This blog was archived from January 14, 2016.
"Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we'll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. Siblings are with us for the whole journey." - Katherine Conger
I remember many afternoons when I would come home from school and catch my mother watching Judge Judy. While her commentary is hilarious, and her type of wit is what this world needs, I found a sadness to this show as I would witness many episodes of daughters suing mothers, brothers suing brothers.. just, family, suing one another. I remembered asking my father about it since it was troubling me: "Dad, why are they suing each other? What happened?" His response? Money. Money and the world.
Was this just an American culture thing? What happened along the way to these families where money and being paid back was more important than the relationship? Surely you cannot repair a relationship that easily once you've taken the other to court. That is a low blow, summing up: the only way I want to see you is with a judge present, and the only way to resolve this is through the system. No phone call, no text, no coffee meet-up... court. Judge Judy! I vowed as a teen to never let money come between my siblings and I. Now that I have two kids of my own, the thought of them suing one another in the future scares the ___ out of me. It's just money! It's just things! But more importantly, WHERE did things go south? At what point in their lives did you replace sibling love with hate/rivalry?
The way your relationship ends up with your siblings has much to do with how you were raised and the household you grew up in, mixed with how you are emotionally as a person. Let me explain further. If you're a sensitive person, and you were raised in a home where your parents allowed bullying to take place, there might be a resentment in you towards not just your sibling, but your parent/s as well. If you have a stronger character and let words that hurt slide off your back, if you are very forgiving, then you likely harbor less resentment towards a parent or sibling. I can let things go easily. I can look back at my past, think about hurtful things my brother and sister said to me, and I can move past that and think, "well, we were kids. What did we know?" I can sleep at night knowing that I've forgiven them 100% in my heart, and that I hold no hatred towards them, as people now. Can I say the same for my brother and sister? I know that my brother and I had a "falling out" where we just didn't understand one another and didn't care to fix it, that lasted years. I wanna say between the age of 16-26, I just didn't understand my brother, I didn't care to understand him or know him.. I still have a love for him because of the mere fact that we are family, but would I choose to be his friend if we weren't related? Probably not. And that's so sad to admit. It was only after I became a mother and he saw me as more than just his annoying little sister that we were able to connect on a deeper level. I've found that in these last 4-5 years of getting to know the person my brother is that I would certainly be his friend if we were not related. I love that I can say that! My brother is now someone I can confide in and I can appreciate the adult he has become. His simple-ness and what I thought was a lack of passion that once bothered me in my youth I can now see is actually a better way to live and go about life. We have this mutual respect for each other and we've grown past all the hurt that is so "natural" as children, we've forgiven one another for things that were said. We think about how we treated one another as kids and we wished that our parents did step in or notice more, so that that many years didn't have to go by. We also can sit back and realize that we were kids. Let me ask you something, do you have a bad relationship with a sibling? Does it stem back to childhood or teen years where we are all just super hormonal and sensitive? Have you harbored negative feelings about a brother or sister that date all the way back to teenage years? You know, there's a reason women in their young 20's just aren't date-able. (Psycho-ness and something about turning 21 and needing freedom, etc etc) and it's similar to that of relationships we have with siblings when we're teens. I wouldn't want my now-husband judging me for the type of person I was in my young 20's, so why would you judge a sibling on something they said or did in your teens? Seriously, the only people in your life who will continue to judge what you said as a teenager will be your siblings, probably because they were the ones most affected by it.
I had a great relationship with my sister pretty much from her birth to when I was about 13. Something happened as soon as I became a teenager and I instantly grew out of "play time" mode to wanting to grow up, really fast. It only took a summer, and I was cruel. I was horrible to my younger sister because I just assumed that's the way you have to treat younger siblings, as irritants. My actions and words scarred those years between my sister and I. Years that we were supposed to be closest, destroyed over stupidity. It took YEARS after high school to repair a relationship with my sister. YEARS. I remember there was a point where we looked at each other in our young 20's, very confused like, "wait, why do we hate each other again?"
Now, I don't want to go blaming my parents for something they literally had no idea was happening. Each of them grew up with many siblings and they were very used to fights and rivalry, they likely thought it was all just very normal behavior. The problem with the Philippines vs. America when it comes to raising children boils down to culture. See, in the Philippines, it is very common and normal to live at home until you are married. Seriously, people don't just leave their homes at 18 and "figure it out for themselves" like they do in the states. I'm not saying my folks kicked us out, either. No way, my father was the first to say, "just because we live in America, doesn't mean we are American." He welcomed us and advised us to live at home until we figured everything out. It's just that we were all sucked in by the culture, and we wanted out. All of our friends were out, living on their own, having roommates and bills... and for some idiotic reason, it was what we all thought we wanted to. There is something amazing about that freedom you get while living away, but this also would have been the time to repair all relationships before going out and making new ones. I can't speak for my siblings, but in hindsight, I wish I stayed at home until I was married. Besides all the money I would have been able to save, it would have given me back those precious years to grow and get to know my siblings better, see the kind of adults they were turning in to, guide one another and become life long friends. I do feel like we eventually got there, but what a shame to have lost so many years along the way, for what? "Self discovery"?
We cannot blame parents anymore. We can learn from it, and just not repeat this when it comes to our own lives in the future. It's very easy for parents to mentally "clock out" when their kids hit their teens. They think the hard part is over when it comes to child-rearing. All they have to do now is provide clothes a couple times a year, make dinner every night, and teach them how to drive. What I've realized is it's actually in those years where the interaction with the parents and children is THAT MUCH MORE important and crucial, it is in those years that the child is being shaped in to the adult they will eventually become. "Influence corrupts character" is another bit of advice my father would give me, when it came to friendships. Once you are at that impressionable age, it really MATTERS who you are surrounding yourself with. Parents, you have to pay extra close attention to the friendships your child has in their teens. This is ultimately going to transform them, we can't help it. I've always had a stronger-willed personality than my siblings, so I was a little harder to persuade, meaning, if I didn't want to do something, I didn't have the hardest time saying NO to friends. But we are not all wired the same. You can have a child who is strong-willed and have a child who is more likely to long for "fitting in" and impressing others, that they will just go along with anything their friends say. These are the kids who need more guidance in their youth, actually.
Those of you with siblings might have asked yourself this at least once in your life : How can we be so different?