Siblings: A Guest Entry

We continue our blog series on siblings.
This one is by my colleague, Mary D. 

Sometimes when both parents have died, and adult siblings are scattered around the country, family relationships can wane.

My colleague, Mary D. often talks warmly and fondly of her relationships with her siblings who live in differing states. Here is Mary’ reflection on siblings.

Bridget invited me to write about siblings for The Annunciation Blog after hearing stories of my sisters and brother; specifically about our frequent gatherings and the weekly phone call my sisters and I share. Having been invited to write about siblings prompted reflection on this experience. Questions arose such as: What does the word “sibling” actually mean? How is “sibling” a noun and a verb. . . maybe even an adjective? What does that tell us about the experience?

A dictionary definition shows that the root word “sib” comes from the Old English referring to kinship, blood relatives with the later addition of “ling” meaning small or young. These are helpful in suggesting how the kin relationship evolves.

For background, my sisters and I are now retired, and my brother is still working. He and his wife have four “children” now in their twenties and a new grandson. Most gatherings include us all and most of the phone conversations include updates on “what’s going on” with everyone. Latest news of the baby and his mom are the most recent topics.

Let me add some background about our gatherings and conference calls. Both my youngest sister and her husband and our brother and his family live on farms near Nashville, Tennessee where we grew up. My brother and his family actually live on the farm that was our great-grandparents’ home. Our other sister and her husband live in Reno, Nevada, and my husband and I live in St. Louis. We are usually all together at Christmas and often another time during the year because my sister in Reno and her husband make the effort to fly/drive to celebrate the holiday or a graduation, wedding, or other special occasion. Most recently we all gathered for a shower for the baby. As my husband and I are in St. Louis, it is an easier trip for us and we can visit more often and be there when the folks from Reno are there, too. Favorite foods are a big part of the celebration!

My own view of being a sibling is clearly informed by my experience. I am the eldest and was six years old when my first sister was born. From my viewpoint, the world changed when she entered the picture. It was not too long after my parents and I had moved to town, about seven miles from the farm where we all lived. I am old enough to remember surprises. To be straightforward about it, I had to learn to share not only my parents, but also grandparents and great grandparents! This happened about the same time I started school. My new sister was a happy, easy-going little one and a delight to all! One might say that my adjustment was not quite as smooth. It was confusing not to get as much attention. Our next sister came three years later, and by this time I was on to what to expect, how I could help, and even found the curly-headed addition entertaining. She was also quite definite at an early age about what to wear and did not enjoy having her hair combed. Our brother arrived about four years afterwards and when I was in the eighth grade. He was certainly the center of attention as a newborn with three sisters!  

Looking back over the years, I see that being a sibling is a process, as is so much in life. As the definition suggests, the “ling” in “sibling” focuses on the early years. For me, the surprise of the six-year old whose world changed evolved into the responsibilities of the eldest, and now into relationships of joy and friendship in the present. As acknowledged earlier, all this is from my perspective. What of the newcomer whose entry into the world was shaped by birth into a family with the sibling(s) already there? I am sure that they would love to add their viewpoints too!

Thank you,
Mary D.

This quote from author Karen White captures, I think, what Mary D. is sharing on her reflection on siblings. 

“I was left to contemplate the relationships between siblings and how even though we would always get older, our relationships never really would.”  

Karen White, A Long Time Gone

For Your Reflection

If you have siblings, how did you relate to each one?

Did you relate better to one than another? Do you think your birth order impacted how you related to your siblings?

If your parents are deceased, do you and your siblings still stay connected?

Do cousins know cousins?

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