I have been visiting with my siblings recently and reflecting on those relationships and how important they are and have been in my life. I am one of six and have one sister and four brothers and I am in the middle and oldest girl. I am sure there is lots of rich psychological information in that arrangement.
Two of my brothers came to visit this summer and both are very different yet similar. We also visited with our sister in Victoria. We were six born in 10 years so are close in age and shared friends, clothes, toys, rooms, classrooms, apartments, workplaces and more over the years. My one brother who visited likes to do projects and I like to offer him this opportunity. Who am I to deny him this pleasure when so easily at the cottage we can have him entertained and we benefit as well. With my darling retired now it also meant he was busy with projects. I don’t want him bored in his newfound freedom from work. I am extremely grateful for their hard work.
My other brother is a reader, and he likes to cook so he too was a great guest whose company we enjoyed as well. I have shared a close friendship with him and we named our youngest son after him. This is a great gift to both parties. Our friendship really took off in high school when he took me under his wing and showed me the ropes; he did this again in university when we shared an apartment. It was a great arrangement as we learned each other’s routines and temperaments and didn’t speak to each other in the mornings until we were walking out the door. I have a great deal of admiration for his sharp mind, sense of humour and amazing capacity for kindness and calling it like it is.
I have been observing a lot of brother relationships: my darling with his older brother as he also visited, my neighbours, my sons, my friends. Interesting the competition and the camaraderie. The teasing of which position — older or younger — is best, who is the parental favourite, and greatest of all.
One of the benefits of siblings is the capacity for friendship in addition to that special bond you share as siblings. I love all my siblings and some are closer in friendship than others, due to age and interests. I see this in many families where two siblings are great friends and companions and others at the other extreme together because they are related.
When we became parents we wanted two children, originally I had wanted four, but I became a mom at 33, had the second at 35 and was a widow at 36. I was glad to have had two children because it gives the children someone to talk with who shares the experience of living in the same household, and can understand the greatness and the challenges of that. The boys needed each other when I bugged them, also they looked out for each other. The oldest took on a fatherly role with his younger brother, much to the younger’s dismay; however it worked, they survived and thrived and are good friends. I love watching them together as adults as they play together, compete like nobody’s business, chat and laugh, and are present for each other.
Competition and siblings seems to go hand in hand. It started early with me as a kid in watching my brothers playing sports, climbing trees, or hay wagons or getting good grades. I was going to do the same. My own two would compete with sports and in other areas as well. We learn a great deal in the family home about how to be as a person out in the world. We learn about sharing, communicating, competing, losing and winning, commitment, relationships, friendship, love and anger, loyalty, the power of love, and so much more. Cousins and close friends can fill that role for children on their own. Close friends often refer to each other as brothers or sisters.
And brothers and sisters become aunts and uncles and those relationships can be very close and loving and fill special roles in the lives of the children and the adults.
My office walls are full of photos of my childhood and photos of me with my siblings in various poses, and of the lads on their own and in a brotherly embrace. These photos fill my heart and remind me of how fortunate I am to have my siblings, after decades together still my dear friends, and my sons. The way I see it life is sweet.
Michele Blais is a Vernon realtor and longtime columnist with The Morning Star, writing on a variety of topics and appearing every other Sunday.