Notes from an emergency room doctor: "Shut
up! Shut up!" he shouted.
"You shut up," the other yelled back
They are closer than friends, but not friends.
"You're not using it," one says insistently.
"I don't care. It's mine. I want it back,"
the other retorts.
They are similar, yet vastly dissimilar.
"He threw it at me on purpose," one
cries, holding his hand to his bloodied brow.
"He started it," is the non-apologetic
They commit the most hateful acts against each
other, and still forgive. Who are these people?
They are your sons and daughters, your brothers
and sisters. They are siblings.
How is it that siblings - children sharing the
same parents, growing up in the same home, participating
in many of the same life experiences - can grow
up to be vastly different? Parents think it is
their input that is instrumental in the development
of their children. They struggle to nurture, to
educate, to discipline. But when they have several
children, rarely are they very much alike. More
often siblings are distinctly different from one
another in demeanor, intelligence, and interests.
The answer to this conundrum is that while children
may have the same parents, they have different
brothers or sisters. Their interaction with their
siblings may be the more significant factor in
creating their differences, their uniqueness.
Although we may decry sibling rivalry and squabbling,
some degree of that physical and mental bashing
- short of the extremes that create mass murderers
or leave irreparable scars for shrinks to cure
- may be the developmental catalyst that makes
each sibling what they are in life, what makes
them "somebody." For instance, studies
have shown that children who deliver the most
teasing, insults, and other negative behaviors
to their siblings develop higher self esteem.
On the other hand, those on the receiving end
may become more disciplined, thicker skinned,
and steadfast in their goals.
Though most parents exert great efforts to distribute
love and attention equally to their children,
most children perceive that when it comes to their
brother or sister, "Mom loves them more."
That's because it is impossible for a parent to
display the same kind of love toward a 5 year
old, for instance, as toward a 9 year old. Each
requires a different kind of attention. But from
each child's perspective, the other is getting
a better deal, and is loved more. No parental
explanation can change that perception.
Eighty percent of us have siblings. The relationships
we have with them endure after the death of parents,
outlast marriages, and flourish despite conflicts
that would destroy ordinary friendships. As a
sibling, you'll remember the battles with your
brother or sister as "their fault."
But you will likely still forgive them and love
them, even though Mom loved them best.