For some strange reason, I found myself reading the book Siblings Without Rivalry recently. No one who knows Gigio and Carino could fathom their mom doing that, right? It did point out some great things for parents to do. At the same time, I found myself intrigued with some of the things that went on in the narrative. The book was presented as an account of a therapist going through a several week workshop with a group of parents. The people in the group were asked about their childhood experiences with siblings and it was amazing how these people who couldn't understand their chidren's conflicts were suddenly telling stories of their own sibling issues, emotions still raw. This was a point of reference for them to see their children's point of view.
I really gave pause to think at this, because I can't think of any similar experience of mine. I think if I combined all the sibling issues I saw in my home with 7 other siblings and myself, It wouldn't add up to a sum total of the last 10 years between just two of my children. I honestly cannot remember anything about my relationship with any of my siblings that still hurts or upsets me now or negatively affects my relationship with them. I don't remember having great horrible clashes with them either. I'm sure my reactions to them seemed over the top, but it blew over in my mind fast. Maybe, on the other hand, all my siblings resent me ;). I brought it up with the in town sibs last time I saw them. They laughed, but didn't admit to resenting me at least. :) I think some out of stater's ears were burning, but other than bringing up what their attitudes at the time were towards one another as kids, no one expressed any bad feelings in the present towards the others. My perception was that possibly the worst combinations weren't present, so I don't know how those sibs feel about each other, past and present. In any case, I never felt real deep hurt over anything. For the most part we just seemed to live and let live, and not take things too personally. I think my parents were exceptional at appreciating us each exactly as we are and having faith in what we could become. Once in a child development class in college, the prof walked in and asked us if our parents had a favorite child. About half raised their hands. Then he asked how many had parents that didn't have favorites. Most of the rest raised their hand, me included. Then he told my group that we were the favorites. But, as I asked my siblings, they agreed there weren't favorites. When I look at extended family relationships, my grandparents with their children and grandchildren, I see the same thing. I remember my aunt telling me once that there were a handful of us nieces and nephews that she could relate to more, because we were more like her, but that she didn't love the others any less. It would be boring if we were all like her and she just loved who each of us was just as much as the next one. While I do think there are those in my family that have had a harder time with these issues, maybe some are resolved, others not, overall, that was the type of attitude that went down. On my part, I'm sure I'm not the child my mom understands and relates to. Often, her chagrin and amazement was apparent throughout my years in her care. Once as an adult she mentioned to me that I was the one she worried the most about being sure of her love because of that. I know that even though I'm very different, she does love me very much and really appreciates me for who I am. It doesn't matter how much more she relates to my other siblings, I know she love me just as much. Or maybe, put another way, she loves me enough. As for my siblings, I feel like the odd person. I'm just really different from them. But I don't feel left out. I feel totally comfortable being with them, and the vibes I get in return are the same.
I'm realizing that maybe my family is amazing or a bit unusual to be this way. How much? You tell me. What were your experiences with your sibs? Do you feel you carry any scars or lasting damage to your relationship? Out of town sibs of mine, voice your opinion on the subject. Please?
Another interesting side note about adult siblings in the book I read was that these people taking the workshop started to see how their childhood might have been as equally hard on their siblings, so they talked to them and aired out their old issues and many became closer friends because of it, or let go of negative self esteem issues because of their new awareness.
If we look at siblings and their rivalry and expand it to the world and nations, we can see parallels there too. It would be so nice if we could solve some of these issues and get along better. Don'cha think?
Bottom line, I'm really glad I got the family that I did. I love you guys!
I'll let you know how it goes with the Thornies, as my kids have been known to call themselves.
P.S. I wrote about the sibling rivalry of conservationists and conservatives over at my think tank. Tell me what you think should be done with those two. And do you think Americans suffer from affluenza? Read the previous post and give me your thoughts on that subject too. Because I like musing about these things with other people, and if you muse along with me I won't end up having sibling issues or feelings of rejection either.