According to my late grandmother, when I was nine months old, someone called her and said my parents were arguing outside their apartment, while I was inside crying. Grandma got a ride from a neighbor, who drove 10 miles to my parents home.
Grandma took me away and raised me in the county with help from her mother my great grandmother. My mother and father became parents of my two younger brothers, (who were born 10 months apart), two years later.
After my parents divorce, my mom re-married a man who had a daughter the same age as my brothers. The three of them began spending summers and holidays with me at my grandmother’s home. After my mother and stepfather divorced, mom and my brothers moved in with grandma, great grandmother and me.
When my mother got her own apartment, my brothers stayed with us and we all went to school together. My step-sister lived with her dad until she turned 18. At that point, she moved to another state to live with her biological mother. Here are five valuable lessons I learned about siblings from this interesting situation.
1. Even though you have brothers and sisters, you can still feel very much alone.
I know families where siblings are close, even as adults. This however was not the case with my family. We all got along, but I believe my brothers early years living apart from me, and my step sister coming in and then going out of my life 3 years later affected our not truly bonding.
Perhaps it was because I was older than the others by 2 years, and had spent so much time living like an only child. Even even though I loved them, I never shared secrets or had truly intimate moments. I continued to feel as if I were an only child.
2. The death of a sibling leaves a void that cannot be filled.
In July 1993, my brother, who was the middle child, drowned at the age of 33. Although we were not as close as I would have liked, his drowning was a shock, and it felt like something has been missing in my life ever since. I reached out to his widow and 3 children, giving them birthday and Christmas gifts for many years. Even so none of this filled the void left by my brother’s death.
3. Family members can play favorites
My great grandmother was very protective of my baby brother. She named him little Buster. She was always fixing him lemonade which was his favorite drink, and making sure his pork chops were extra crispy. My mother allowed my middle brother to drive her car at 16. I was 18 and she did not once offer to help me learn to drive.
There were times when both brothers would stand together against me, or it would be me and one brother against the other. Both brothers said I often was favored because I was the girl. They said I did not get as many whippings as they did. Siblings views can be often self centered.
Now that I am a parent I realize that you cannot treat children 100% equal 100% of the time because one may need more attention than the others during a particular period. Children cannot see the entire picture.
4. Lack of privacy and forced sharing
My brothers and I listened in on each others phone conversations. and read each others love letters. We had to share the bathroom, and often wait before eating. We fought over who would get the front seat ride in the car. There were arguments regarding who got to use the telephone and for how long.
5. Every family is different
The main thing I learned about siblings, is that there is no perfect family. How I wished my brothers had stood up for me when I was teased or picked on, but they did not. Often they joined in with my tormentors.
When I first had a step sister I was embarrassed because I did not know anyone else who had a step sibling. I began to love her and then she was gone. We have reconnected in adulthood. And today I realize there are all kinds of family dynamics.
There are no perfect families, and siblings are not all going to get along like the Brady Bunch or Walton’s. Some families are. My daughter’s 3 children ages 6, 3 and 2 already are close. They hug, kiss and say I love you to each other. The oldest is always looking out for the younger two even telling me when diapers need changing or he believes they are hungry or want a drink.
My own 3 children each born 5 years apart from the other were not touchy feely with each other, neither did they battle as my brothers and I did. As adults my children look out for each other in a way my brothers and I never did. There are many variables that go into sibling behavior. And there is no one size fits all.