The plurality of sibling battles with and defenses of started in junior high school.
Although Jackie and I feuded against each other at home—much to our parents’ dismay—if a fellow student said a bad thing about one of us to the other, look out, they were toast. There was a girl in my class who ranted against Jackie for something. I went nuclear on her, verbally slapping her down. She was astounded and questioned my response with, “You just got done saying she makes you nuts!”
I said, “Yes, she’s my sister and I can say that, but no one else had better.”
A double standard to be sure.
Forty years later, not much has changed.
We can snip at each other, call out our mistakes, offer unsolicited (and unwelcome) advice on what to do and never hesitate to point out when one is making the other crazy.
Jackie: You always make it sound like your ideas are the best! (You mean they aren’t?)
Me: Why can’t you multitask? (Like when I do, it’s a good thing?)
Scooting the disputes aside, she’s my right arm and I’m hers. I’m a better person because she has chosen to be my BFF and allowed me to pick her as mine. With that kind of connection we’re bound to cross wires occasionally. While we often read the other’s minds and finish sentences before anyone else knows what we’re talking about, there are times when sisterhood goes awry.
We’ve learned over the years to blurt out the slight, acknowledge the point of view, then blessedly go right back to what’s become a normal relationship for us.
However, let someone else do something or say something to remotely hurt Seester’s feelings and my claws are raring to do battle.
Is it coming out of childhood into being adults that makes once battling siblings become best friends? Or was it a conscious choice we made along the way? Is it something our parents did—glad they got to witness the change before leaving us—or are we alone in being responsible for it? Was it the cathartic cleansing coming from The Saga of the Impossibly Skinny Levi Jeans?
We’ve given up trying to suss out how it happened and have settled into the living of it.
Sibling Dynamics Are Complex
They are influenced by birth order, years between kids, what your parents were doing at the time you were born, and the color of your hair.
What? Wait, you ask: What possible difference does hair color make?
As the sole redhead in a sea of brunettes-to-coal-black, hair made a huge difference. Being red, being so clearly different, defined me beyond personality. The nicknames alone could turn a redhead schizo: blaze, pumpkin, freckled-face-strawberry, red. How many more?
But even with these monikers coming from the likes of Jackie or my slightly younger brother, they never stopped me from wanting to defend my siblings. When the Other One, as a dear uncle referred to the youngest kid in our family, came along eight years after Joey, I did not feel maternal. In fact, she sealed the fate on me ever wanting children—by sheer force of how demanding babies can be. But I did have the sibling protective gear kick in as I looked at that tiny tot and realized: Mess with any of them, mess with me.
Even as I drove my siblings far from sanity instigating this activity or throwing out that far fetched idea, I was still about protecting them—maybe wearing that red hair as a shield of armor?
There were times over the years when I wanted to slap each of them—as I completely admit they wanted to slap me—but let an outsider speak a belittling word to me about them and you’ll launch a battle of epic proportions.
Just. Don’t. Go. There.
Family dynamics, friends, relationships—they can be as complicated or as easy as we want to make them. Conflicts are not fun, even for this woman who loves a good debate.
Siblings Reaching Toward Friendship
When you come to each other from a place of love first and disagreement second, when you, particularly, allow God to lead your communication, you are bound to find the words to discuss and to heal—the path to move forward and grow beyond the difficulties. You forge your way to being the defender of each other.
Maybe it’s about being stronger for others than we are for ourselves. We may acquiesce here and there, bending more than we might want to in order to keep the peace, setting aside our defender personalities on behalf of ourselves. Turn to them that other cheek.
But with siblings, it’s entirely different. At fourteen, I see someone pick on my skinny little brother and tell them to back off. At sixteen, my little sister wrecks her blue bicycle and falls over. I want to toss the two wheeler into the ditch and teach that darned bike not to mess with her.
High school girls being mean to Jackie? Forty years later, I’m not sure that gal has forgiven me.
So maybe we do set ourselves aside for better or for worse and only the the champions inside come out when someone needs us to be the defender of them.
What do you think? Should I get a cape with DOTS emblazoned on it?
*Read, First and Second Traits
You’re so lucky that you have a big family that you are so close to. It is funny how kids can really bicker, and then grow up as friends. I grew up an only child. And we didn’t live near any cousins. So now that my mother is gone, it’s really just me.
Now in our 40s, 50s, and 60s, we have quite the hilarious conversations recalling when one or the other of us threw a fit about something and stomped off home or whacked the other a good one or whatever it was.
Hey–we’ve been known to randomly adopt women as our sisters (our brother doesn’t know this)–for instance the woman we rented a cottage from in Saundersfoot, Wales and where we’ll be staying again in June. We fell in love and sent her adoption papers, which she formally accepted. HA! This, too, can happen to you!
Your family sounds so happy and normal. I have a sister and two brothers and when we were kids we bickered a lot but now we are really close. My siblings have been my rock when my husband was very ill and have been my support ever since. It’s also lovely to see our kids now getting on so well with each other.
I’m laughing out loud, Mina, because my family was/is anything but normal! We have our own array of dysfunctions and issues. But, yes, overall, we are like you–some bickering back in the day, but close now. I’m glad your siblings were there for you when you needed them so very much.
I’m sorry I’m still laughing that you called us normal!! I don’t think anyone that has ever been around us has called us normal before! But I wouldn’t trade my weird family for anything in this world!!
It is so nice to hear that your family was there when you needed them and that now you can watch your kids get along.
My sisters are nine and eleven years older than me, so I have a different dynamic with them than they have with each other. I can recall one instance where they got in an extreme slapping and hair pulling fight because neither wanted to stay home and babysit me. My mom didn’t learn about that until years later, and my sisters always made up right way even though they were quite mean to each other at times.
Your sisters sound like me and Jackie dealing with Joanne! We didn’t slap each other, but let’s see … I threw a brush down a hallway at her and she whacked me with a wet washcloth–on the face. Wow was that put to a rapid halt. My family didn’t deal with temper–tantrums or physical. They were kiboshed in a flash. I’m glad that your sisters, like us, always made up.
Thank you for sharing a snippet of your childhood with us. I always feel I know you that little bit more after reading each of your posts as you are transparent. Your childhood seemed happy – I can imagine your home was full of joy and laughter.
I grew up with my younger sister (2.4 years between us). We were close as children, though we used to bicker. As a teenager I pushed her and away and was sometimes mean as I was being terribly bullied at school and did not know how to deal with it emotionally. I look back and feel bad but I have to learn to forgive myself. We grew close again in our late teens and went out together and on holiday. We are close but still get on each other’s nerves but we rarely stay annoyed for long.
My childhood was happy, with me being the biggest cause of unhappy moments. Oh, such a dweller in thought and analyzer of actions and creative and–what a pain I was! But really, in the scheme of life ours was almost idyllic.
I’m glad that you read my posts and sense transparency, Phoenicia. That is one of my goals: bare my heart so others feel they can safely do so. As do you with discussing bullies. You know I was to DOT-F you, right? I want to track down those bullies and teach them a thing or to about messing with my friend!
How fortunate you are to have such a warm and supportive family, and how fortunate they are to have you as their defender! 🙂
They may not say that all the time, Marquita! HA. We are lucky and count our blessings for each other.
Rose, how I envy you for having a large family. Just one older brother in mine, and we get along some of the time, but come from very different directions. How I’d love to have a Seester who knew me inside out and still loved me for all of it. 🙂
Jackie and I were more different as teenagers–stemming from her perfection and me being flawed from every angle. Jackie finds this perception of mine quite hilarious these days, but as kids I was the problem-maker and she was the obedient one. Somehow over the decades we seemed to smooth out each other’s edges and rubbed off the right way. Joey was always referred to as “The Golden Boy,” and yes, we still call him that, to which he responds, but of course. While Joanne was literally no trouble–ever. All of this good stuff (ignoring the bad) comes from good parenting. Lots of humor, golden rules and patience. Dad came from seven kids (plus a brother who died as an infant) and mom from six. I think having all those people around all the time gave them an upper hand on dealing with three kids close in age.
Us bloggers who know you–we love ya!
Yep, I would defend my siblings to the ends of the earth. I do believe a cape is in order. Didn’t we make an apron one time…something about rubber jello?
There’s a Seester (n) apron (for me) and there was a rubber jello apron (for Joanne) and there was the red apron that meant mom (you) was hiding from everyone. We should make Joey an apron.
I thought the rubber jello apron was yours??? LOL Joey does need an apron!!
I made rubber jello, so this was our sisterly advice to you! Yes, he does. Let’s come up with an idea for the golden child.
oh that’s right “In case of rubber jello call 1-800-sisters” I think I still have that in storage!!!
Personally I think battling siblings have at least the opportunity to become friends when they stop living with each other. Before that there just too many things to get annoyed about.
You are so right, Ken. I shoulder a lot of the responsibility for childhood conflicts because I was, and proudly am, an instigator. But Jackie got her kicks in–there was that time she put me in the dryer…
Great post RoseMary and brilliant pictures! (I particularly like the one of you and your sister celebrating sisterhood with an ENORMOUS glass of red wine). I don’t have any siblings; often I wish I did and I do especially after reading this post. How lovely to always have someone on your side, fighting your corner – and telling you you’re wrong without fear of fallout. Brilliant!
Monika, appropriate that you would like that wine pic because that was the day before we left for Wales in 2016! Thanks for stating that so well–it is lovely to have co-fighters and straight talkers in our corners!
First why do you look so innocent in that first picture?? Second I never knew you wanted to beat up my bike! Third now I know where I get it from!!!!! LoL
Who me? Innocent? You look serious for a little tyke. Wonder what your siblings had just done to you.
I did–you remember that bike, right? Yep–I wanted to give it a toss!
Yes you! What is that look on your face – your I didn’t do it honest Mom????
I do remember that bike, our darling niece inherited that bike! Who knows what you did to me, but I’m guessing it’s because I’m sitting on Joe!
No doubt. Did you know that I made the outfit I’m wearing? I wonder what happened to that woman who could sew? So that’s where the bike went, and then onto Adam.
I did not know you made that outfit! Cute! Not sure what happened to the bike after Jenny, Jackie?
Oh Little “Other One” I loved you from the moment you were born! Having 12 years between us I always felt more like a second mother to you than a sister. When you were 12, I was getting married. I believe the age difference made it challenging to become adult friends but I am glad we are finally there!
I think Joey–who will never write a comment on his sister’s blog, dang him, is the only sibling that all three of us got along with. Even when he and I were cutting each other’s hair or biting each other’s heads (really, what was up with THAT?), we would go off and play together two minutes later.
Hmm not sure how much I liked him when he would hold me upside down by my ankles.
Aww I loved you from the moment I was born too!!! Bahahahaha Yes you sure did get stuck with me a lot since I always wanted to be like my cool sisters, I’m sure you did feel like a second mother. Yes the night after you got married I didn’t quite understand why you still hadn’t come home. LOL I am glad we are finally there too! Love ya!
haha. I’ll bet you did–we were fun older siblings. Oh, that’s funny–about wondering where Jackie was!
Love that you referred to yourself as “The Other One” and you know why I loved it! I enjoyed reading this blog and comments.
Ah, yes, The Other One! Everyone’s comments are fun!