I never had a sister. I grew up with a younger brother, and while we get along great now, we grew up fighting like cats and dogs. But we were four years apart in age, and we had very different interests and personalities, and I suppose a little bit of bickering goes with the territory.

Like most girls with only brothers, I dreamed of having a sister. She would be perfect in every way, and we would be best friends, and we would share clothes and makeup and all our deepest hopes and dreams but never boyfriends. Of course this imaginary sister never got on my nerves or stole my favorite pair of boots. (I don’t know why I had such an idyllic picture of sisterhood. My had good friends with sisters, and I knew how volatile the relationship could be.)

Now I’m a mom and my kids have their fair share of sibling squabbling — nothing dramatic or worrisome, but it is draining. I understand the relationship between my son and his sisters. I get that.

The relationship I do not get so much is the one between my girls.

They are only 3 years apart in age, and it often feels like less than that. They are the epitome of a “love/hate relationship”. The younger one idolizes the older one, and yet sometimes she takes such glee in aggravating her older sister that I wonder if she is not possessed by an evil demon. The older one enjoys the attentions of the younger and tries to mother her and then feels stifled when her little sister tries to do whatever she is doing.

Sometimes the younger wants to play the baby and enjoys the mothering. At other times she resents it. Sometimes the older doesn’t want to be disturbed by the younger and her playmates, and at other times she is upset when they don’t allow her into their games. And round and round it goes.

I desperately want to instill a sense of friendship between the two. I want them to grow up to be best friends. I’ll admit it, I want each of my girls to have the sister that I created in my imagination.

Of course I don’t really expect it to always be rainbows and unicorns with these two, but at the same time, I do feel that it’s my motherly duty to encourage their friendship and respect for one another. I have to believe that if I do my job right, one day they’ll find common ground and discover a deep and abiding friendship. But what I’m not as sure about is the how.

I’m wondering what those of you who have sisters would say to this. Or those of you who have daughters who are good friends. I know that friendship doesn’t mean always seeing eye to eye and that some occasional bickering is normal. And I also realize that personalities are such that not all sisters can grow up to be good friends. But it seems like I ought to have some influence in this relationship, at least to a point.

What do you say? Do you have a sister? Or daughters? How can I best encourage their friendship without micromanaging?