any talk of motherhood gets lost in the conversation.

So you’ve been warned. Maybe all feminist mothers should talk up motherhood a little more. Afterall, when we mothers get together at any age, guess who we talk about?

Photo source:


The Portrait of the Mother by the Artist

by Kerry Cue

sibylesque Old Age Quote

Rembrandt's Mother Reading (c. 1629) when she was 60 years old

Rembrandt’s Mother Reading (c. 1629) . Cornelia was 60 years old.

In her book, How to Age (The school of Life, 2014) Anne Karpf writes about the imagery of old age as a ‘hideous ruin’. Sociologist Mike Featherstone called such imagery ‘a pornography of old age’. And don’t we know it. We are surrounded by such images daily including the shriveled and stooped portrails of old geezers and crones in comics, birthday cards, cartoons, advertisements, horror movies, sitcoms, TV crime series and more. And don’t forget the witches in literature from Macbeth to the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It is the aim of Sibylesque to provide the postive balance to this negativity. You can find such imagery at The Sibyls Salute: Jennette Williams.

The artist, however, runs into a dilemma when painting their own mother. Should they be sympathetic or realistic? Even artists can portray their own elderly mothers as ‘hideous ruins’. This was especially cruel as often their mother sat for the portrait when the artist’s model failed to appear. The painting that made Whistler famous resulted when the model didn’t show. (Below). The end result, however, was sympathetic. I will not dwell on the cruel images except for this sketch one sketch by Durer. I feel he was being very harsh on his own mother.

Drurer’s mother at 63 years of age. She had by this time experienced 18 pregnancies.

Durer’s mother at 63 years of age. She had by this time experienced 18 pregnancies.

Durer was not always so unforgiving in his portrayals of his mother. Here is an earlier oil painting by Durer of his mother. As one friend pointed out, Durer’s mother has a look on her face that suggests she’s thinking ‘Go on. Get on with it.’

Durer's Portrait of His mother,1490. She was 39 years old.

Durer’s Portrait of His mother,1490. Barbara was     39 years old.

Aging is often portrayed in modern media as some kind of failure. This is the price paid for living in a youth culture, I guess. Old age, however, can be presented with love and empathy and the result is an image, as Karpf notes, of dignity and beauty. Here are the portraits of artist’s mothers with their ages included:

Paul Cezanne The Artist's Mother c. 1866  when his mother was  52 years old.

Paul Cezanne The Artist’s Mother c. 1866. Anne was       52 years old.

Whistlers Mother,  1871. Painted when she was  67 ld.years o

Whistler’s Mother, 1871. Painted when she was 67 years old.

This painting by Whistler was a tribute to his mother. Here is a photograph of Anna Matilda Whistler.

Anna Matilda Whistler, ld.1850. She was 50 years o

Anna Matilda Whistler, 1850. She was 50 years old.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec portrait of his mother,  Countess Adele Zoe de Toulouse Lautrec, 1883. She was  42 years old.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec portrait of his mother, Countess Adele Zoe de Toulouse Lautrec, 1883.   She was       42 years old.

Van Gogh  Portrait of the mother of the artist, 1888. Anna was 69 years old.

Van Gogh Portrait of the mother of the artist, 1888. Anna was 69 years old.

Picasso's mother, 1896. Maria was 41 years old.

Picasso’s mother,1896. Maria was 41 years old.

Juan Gris, mother,  1912. At least Picasso painted his mother before Cubism etc.

Juan Gris, mother, 1912.  At least Picasso painted his mother before Cubism etc.

Lucian Freud, The Painters Mother,1983 .  Lucie was 77 years old.

Lucian Freud, The Painters Mother,1983 . Lucie was 77 years old.

Photo source: If it’s hip, it’s here blog.