Its no secret that I struggle in some relationships. Who doesn't? Let me give you some background (on at least one of them).
For about 20 years of my life I wished I was an only child. I have one older sister and she's a real nightmare. Really. 5'10", 115 pounds. Luminous skin. Clear blue eyes. Perfect reddish hair. Funny. Smart. A social butterfly. Did I mention she's drop dead gorgeous? And if people didn't love her because she was breath-taking, then they were taken with her sweet nature, good-humor and amazing fashion sense. Egads. I'm not kidding you when I say that growing up people always told her, "You should be a model." (These same people would tell me, "maybe you could be a teacher"). You get the point.
Middle school is hard enough without the town's hottest chick being your uber likable big sister. I can't count the number of times I cursed my bad luck that I (the over-opinionated, frumpy, mousey-blond hair geek with a bad attitude) had to follow in her footsteps.
My big sister, Randean with my nephew Kaeden.
I say this with no malice. She dyes her hair.
I say this with no malice. She dyes her hair.
But then we grew up. Now I think, what would I do without her? On days when I don't think I'll make it through another tantrum, she understands. When I'm angry with my mom's disease, she gets it. When I need to vent, she listens. When I need to laugh, she can make me. When I need to cry (which is almost never), she pretends she understands my non-sense blubber talk. We have not had a perfect relationship but I can't count the number of reasons I'm grateful that she is a part of my life.
She's my best friend.
In honor of my sister, I'm responding to the author of "How to Stay Close to Your Siblings." If you don't understand the stuff in italics, that's cool. It's for my sister Randean anyway. (I know what you are thinking. Their parents named them Randean and Reagan? Tell me about it. My mom's name is Rilda. Does that help explain things?)
- Childhood is like Vegas. Let what happened there stay there. When it comes to petty fights or embarrassing moments, I couldn't agree more. But if you can all look back and get a kick out of a memory, I say, "why not reminisce?" In that same line of thinking, if there is a deep-seated unresolved issue, I think it needs to be addressed. Remember fighting over how to wear eyeliner? We can laugh about that now, right? We'll save "eating our beans" for another day ...
- Make a cameo appearance. I agree with the author that if you want to be close to your family you need to spend purposeful time together. By the way, purposeful means beyond token holidays and celebrations. Get together for the heck of it. Skype date?
- Stop being the family mole. In essence, stop gossiping behind family members' backs. Luckily my family is small and direct enough that we pretty much just say what we mean (this doesn't mean we are totally healthy in the way we address conflict but at least we yell at the source of our problem rather than ignoring each other or yelling at our mom because of something the other did! We are our own brand of dysfunctional and we all function well in it. How scary is that?). And all I can say is, AMEN to the no-mole business. Do I have a story for you--j/k!
- Mind your manners. Remember how you treat strangers with respect? Do the same thing to your family. If you wouldn't scream at Joe Schmoe for eating the last cookie, don't scream at your sibling. And if you'd forgive a friend for posting a bad photo of you on their blog (twice), forgive your sibling. Sorry about that whole mullet thing. Both times.
- Fight Typecasting. Every family has the "baby" and the "favorite" child. But really, no family does. We all grow up so if you still think your parents like your brother better, it might be time for you to put on your big girl panites and get over it. (If you are still acting like a baby, see my previous comment). Give your siblings kudos for growing up and changing. Give your parents credit for doing the best job they could. You might be hotter but I have prettier nails. Na na na na na na!
- B Gr8 Txt Frnds. On the surface, I agree with this. Texting is a quick method to communicate. But I think you should really make an effort to share your time with your siblings. Yes, that sometimes means talking on the phone. Luckily my sister and I don't struggle with this. Ask our husbands and they'll tell you how important it is to have a land line with unlimited long distance. I'll call you when the kids are down for quiet time. Unless I need you before then.
- Quit being jealous of other people's sibling relationships. Remember my post about chick-flicks not being real? TV/Movie sibling relationships aren't real either. So if your family doesn't get along like the Family Stone or the Cosbys, that's cool. Love your family for who they are and for who you are when you're with them. Our relationship puts the fun in dysfunctional but I wouldn't have it any other way!
- Play nice with your brother's (not so nice) spouse. It always pays to be the bigger person (repeat as necessary). Go the distance and never give your in-law the opportunity to say you didn't love, didn't reach out, didn't share or didn't try. Heap burning coals (and if you have no idea what I'm talking about, check here.) Thanks for marrying Jeff. With a body like that who needs hair?
- Get out of dodge. Okay to be honest, the idea of vacationing with my sibling, without our children, sounds dreamy. Add in the husbands and kids and I say, no thanks. (At least not for long trips). The November extravaganza is on but hopefully you understand if we skip the trip to Alaska!
- Avoid hot-button topics (politics, religion, high fructose corn syrup). In general families know who can handle what discussions. Don't stir the pot if you want to stay close to your family. On the other hand, don't be afraid to have important discussions about your relationships. If someone's words or actions are hurting someone else the worst thing you can do is walk on egg shells and pretend you're okay. False peace is just that. False. I must caution you to approach the issue directly, in love, and Biblically (go directly to the person--remember no family moles!) Don't even get me started.
Randean and her hubbins Jeff. By now you understand what I went through as a kid.
Can I add two more? Of course I can. It's my blog :)
- Don't give up. Sometimes sibling relationships are awesome. Sometimes they suck. Sometimes they make you wish that you were an only child (or that your spouse was an only child). But FIGHT for your relationships. They are worth every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears you pour into them. In the end, you end up with the people from your beginning. Thanks for hangin' in there during the bad years. All 20 of 'em.
- Forgive. If you are still hanging onto some hurt, forgive. If you've hurt a family member with your words or actions, seek forgiveness. Nothing destroys a relationship faster than someone who refuses to seek or accept forgiveness. Remember that forgiveness breaks the cycle of isolation and retaliation. I apologize for what I said that time we had a fight at The Outback.
What do I think about sibling relationships? They can be amazing and are worth the work!
Have a sibling relationship that could use some work? E-mail me and when I say I'll pray for you, I mean it!
Have a sibling relationship that sustains you? Tell me about it. Today's comment line is yours to celebrate a sibling memory or moment.