On Siblings

I listened to a great TED talk this morning called: The Hidden Power of Siblings by Jeffrey Kluger, who is a Science and Technology reporter for Time magazine. He has written a book called The Sibling Effect in which he draws upon his own family experiences to analyse sibling relationships and discusses how the sibling relationship is one of the most meaningful we may experience. I’d really like to read it.

My brother & I – approximately 1980 

“Our parents leave us too soon, and our spouses and children come too late, but only our siblings are with us for the entire ride.”

I have often thought how lucky I am to have a brother, and glad that we have become closer over the years. We used to fight something shocking as kids. (In his talk Kluger cites a study that showed that children aged 2-4 years will have a fight every 6.3 seconds). But as we’ve gotten older we have become friends and the shared experiences of our childhood means we have a knowing of each other and a bond that is unique.

And since becoming a mother, I’ve so enjoyed watching each of my children develop their own individual sibling relationships. Kluger speaks of these individual bond in families as dyads, each individual having a unique relationship with each other family member. This is why as families grow, the relational bonds get more complicated and dynamic. For example in our family, Doug and I have our own relationship (1), Doug has relationships with each of the four children (4 more) as do I (4 more). Now we’re up to 9. Then each of the children have a unique relationship with each other. That’s 6 more. So a total of 15 dyads in our family.

My children engage in their own fair share of fights, but I can see that they are also great mates. I spot them sticking up for each other, conspiring against Mum & Dad when they think things are unjust (and I reckon that’s entirely healthy even if they may be wrong), and laughing at their own inside jokes. This makes me very happy.

“Having siblings, and not making the most of those bonds is I believe, folly of the first order. If relationships are broken and fixable, fix them. If they work, make them even better. Failing to do so is a little like having a thousand acres of fertile farmland and never planting it. Yes, you can always get your food at the supermarket, but think what you’re allowing to lie fallow. Life is short, and it’s finite, and it plays for keeps. Siblings may be the among the richest harvests of the time we have here.”

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