I am one of four siblings. Being neither oldest nor youngest nor the only boy, I’ve been tempted from time to time to succumb to Middle Child Syndrome. But my siblings are so fantastic, it makes it very hard to have a martyr complex.
These guys were my first friends.
They were also my first enemies. But that’s also the point. We learned from each other how to play, fight, compete, laugh, wrestle, rally, tease, tell stories, create, ride bikes, survive, and pool our strengths to gang up on Mom and Dad.
We share countless memories – there are things I don’t even remember until another sibling brings it up. I find it fascinating who remembers what and how we all look at our common experience differently. I’d always believed myself to be the most accurate keeper of the family memories (middle children are so responsible), but in more recent years, I’ve enjoyed the different “versions” from my siblings. Their memory informs mine.
Admittedly, there are some memories I’d prefer to forget, but in that holds the key to making these first friends best friends.
It is tempting to dwell only on the nostalgia (or trauma) of our youth when we spend time as siblings. Being with them automatically sparks feelings we’ve held onto, for better or worse. We are a fortunate family, that the majority of our memories are happy ones, but even then, there can be past hurts mixed up in the good and one might surprise oneself with a sensitive (over)reaction to what another says. It’s the sibling effect. We know each others’ triggers. Manipulating those triggers in an unsafe way to cause conflict and rehash old arguments pulls many families apart. To know those triggers and respect, even protect them, brings many families together. A sense of humour helps – our family knows that hysterical laughter covers a multitude of sins.
It is equally important to me to keep getting to know my siblings. The playing, wrestling, joking, rallying takes on different forms in our “old age.” To do this means making time for each other – when you only get together once in a while, those old memories dominate the conversations and, before you know it, Thanksgiving dinner is over and you’ve only rehashed the time Sally fell off the boat into the lake, or how Bobby didn’t start speaking till he was three and then he spoke in full sentences. Which are hilarious memories, but you haven’t discovered anything new about one another. Keep spending time together, exhaust your old memories, make new ones, it’s important.
Finally, I’d like to give my siblings space not to be the childhood versions of themselves – the memories are precious, but the people are more precious to me. As we keep growing up and older, I want to be keenly interested in what gets their heart pumping, the questions that keep them up at night, the families they’re creating, the words they live by. I want to add it to what I know about them, how they are growing, how they are changing into who they were made to be.
The more I get to know them, the more I consider it such a privilege to know and love these special, special people.