Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings

“The greatest gift a parent can give a child,” one woman’s mother told her, “is a brother or sister.” If you find yourself nodding in agreement but also having reservations, you’re not alone. Most people have experienced mixed feelings about their siblings over the years. Many of us have asked ourselves:

What kind of gift are siblings, if we fight with them and if they hurt our feelings?
How could we come from the same family and have such different values?
Who needs a brother or sister who isn’t there for Mom and Dad when they are old and need our help?

Ambivalence is at the heart of our sibling relationships. These positive and negative feelings are natural, and unavoidable. When we were kids and our parents were not around, we behaved like children to each other, which means we weren’t always nice. As adults, many of us recall those childhood experiences; they often become our iconic memories, and they can make us feel good or bad. I have learned that it is possible to reframe the childhood moments we cannot forgive or forget. We can begin to see our brothers and sisters through an adult perspective, if we so choose. Brothers and sisters who are close have already done this—they don’t idealize their siblings, and they can accept and laugh at the very behavior that drives other people crazy. It’s also possible to rebuild most broken relationships—if you want to. It takes a thread of love and lots of effort and determination, but over time you will be amazed at the results.

So if your relationship with brothers and sisters is complicated, welcome to the world. Once you relax into the reality of mixed emotions, you’ll stop suffering so much from the past and stop feeling so guilty about whatever you might have done. Maybe you can enjoy more of the positive, laugh at some of the negative, and make peace with the fact that human experience is something in between.

So what is the gift of siblings? It’s the life-long quest for compromise, acceptance, and humor.

Check out Jane Isay's Blog

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My Thoughts-Jane Isay conducted many interviews between siblings for this book.She also discusses how the experiences we have with our siblings when we are young influence how we react to them as adults. The emotions we felt for our siblings as children can over ride our adult intellect and throw us right back into that conflict, struggle, or, if things went well, that comfort zone. The chapter that I found most interesting was the chapter called Message in a bottle. It shows how siblings act towards each other after a parent's death. Very sad. This was a good book, very informational but there weren't really any solutions offered to show you how to change and make things better. I'd suggest just taking what you read using it to change yourself and maybe passing this book on to your siblings as well.

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