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Siblings Are (Not) Forever

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There is no glib or clever way to start this posting, so I will just hit you between the eyes: On Valentine's Day, 2010, I lost my brother.

beth falkenstein

Beth Falkenstein: To say that we were very close does not begin to describe the depth of our connection. And although he had been sick for some time, that did not lessen the shock of waking up on February 15 knowing I would never again hear his voice on the other end of the telephone.

But this isn't about my brother and me. This is about my daughters, and parenting. So I wonder: If children learn by example, how come my two girls don't appear to love each other the way I loved my brother? How come they don't even appear to like each other very much? And is there anything I can do to change that?

I am tempted to sit them down face-to-face and present them with the cold, hard facts -- namely, that one day one of them will die first, leaving the other without the one person on Earth who shares their life history. But that would be a) tactless, b) overly dramatic and c) an invitation for each of them to pray that the other one "wins" the race to cross the mortality finish line.

I also know that lectures are futile. At 14 and 11, the concept of future regret is way beyond them. It didn't work when I tried to tell them about eating junk food and putting on sunscreen -- why should it work when I describe the permanence of death?

I try to find comfort in friends' stories of how they used to fight tooth-and-nail with their siblings and now are inseparable (or at least call each other once a week). But that's no guarantee my girls will take that path. And it's not going to be enough for me that they simply learn to tolerate each other. I want them to seek each other out, respect each other's opinions and take pride in each other's accomplishments.

Perhaps my relationship with my brother has made me less tolerant of anything less than BFFs. Maybe I am too sensitive to even the slightest friction between them. Maybe there is love there, just not in the form I am trained to recognize.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do have another brother. He lives on the other side of the country from me. For years, we hardly ever spoke -- and saw each other even less. But this recent tragedy seems to have changed all that.

So I guess miracles can happen, although some may take 50 years. One day my daughters may be close ... and I will be dead.

next: Why I Chose To Breastfeed
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lori April 10, 2010, 9:17 AM

Actually, our parents did just that. -Pounded into our heads (figuratively!) that one day we’ll only have each other, so we’d better be nice to each other. We just were not allowed to hate each other. Did we fight? Of course! But it never lasted long. We’ve always been best friends. I plan to try my best to make sure my 2 girls follow the same path. I think too many parents think it’s normal for siblings to act hateful toward each other, thus helping to drive the wedge between them. I’ll never allow it.

*Big Mama* April 10, 2010, 9:34 AM

My boys fight all the time, however, with that being said, if another child picks on one of them, there’s hell to pay. They love each other tremendously, but fight like cats and dogs, sometimes to the point of having to tap out. I have also told them the importance of siblings, as I was an only child, and when my mother died, it was only me.

I think your girls will be close when they are grown, and from observing these two crazy kids, I think it’s a natural part of sibling rivalry. Your girls will be great friends in their adulthood…they just have to make it through their teens. =P

Thank you for sharing your story with us, I know that must have been difficult.

tennmom April 10, 2010, 11:31 AM

I’m so sorry for your loss.
My younger brother and I (3.5 years apart) were also fighters and bickerers but it tapered off after my mom miscarried for the 2nd time when I was 14. We didn’t know about the previous miscarriagge until then. There was something about knowing we had lost 2 siblings that made bickering seem petty.
My Mom and her 2 sisters are very close now.
My daughters 10 & 12 (birthdays 2days apart) used to barely go an hour without arguing. They still have their moments but can now go days getting along well. Only a fool would pick on either of them. I wouldn’t take on my older daughter, ha!

Pammy Pam April 10, 2010, 3:45 PM

hi! thanks for visiting my site from upb 10!
your loss of your brother is a story i cannot relate to but resonates just the same. i have a boy and a girl who are very close and i think it’s great (i’m an only child)!
thanks for the great post.

Beth April 10, 2010, 5:52 PM

In all honesty, trying to force the relationship doesn’t work either. My sister and are, euphemistically speaking, not close. We likely never will be.

We see the world very differently and do not agree on much at all. We’ve spoken maybe three times in the last 18 months. Rarely email.

My mother has always been desperate for us to be close, but it has just not worked. I think we prefer to think of ourselves as only children who happen to share the same parents.

JanetLansbury  April 11, 2010, 11:22 AM

I’m so glad you’re back writing again! I believe your daughters might like each other much more than they let on. They can’t make it look too rosy in front of you!

But more important than them being compatable is that they respect each other. The book “Siblings Without Rivalry” is like a bible to me, and one thing it talks about is not comparing our children (even positively, like “You’re the best soccer player in the family.” because it makes the child uncomfortable to know there are comparisons going on, period.) The book also talks about staying out of sibling arguments — which is very challenging for me! In the end, it’s tough to swallow the fact that our children’s relationships with each other are, for the most part, out of our control.

Thanks for sharing this. I miss your brother.

Dawn April 12, 2010, 10:12 AM

I lost my sister (and only sibling) on January 28th, 2006 to a snowmobile accident. She was killed instantly, so there was no chance to say good-bye. She was 34…I was 36. She left behind three daughters, 3, 7 and 9 and a loving husband.

My sister and I fought like cats and dogs as kids, but it was only after we got married that we really found our connection. We were VERY different and it took until we were adults to realize the full sibling relationship…and now she’s gone. :o(

I have three sons and they are constantly at each others’ throats. I would constantly tell them, “Do you know what I would do to have my sister back?! Do you think I would fight with her like you do all the time??!!” Then I realized that I was putting my guilt on them and stopped saying those things.

At the end of the day, they love each other, but bickering is 100% normal (as much as it drives me nuts). I just pray that when they finally find their sibling connection, that they won’t lose it due to death like I did.

Thanks for this post. It really hit home for me. :o)

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