A siblings relationship isn’t always perfect. Brothers and sisters fight, the competitive spirit comes out and often parents despair. And there doesn’t seem to be much written about the sibling relationship. If you ask around friends there’s not always a pattern of age different, girl or boy siblings. It’s just some siblings get on better than others.
Being an only child N doesn’t need to worry about sibling relationships, although he did say the other day
‘it’s a good job I don’t have a brother because we’d fight all the time’.
It’s strange how he recognised that’s something that can happen, but then thinking about his dad and uncle, and his friends with brothers, often there is a lot of fighting and arguing. With younger children his age, it’s often irritation about younger siblings mucking up their toys or playtime, or interfering. With his dad and uncle it’s all about play and teasing each other.
My brother’s three years younger than me. I was the one who had time with our dad before he died (my brother was a newborn then), while he was more of a cuddly boy with our mum. But we did used to fight physically. Thinking back it was more like play fighting. I don’t think we’d ever have got really violent, although I did used to bite to get him off me. Our mum would always say she wished we’d get on better, and that she worried about us not talking to each other when we were grown up.
But when she wasn’t around we’d get on fine. We used to play board games, cards, and outside together with no problems. But he would niggle me into fighting back. A typical sibling relationship. And probably not helped by both of us being very competitive.
During teenage years I was off at school and then uni, then moved away from home for work before ending up back in the same area I grew up in. My brother moved away for a short time but then returned too. While I was away we only really spoke to organise birthdays or go for family meals out or home for Christmas. We saw each other more once I was back, occasionally meeting up for coffee in town. But still we were reliant on our mum organising things.
It wasn’t until I had N, and then when our mum was ill, that we got a lot closer and saw more of each other. He did a lot for our mum when she was ill, moving back home to look after her before she went into the hospice. I think our mum was pleased to see that really we did get on well, and that we wouldn’t drift apart when she was gone. As a parent you’re the mainstay of the family, and you want to know that you’ve done everything you can to keep them together. We’re lucky we did have our little family, given the wider family we only saw a couple of times a year growing up because they lived further away.
Without each other it would have been hard to deal with everything after our mum died. We did all the probate dealings – luckily made easier by our mum organised everything really well, and also having planned and paid for her funeral in advance. We got through the stress of selling her house. And then 2 years later had to sort out our Nan who was suffering dementia, ended up in hospital after falling and then into a care home before she died. Going through all of that is hard, but even harder on your own, and that’s the one thing I feel for N as an only child. He won’t have that sibling to help and support, so I hope he has a partner who can help him through hard times.
Now we’re a few years past all the family ups and downs, and living only 2 miles apart means we see my brother a lot. Thankfully he and the OH get on fine – an interest in the outdoors, and being in the fields helps. N loves seeing his uncle and he’s always interested in hearing about his metal detecting finds, however strange they are.
In the winter my brother will pop over to get warm in front of the fire because his old cottage flat is freezing. And he’s currently drawn in to help me complete the 1000 piece jigsaw I’m currently doing. N gave up saying it was way too hard, so we’re plugging our way through it. Yes my brother laughed at me doing jigsaw puzzles, but we’ve been reminded of the times we used to do them as children and the satisfaction of completion.
So if you have children who fight all the time and you think all is lost. It probably isn’t. They might get on really well without you around. They might be seeking attention and one-upmanship. Maybe in the future they’ll get on really well and you’ll have no need to worry.
How did you get on with your siblings? How do your children get on?