SIBLING: one of two or more individuals having one common parent
I recently attended a parent education session on sibling dynamics. We began by sharing about our birth orders as well as the birth orders of our partners. It was fascinating to hear the spousal pairings as well as the close-to-the-surface feelings about the impacts of birth order. The middle children seemed to have the longest-lasting tenderness over birth order injustices.
I am a textbook youngest child. I consider myself charming, creative and friendly. I’ve heard rumors that others sometimes see me as hard-headed and manipulative. You say “spoiled.” I say “cared for.” Po-tay-to. Po-tah-to. I am married to a firstborn who manifests all the responsible, organized and reliable traits typical of his birth order but somehow managed to avoid the bossy gene. He’s perfect. And, I remain well “cared for.”
It was clear from the sharing that all of us carry some sibling baggage that impacts the way we react to our children and our expectations for their relationship. It seemed like most of the parents identified and sympathized most with the child that matched their own birth order. I find the opposite to be true. I tend to be more sympathetic to Son (oldest) than to Daughter (youngest). I know her tricks. I’ve used them all. When she uses a cry that should indicate that someone is removing her fingernails to make her displeasure over her brother using a crayon color she wants, I am far more likely to roll my eyes than to negotiate a crayon swap.
My brothers tolerated their kid sister with saintly patience. My brothers are 8½ and 10 years older than me. The age difference, together with family dynamics, resulted in them shouldering a great deal of responsibility for my care. Once, in high school, my brother penned a letter for a special event in my life. In that letter he mentioned that he often felt more like a parent than a sibling. If there was resentment for their additional duties, my brothers didn’t punish me for it. Well, except for the time they staged my fake kidnapping – complete with a burglar mask and window entry. But, that was an anomaly. A traumatic anomaly to be sure…but an anomaly nonetheless. I have more kind memories than cruel ones.
They styled my hair; sent balloons to school on special occasions; hooked me up with their girlfriends’ hand-me-down clothes; attended my sports events; saw me off to dances; taught me to skateboard, play catch, sail, and kayak; bought me my first set of backpacking gear; took me to fancy restaurants for date practice; made sure I stayed on track academically; helped steward funds for my education; toured colleges with me; allowed me to tag along on international travel; and walked me down the aisle at my wedding.
They love me. I have it in writing. Sure, the writing is in really smelly permanent marker down the front of a burlap sack nightie that I received in a lingerie box at my bridal shower. But, never-the-less I have it in writing that “K’s big brothers love her very much.”
Yes, I’ve got sibling baggage. I remember harsh words spoken in anger. I sometimes think my oldest brother still thinks I’m twelve. There is that pesky fake kidnapping incident. And I have a few lingering questions about the wisdom of their advice to “hold on tight” while everyone else climbing the transmission tower was roped…but generally those things fit in my carry-on, make it through security and slide easily into the overhead bin. For the most part, my sibling baggage is housed in cheerfully colored suitcases filled with positive memories.
So far, it appears that my kids are likely to enjoy good sibling relations for another generation. They play sweetly (except when they don’t), laugh together, and seem to generally care for each other’s well-being. Lately, they’ve been choosing to share a bed rather than sleep in their own separate beds. It gets crowded with 2 kids, 2 blankets, 5 pillows, 7 puppets and 18 stuffed animals, but they don’t seem to mind. In fact, they are sleeping better than ever. It is fun to eavesdrop on their pre-sleep singing and silliness. I will never tire of peeking in their room to find them snuggled up asleep.
Yes, I read Siblings without Rivalry (four thumbs up!) in preparation for Daughter’s birth. But, I never could work myself up to fear rivalry nearly as much as I yearned for Daughter to adore her brother the way I do mine and for Son to love and protect her the way my brothers did me.
My mom used to say, “What you fear will come upon you.” That’s a sloppy translation of Proverbs 10:24: “The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled; the hopes of the godly will be granted.”
I don’t know if the love and adoration I witness between my children is the result of my fervent hopes and best attempts and godliness or simply a matter of happenstance and temperament.
Son arrived in this world as a 10 pound, 10 ounce gentle giant. He has Husband’s naturally kind disposition, for which I give thanks daily. Daughter arrived in this world with 9 pounds, 1 ounce (dainty!) worth of spirit and spunk. She has her mother’s temperament, for which I repent daily. Their temperaments compliment each other in a way that seems like it will lead to a lifetime of laughs and sweet memories.
I’m not sure if this blessing of another generation of special sibling bonds is the result of divine intervention or something else, but I thank God for it regardless!