Posted in Columns

Family bonds or family bondage: What would we do without our siblings?

Brothers and sisters. Everyone should have at least one one. Those of us elder children – the bossy ones, perfected our leadership skills by ruling over our younger siblings.

I had a lot of leadership training through my sisterly relationships. My sister Eve is close enough to my age –born 18 months after me and was a year behind me in school – to provide constant companionship as well as competition.

We shared a room. We shared our parents until our younger sister, Becky arrived on the scene almost six years later. We shared our toys for the most part, though we nearly fought to the death over important things like Barbie dolls, Little Kiddles (so what if it was her birthday and she got the Kiddle Castle and I was jealous and pulled her hair?) and much later, the occasional attention of the male species.

Then there were our creative cooking ventures. She willingly tasted the unpalatable combinations of foods that I certainly was not going to taste. I’m pretty sure I convinced her they were delicious; I’m pretty sure now that they were not and have apologized profusely for using her as a lab rat.

We learned teamwork as our screaming, yelling, hair-pulling, fist-pounding arguments quickly turned into cooperative self-preservation after some item or another – something parents would care about – was broken. Our minds quickly melded as one to re-create the dramatic sequences of events that led to the destruction of a particular lamp.

Then there were the situations in which some other kid ripped on my sisters. Uh-uh. No go. I was the only one allowed to pound on my sister; anyone else who did so was seriously sorry.

My “baby” sister was another story. I mothered her from the day she was born and she didn’t seem to mind the attention. There were enough years between us to encourage an amicable, peaceful relationship.

However, the pecking order was established – and Eve quickly learned she had the age advantage in that situation.

Of course, both of my sisters – like most younger siblings – developed keen survival skills that often involved creative manipulation of information, mostly to get tattletale older sisters of their backs.

I missed out by not having brothers like my daughter did. They all taught each other an assortment of self-defense moves, from boxing and wrestling to Kung Fu.

Really, it’s rather amazing that any of us survive our childhood exploits, but we do. We all grew up – at least physically. The crazy things we did as kids created a bond between us because we know things about each other that no one, including our parents, did (or should!) Siblings give us something to laugh about at family gatherings – and often, we don’t have to say a word!

Of course, I realize this applies to my three children as well. They, too, have a giant list of sibling secrets that I really don’t want to know about. They made it into their 20s, despite roof-climbing, bridge-jumping, underage driving (bet you thought I didn’t know about that), day long canoe trips during near-tornadoes and who knows what else. They are who they are because of their siblings, like I am who I am because of mine.

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Author:

I'm a writer, editor, photographer and artist living in rural Southeastern Wisconsin. I grew up in Chicago, made my way to the deep woods of Northern Minnesota and then landed here among the cornfields and cows. It's quite simply my happy place.

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