Budding buddies and all that is sibling

My sister and I are not close. Our relationship is complicated, to say the least. She is my only blood sibling; I have a step brother too. Sadly, though my relationship with him is far less complicated, it’s no more satisfying. We love each another, but we don’t rely on each other. We’re all in our 30s and I have never had a heart-to-heart with either of them.
We see each other relatively frequently since we live close. They aren’t married or in committed relationships, and I have no nieces or nephews. My two boys are the only grandchildren. I know my siblings adore their nephews, and they are Godparents to them. We spend all the holidays together, we celebrate our birthdays together and we have travelled together as an extended family.
The point I’m trying to make is, though we are present in each others lives, we are not present in each others lives. They don’t know me, just as I am quite certain that I don’t really know them. We are family, but we aren’t friends.

It makes me sad, but I’m powerless to change it. Trust me when I say I really am. We are such polar opposites of one another, have lived life experiences that thoroughly separate us, so much so that it makes it difficult to relate to one another in any meaningful way. They’ve made choices that don’t sit well with me. I’ve accepted that this is how it is. But sometimes I long for better.   

After the birth of our first son, my husband and I briefly considered the idea of staying a one-child family. It was silly and fleeting and really didn’t carry a lot of weight. We knew we had to have to another; wanted to provide our first with a sibling. We knew that we wanted our family to grow with the richness and love that comes with adding a new member. And so, after two years we took the next logical step. We got pregnant.
Obviously I know that simply having two is no guarantee that their relationship with flourish. I know this because of my own experience. It’s not a question of raising our boys in an environment that reinforces the importance of these relationships. We do that. And I grew up in a home that emphasized the importance of family. Despite that, I know only too well that having a sibling is no guarantee of a connection or meaningful friendship.
My youngest son is approaching 16 months, his older brother will be four later this month. As they grow into their individual personalities and get to know each other better, I’m see the signs of a budding friendship. And it takes my breath away.

For example, my youngest, X, has a passion for hockey. It surprises me that despite how young he is he is naturally quite taken with this sport. His entire day is filled with playing with his miniature hockey stick, trying to hit a little plastic ball, and raising his arms in excitement when he does as if he’s scored the game winning goal.

A few nights ago, he was playing contently with his father, while my oldest ,C, finished up his dinner. What came next, I would never have expected. When he was done, C jumped down from the dinner table. The moment he did, X, toddled (yes, he’s a hockey fiend who’s still discovering his walking legs), over to his daddy, grabbed the stick and brought it right to his big brother, who he apparently really wanted to play with. This simple, and yet so very meaningful gesture, brought tears to my eyes and filled me with a love and excitement that’s impossible to describe.

They are brothers, and I hope that by virtue of that they will always share a special bond. I’ll do what I can to nurture it along, encouraging them to respect and stand up for each other. But I know the sibling relationship can be complicated. People tend to hurt those closest to them without fear of reproach. That, above all, is what I hope to teach them. To love each other first. To cut no corners when it comes to their connection and their friendship. To apologize. To be honest. To be available.

In this world, I want them to always know they have each other.

Are you close with your siblings? Is there anything you would change about your relationship with them if you could? If you have more than one child, do you help grow their relationship or do you just let it naturally unfold?

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33 thoughts on “Budding buddies and all that is sibling

  1. Nicki says:

    You brought tears to my eyes reading this. I am not that close to my siblings but I think I can say I am closer than you are. Are they the first people I would call with news? That would depend on the news but most likely, no.My children – everyone always says there are advantages to having a big family – are becoming friends. My two daughters would do things together all the time before #4 moved to Pittsburgh last month. The boys – the friendship comes and goes but they are always there for each other. As they get older, it becomes more clear.

  2. Charlotte says:

    Watching the relationships between my kids always takes my breath away. I could watch them play together or converse with each other all day.Don't get discouraged if they have rocky times, though. My sister and I fought nonstop through teenage years. We're best friends who chat everyday now. My brothers couldn't even be in the same room with each other. They own a business together and also call each other daily. Sometimes it takes a while to solidify that friendship!

  3. Sarah says:

    I am really close to my brother. We have always been close. When he got married, it put a strain on our friendship for awhile, but now we own a business together and spend more time together than we ever have in our adult lives.I suspect that our relationship isn't that common – that most sibling relationships fall somewhere between your experiences and mine, but who knows?I look forward to my son having a sibling one day.

  4. Heather of the EO says:

    I have one sister and I'd say we're semi-close. 🙂 We can have meaningful conversations and we're there for each other, always, but we are very different. At the same time, we're really a lot alike, so that's what complicates our relationship and makes it awkward or even rocky sometimes. We don't always really GET each other. I have the same hopes that you do for our boys, for sure. I want them to always feel they BELONG when they're together. One thing I've been doing lately, in hopes that they'll feel that sense of community in their own family, is asking them, "what is one thing you will always know for sure?" Then they say back "I belong." Cheesy, but very important to me. It won't matter unless we live it, so I'm working on that too 🙂

  5. Chantal says:

    I am very close to my little sister and my friendship is growing with my brother now that he lives close by. It was not always this way and I am glad that our lives have allowed us to become friends. My husband has two sisters and they are barely friends. It is sad, really. I love it when my boys play as friends. Even though it drives me nuts I even love it when the fight. It is so important to have someone in your life that you feel completely comfortable with. Someone you can tell exactly how you feel. I hope they remain friends forever. I know it may not be the case, but I do hope.

  6. Denise Nielsen says:

    I'm the oldest of 6 – one real brother, 3 step-brothers, and a step sister 12 years younger. My brother and I were always close growing up and I love that I see similarities with my own three kids and how close they are. But he now lives on the west coast and we never see him, and though he calls, it's hard to say we have a real relationship, for which I am sorry.My step brothers and I are not close though we lived in the same household, and were closer as kids. When I get together with the family, I feel like a visitor, the outsider, and we make polite chit chat but have nothing in common. Nothing real. I regret that too. My step sister and I on the other hand are really close, despite the age difference. She is the one in my family I am most likely to turn to first with news, and she and her family are the ones we most often see though they live 4 hours away.As always your blog has touched me. I want my kids to be close. I don't know that there is anything you can do other than encourage them to love and respect each other and hope their life paths continue to intertwine as they get older.

  7. C (Kid Things) says:

    I love watching my kids play with each other. I'm 6 years younger than my brother. We were never really close growing up, even though I looked up to him. We're definitely there for each other when needed, though. This is part of the reason why I wanted my kids close in age. They're each about 2 years apart, and I'm hoping that means they'll grow up together, with each other.

  8. Kate says:

    My sister and I have ups and downs, but I now I can count on her. If only she lived closer! And I love seeing my girls developing their bond. Sometimes they take my breath away with eir kindness and generosity.

  9. ShannonL says:

    As you know, I'm 9 years older than my brother, we're not very close and I hold a ton of guilt for that. The age difference did not help, but I can't blame it entirely on that.I look at my own kids, who are 7 years apart. They are close. J might get annoyed with Miss M, and she might scream and tattle on him, but they LOVE each other. They help each other and they actually play together, too. It makes me so happy to see this, because I worried about it when Miss M was born, knowing the age difference would be a challenge. I am so glad that they have managed to have a good relationship despite their ages.J starts jr. high school next year, and I worry that things at home will change, but I feel pretty confident that he will always love and watch over his little sister. I am extremely proud and happy about that.I'm glad your boys are getting along and that X looks up to his older brother. Keep nuturing that relationship and I'm sure they will grow up to be the best of friends!

  10. Aging Mommy says:

    Absolutely beautiful post Christine. I am not close to the one sibling I have, my sister either. For pretty much the same reasons as you describe for your own lack of closeness to yours.We have just one child, although not through choice as like you, despite my own experiences I would dearly have loved to have another child and provide my daughter with the chance to form a special bond with her own brother or sister. I imagine having not had that closeness with your own siblings seeing your sons start to bond must indeed be magical and something good I think has come out of your own experiences as you appreciate that those bonds do require work and nurturing and I know you are going to be right on hand to ensure as best you can that they get the best of chances to form a lasting friendship.

  11. postmommy says:

    This touched my heart so deeply. I also have two boys that are similar ages to yours, and I read this nodding along at everything you said. I worry for my boys because they argue a lot, but then they have those great moments where they show how much they care about each other that just blow me away. They might argue over a toy or something, but if one of them is hurt, the other is right there at his side to see if he's okay (you know, as long as he isn't the one who hurt him). And if one of them gets in trouble, the other will stand by him and defend him (unless he's in trouble for something he did to his brother, of course).It sucks that we can't just make a rule that you have to like your sibling. Because that would make it so much easier :p But it is amazing to watch that particular relationship start to grow.

  12. Amber says:

    I have quite a few siblings and feel close to most of them. I think that Charlotte raises an important point–relationships evolve. I have grown closer to my siblings as we've matured but our teen years were a bit rocky.

  13. becca says:

    As you probably know I have a rocky relationship with my one sibling, my older brother. I have ALWAYS wanted to be close. Always have made an effort to be close. I forgive too easily, and don't hold grudges when I probably should. Sadly, I may be done making an effort since he doesn't seem to want to reciprocate. It's just so heartbreaking because I truly believe it would make life so much BETTER to have a strong relationship with your sibling. They are the one person who has known you for your WHOLE life and will be there when your parents are no longer there. I want, hope and pray for my kids to be close to one another, feel a apart of each other's lives, know they HAVE each other forever. I'm not sure how to do that, but I'm trying.I'm so glad you're seeing glimpses of a budding relationship with your boys. I'm sure it makes your heart sing.

  14. Theta Mom says:

    Thanks for sharing this – I have to say I am one of the lucky ones as I had a close relaitonship with my siblings growing up and I still have an awesome relaitonship with them – In fact, I know I am the minority b/c my husband was just saying how "we" were and are probably not the norm. I want nothing more but to have my children experience what I had…

  15. TKW says:

    I know exactly how you feel. Having such a fractured relationship with my own sister, I have hung my hopes so high on my girls. I cannot stand the thought of them not being there, not loving one another.

  16. Justine says:

    I am only child who wants a sibling for my daughter, hoping that they could have what I didn't. But I'm also aware that I cannot force a bond, and that I can only show them what it means to be family and the rest is up to them. I envy those who have close sibling relationships but I had a great childhood even without it so I guess we all find ways to cope and compensate for the areas in which we lack.I've also recently learned that even blood doesn't mean anything when there is unkindness and selfishness where love should be.

  17. ck says:

    I hope the very same things for my daughters. I have brothers, one of whom I'm close with; the other – not so much, and it's my fault. It makes me so sad to think of him because I ruined our relationship before it really had a chance. By adolescence it was dead. My daughters have no cousins on either side, so it's just them. I hope and pray daily that they'll love each other…and like each other too.

  18. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I love hearing about your family!I come from a family of 3 girls, we're all about 18 months apart. Growing up I hated them. Could not stand them. I don't even know why. On the other hand, they have always been close. Shared a room for a while, went to the same college, even roomed together. Now they live 30 minutes apart. Time has really helped strengthen my relationship with them. That and our parents getting divorced almost 8 years ago. I'm happy to say that we are all friends and family now, although my sisters are still closer to each other than they are to me.

  19. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I love hearing about your family!I come from a family of 3 girls, we're all about 18 months apart. Growing up I hated them. Could not stand them. I don't even know why. On the other hand, they have always been close. Shared a room for a while, went to the same college, even roomed together. Now they live 30 minutes apart. Time has really helped strengthen my relationship with them. That and our parents getting divorced almost 8 years ago. I'm happy to say that we are all friends and family now, although my sisters are still closer to each other than they are to me.

  20. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I love hearing about your family!I come from a family of 3 girls, we're all about 18 months apart. Growing up I hated them. Could not stand them. I don't even know why. On the other hand, they have always been close. Shared a room for a while, went to the same college, even roomed together. Now they live 30 minutes apart. Time has really helped strengthen my relationship with them. That and our parents getting divorced almost 8 years ago. I'm happy to say that we are all friends and family now, although my sisters are still closer to each other than they are to me.

  21. Allison @ Alli 'n Son says:

    I love hearing about your family!I come from a family of 3 girls, we're all about 18 months apart. Growing up I hated them. Could not stand them. I don't even know why. On the other hand, they have always been close. Shared a room for a while, went to the same college, even roomed together. Now they live 30 minutes apart. Time has really helped strengthen my relationship with them. That and our parents getting divorced almost 8 years ago. I'm happy to say that we are all friends and family now, although my sisters are still closer to each other than they are to me.

  22. Kristen @ Motherese says:

    Hi Christine – I loved reading this post, especially the image of your two little guys playing together. It's like a sneak preview of what I have waiting for me (I hope!) in a month or two.I have two brothers and we are friendly. We talk openly about real things, but don't speak all that often. The gender divide, not to mention the hundreds of miles between us, is sometimes difficult to navigate, but I feel comforted that we have rallied together whenever the going gets tough for one of us. As much as I would love my boys to be best friends, I'll settle for them having a loving, if not close, relationship.

  23. Crystal says:

    Hi Christine. Found you over at Theta and I'm following you now. I used to be a commuter when I lived and worked in NYC area…love your blog. I also have two boys. Ok, the post: My husband and his brother are not close at all. In fact, it's a strain not only on our marriage, but their shared family. What we have learned is that sibling closeness and love is not necessarily intrinsic, rather, we must foster it. So our days are spent making sure our boys see the light in each other's eyes as much as possible.

  24. Jana says:

    I, too, have issues with my sibling. We don't get along as much as I have always hoped we would. We are 8 years apart, which has a big effect. But I see the burgeoning relationship (still very burgeoning, since my daughter is only 6 months), and I am in awe. I love seeing them together, watching them be excited by one another. I hope they will be good friends.

  25. Just...Kim says:

    I have 1 younger brother (4 years) and we had a period where we were close, but now we only talk once per year. My husband had a falling out with his 2 sisters and they never speak. I raised 2 boys (not quite 3 years apart)who were very close growing up…almost like twins…but clearly had very different personalities. They are now late teen, early 20 and barely talk. They disagree about decisions that have been made and choose not associate much. As a mother, I hope that changes, but can accept if it does not. My younger son, is very close to his step-brother and my husband and I have much joy raising them together. Overall though, we all lead a very happy life. We have wonderful relationships with each other and with other friends and family members. It is important to be content where you are right now so that you don't miss all the pleasure of the present moment. It may never change, this may be all that there is. The future is uncertain and the past is over….all we have is right now. Live it!

  26. Blissed-Out Grandma says:

    I love what you say you want to teach them. I think being intentional about it gives you a much greater chance that it will happen. My sister and I are cordial, but we don't have a whole lot in common. I can hardly bear to be around one of my brothers because he is so domineering and angry and bigoted. At 2 and 3, my grandkids talk about loving each other…. I think they'll grow up saying and believing that, while we never said it.

  27. melissa says:

    Boy, they're cute together! My kids get to spend A LOT of time together now, but they're still young (under 10). I don't really know how you foster their relationships with each other as they grow to be adults. I wonder how much of their relationship will depend on their personalities, and whether they end up being local to one another, and whether they end up in similar life stages at the same time… in other words, I wonder how much of their future relationship depends on nothing we can influence! I really don't know.

  28. evaevolving says:

    This image of them playing hockey together made me smile. Oh, to be able to watch their friendship and love grow and they both grow!I yearn for a tight-knit family, like the ones you see in movies. But oh how rare that is (as we see in many of the comments here). My family is close on a superficial level. We *appear* close but don't really have deep conversations. And my brother and sister, being 9 and 12 years younger, are at such a different point in their lives. It's hard to imagine being close to them. Sad.

  29. Missy says:

    I'm kind of teary! I have two little guys, too, about the same age as yours (4 & 13 mo.). I pray that they are buddies for life. They are family by birth, but I want them to be family by choice.Such a sweet and touching post. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Jen says:

    Well. I'm going to skip that question: "Are you close with your siblings?" and move ahead (and try to keep my comment short. Ha.) Siblings. The moments like this one of your boys' will continue to take your breath away. (Well, I hope so, anyway.)There are so many of these moments in my house, and I am thankful for all of them. I have to be. Because there are equal moments of downright MEAN among my kids. But when my older daughter cries because her older brother has kicked her ("I didn't know it was going to hurt, mom," he tells me, with wild eyes), the "baby," 20 months, comes running from the other room–where she no doubt has been up to no good–and hugs her big sister, patting her on the back, and then pushes off her brother when he tries to get in on the action. Well, that is GOOD STUFF. That I can stand back and watch it all, the comforting, the defense, the remorse. It is priceless.

  31. Melissa says:

    I loved the "we are present, but not present in each others lives"That sums up my siblings too. We talk the basics, we see each other, they love my kids, that's it. No deep connection. I am trying hard to foster that deep connection with my children. Great writing!

  32. Hyacynth says:

    Oh, my heart hurts. I always wanted the closness of a sibling while growing up. I had a sister who's six years younger. I've always loved her, but it was hard to share life when we were younger on the level I desired because she was just so young. {We have a growing, good relationship today.}You touched a nerve with this post, though. One of the reasons we want a larger family is so our kids will have each other, have a friendship that is bound in the thickness of blood. Of course, I've always known that they could, perhaps, not be able to stand each. But I'm praying and need to be praying more, that they'll love and embrace each other. Thanks for sharing this post over at the BPB community.

  33. Capital Mom says:

    Siblings are complicated. I hope that the closeness in age of my kids, despite their gender differences, will help them be close. They are now. They love each other like crazy. I love to see them at the park just playing with each other despite all the other kids there.

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