Over the weekend, I had a lovely, long chat with one of my three brothers. I told him I was pissed off that our two other siblings haven’t bothered to check in on me, by phone, text, or e-mail, after my breakup with my son’s father…four months ago.
‘What is wrong with our family?” I asked him. My siblings and I talk to our parents almost daily, so of course they knew about my less-than-amicable divorce. Why, I wondered, out of my three brothers, was my middle one the only one who asked if I was okay, offered assistance, and gave advice? Make no mistake, I get along with my other two siblings, probably because…we barely see or speak to each other. After becoming a parent, I find this incredibly sad.
So why aren’t I close with two of my brothers? Could it be that I’m only close with one, because we’re both middle children, and bonded growing up, knowing our eldest brother was a favourite, because he was the first born, and our youngest brother was the baby, so got away with murder. And then there was us, the middle ones, who shared this commonality.
I watch my two children, especially when they are playing and laughing together and wonder if they’ll follow the same fate, barely having a relationship with each other, when they are adults. It crushes me to think this.
Make no mistake. If I called any one of my siblings, and asked for help, they’d return my call or text immediately and would help. But I don’t. And they don’t call or text me. Because of this, one of the most important lessons I teach my kids is about the importance of loyalty and family. ‘No matter what,’ I tell them both, almost daily. ‘You are family and you must remain loyal to each other for the rest of your lives.’
Of course, like any siblings, they often bicker, like I did with my brothers growing up. Still, everyday, I’ll remind my son that, “Your sister loves you,” and I say to my daughter, “Your brother loves you.” And then, also, to my daughter because she is nine years older, that she must, ‘always look out’ for her brother.’ Loyalty, I’ll repeat to them, over and over, is everything. No matter what, I tell them, you stick up for one another. No matter what, you take care of each other. No. Matter. What. I want them to be close always and forever. I want them to make fun of me in my old age. I want their (future?) families to be super close.
I’m not sure why my adult siblings and I aren’t close. I hate to admit this, but even on our birthdays, we don’t reach out. I have no idea when my nephews birthday’s are. My siblings and I only see each other at family gatherings, which my parents organize. But what will happen when my parents are too old to organize family celebrations?
Sure my brothers and I have totally different personalities, but so do a lot of my friends who are super close with their siblings.
My eldest brother is very handsome but very quite. My youngest brother is so laid-back, he really should be a surfer. But my middle brother? Well, we have our “middle-ness” in common. Whenever it’s our parent’s anniversary or birthdays, it’s my middle brother and I who come together to get them a gift. So I’m not really sure what went wrong with my other two siblings…or why we barely communicate, even though we live in the same city.
I pray, and pray, and pray, that my children will remain close and loyal to each other and will be comfortable and eager to keep in close touch and contact with each other when they’re adults, even if it’s to complain about me. There’s really no good reason I’m not close to two of my siblings, as adults. We were closer growing up.
My eldest brother, way better with money than I was, used to religiously lend my money from his allowance after I burned through mine. Once, when we were teens, and my parents left us alone to go on vacation, all my siblings covered for me when I ‘borrowed’ our parent’s new car and drove to New Orleans. (There’s a statute of limitations on grounding, right?)
When my younger brother was bullied, all of us went to find the bully, and yes, we did make it perfectly clear that if he touched our brother again, he would lose more than the winter hat we ripped off his head. Then we pushed him into the snow. So what the heck happened? Sure the two brothers I’m not close with got married and had children, but so did I. The occasional times all the cousins get together, they have a great time. Even though I grew up always wanting a sister, I am not close with either of my two sister-in-laws. I like them, sure, but I have no fucking clue what’s going on in their lives, aside from what my parent’s tell me. I do take some blame. I could, and should, reach out to them.
I’m not alone. This article made me want to cry, I could so relate. “When my parents die, my older brother and I will probably fall out of each other’s lives. At least, I worry that’s the way we’re headed,” the writer begins. After five years of no communication, she joined him and his friends for drinks. It hit her hard. “I don’t even know the name of his best friend. I was introduced to a dozen people that night, and I had never heard of any of them. In my head, I blamed him. Why hasn’t he ever told me about these people?! Then again, I reminded myself, it’s not like I ever asked.”
Like me, she wonders why most of her adult friends are super close to their adult siblings. “I look at most of my friends, and they see, call, or text their siblings all the time. Sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve watched as one of my friends answered a call from her sister, laughed for several minutes straight, then just said, “Crazy! OK, call me tonight,'” leaving me baffled by their secret language,” she writes. I get it. I’m jealous of my friends who are close to their siblings. Like green-with-envy-jealous!
I guess, even if you were close as kids, it’s a crap shoot if you’ll be close as adults. I wonder if it pains my parents, that their children aren’t close. Karl Pillemer, PhD, a professor of human development at Cornell University estimates 20 to 30 percent of siblings have a relationship that’s “congenial but distant.” “They may not be in contact that much, but there’s no estrangement or conflict,” he says. That perfectly sums up my relationship with two of my siblings.
Writer Melissa Reynolds also wrote a fabulously relatable piece. ‘I’m finding this post really hard to write,’ she starts, when she wrote a piece about sibling estrangement. “A few weekends ago, while we were at my parents’ home, my oldest child asked me if I had a sister. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer her. Yes, I do have a sister, and I’ve had her for 33 years. But no, we don’t see each other and we don’t speak to each other.’ The post was hard to write, because it forced her to admit that not all is perfect in her family, she’s not perfect at relationships, and that “something is broken that can or may never be fixed.”
Like me, Reynolds worries that when her children are adults, they won’t be close. “I cry to think of a day when they care so little about each other that they don’t talk, refuse to speak or even see each other..” She finally accepted she may never be close to her adult siblings. She ends her candid piece with, ‘I desperately hope my children never have to do the same.’
So. Do. I. So, maybe, I will start calling my brothers and get together with them more often. Someone has to make the first move and, I guess, it might as well be me. Do you get along with your adult siblings?
Tagged under: brothers and sisters,older siblings,loyal,mediator of siblings,watching siblings play,family gathering,siblings like a parent,sibling fights,adulthood,how to keep siblings from fighting,adulting,sisters,SIBLING CONFLICT,brothers,siblings,sibling rivalry,siblings as inspiration,sibling relationship,national sibling day,celebrating your siblings