Sibling Revilery

I was an only child for over 5 years. Then they sprung a baby sister on me. I’m not sure why there was such a delay. Either they were so horrified at their first outing as parents that it took them years to recover; or the whole immigrating thing affected their fertility and/or motility. I’m going with the immigration thing.

Anyway, some child psychologists say that introducing a new sibling to a child and thinking he/she is going to be thrilled about it is akin to a husband introducing a new wife to his spouse.

 “Guess what, honey? We’re getting a new little wife for you to play with! Yes, we are! She’ll be small and helpless and much cuter than you and will take up almost all of my time for the foreseeable future, though I’ll love you both the same. And you’re going to love her and be great friends. Yes, you will!”

So, that’s pretty much how I felt when they told me I was getting a sister.

She turned out to be everything I was not. She was quiet and calm and incredibly adorable. She slept through the night from day one. I still haven’t.

As she grew up she proved herself to be obedient, polite, helpful and kind with the sweetest disposition ever. I know these things because my parents constantly marveled amongst themselves and to anyone who would listen over the day-and-night differences between their two daughters.[1]

My sister was a straight A student and never gave my parents a moment of trouble. Any time she did do anything naughty it was my fault because I had egged her on.

 And yet, with all this love and adoration my sister still felt that she had to compete with me. When she became a teenager she’d go out of her way to try and get in trouble. But she wasn’t very good at it.

Instead of trying to sneak into a bar with a fake ID, she’d tell the bouncers she was underage and made a big scene when they wouldn’t let her in. When she stayed overnight with a girlfriend she’d tell my parents she’d been out all night having sex with a guy instead of vice versa.

For a while, she made a point of looking up guys I’d dated, offer herself to them and then if they took her up on it, she’d come tell me about it. I guess she thought I’d be crazed with anger and jealousy or something. But really, by that time, I could barely remember some guy I’d been out with once or twice years ago.

My sister never married, never had kids. Instead she’s done a lot of travelling, got her PhD and has shacked up with one totally inappropriate man after another in rapid succession. Men who physically abused her; men with substance abuse problems; men much younger than her who didn’t care to work and lived off her and then snuck off one day, taking along most of her valuables. And yes, all of these have happened more than once and are still happening.

We do have things in common aside from our spinsterhood. We live similar lifestyles (except for the inappropriate men). She’s much more militant about her choices and can get rather aggressive about foisting them on others, but we believe in the same sorts of things.

I can’t say I ever liked my sister much, though. And the feeling is mutual. But you know, we’re related, so every once in a while we end up in the same place at the same time and we make polite conversation through gritted teeth.

Occasionally, one or the other of us will make a feeble attempt to get closer, but it always fizzles out before it goes anywhere.

I’m often sad about this because for so many women their sister is better than a best friend. It would have been nice to have a sister like that. I’m pretty sure that feeling is mutual, too.


[1] After realizing they were capable of creating a perfect child, my parents quickly spawned 3 more – all boys, one of whom managed to usurp my place as the most difficult child ever. Thanks, dude.

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45 responses to “Sibling Revilery

  1. I love that baby=wife comparison. Hilarious, true, and eye-opening!

    I have three sisters and I love them all to death. My older sister and I were never close growing up, but we have grown close as adults. My two younger sisters and I played together constantly as children and now we chat to each other all the time. I would definitely say that they are better than best friends.

    I think brothers can be great, too, though — I always wanted one. I hope you’re close with them!

  2. If I had known about the “new little wife solution” ten years ago, I might have saved my marriage. Or been killed.

  3. There’s almost 6 years between my sister and me. It took us a LONG time to get to somewhere that we could be friends. We still don’t talk too often but I know that she’ll always be there for me and the age makes no difference now.

    I’m hoping to avoid the big chasm that age can create by having my 2 this close together. Guess we’ll see how that works out! 🙂

    Sister relationships can be so complicated. I’m sure that there’s just as many like you as there are that are closer than close.

  4. Well you’re a bigger woman than me… I mean the figuratively of course, and in more than one way as well – for reasons that should be obvious…

    … I have one sibling – a brother 3 years my senior – and I can say, as sadly as it might make me appear that, if he needed a kidney and I were his only available match, he’d be on dialysis the remainder of his sorry life. And I say that with all the dark glee that I can muster. It’s cold and it’s harsh and totally unforgivable, reprehensibly wrong and I couldn’t give a flying *BLEEP*.

    My entire family (this includes parents, aunts, uncles and his –at the time- only remaining grandparent) have written him out of their lives and in the past 5 year out of their wills. To say he has inflicted the entire family with 20+ years of unending, merciless and premeditated pain and shit is an understatement. He’s divorced and his two daughters are awaiting the day they will no longer be dependant on him and his mentally unstable and cruel ways. (He’s never laid a finger on either of them, and I can say that honestly because if either my father, myself or their other uncle ever caught a whiff of an insinuation of any physical abuse of ANY sort, he’d not be alive today)

    The saying is true; you cannot pick your Family. You can pick your friends, your nose, scabs and your ass, all of which are infinitively more pleasurable than spending one further second of my life with my brother in it.

    I don’t know what your parents take is on your sister, but I know my parents are emotionally and mentally scarred and you can see the regret, hurt and complete and utter confusion that his treatment of his family over the years has caused. At my late grandmother’s funeral last May countless people confused my partner with my brother, only by the simple fact that they knew she had 2 grandsons and there were two men at the funeral home with the family, acting as pallbearers and in the receiving line at the reception after the service. My parents have on numerous occasions vocalized and put into writing how much Didier is more of a son to them than my Brother ever was – which is as painful as it is beautiful to experience.

    So where was I, ah yes… that you even attempt any contact with your sister, wish that you had a relationship that you don’t is far more than I will ever feel or desire.

    What more can I say, other than Thank you Dr XUP for listening, where should I send payment for this session?

    …onto happier things. IT’S SNOWING!!!! YAY!

  5. I can relate to your situation even though I am the youngest of the kids in our family. My last living brother and I don’t get along at all. In his mind I am still the same 11 yr old kid I was when he ran away instead of moving south. He can’t seem to understand why I don’t like to have him tell me what to do and how to behave. I try to get along once in a while but it always ends up badly. We live 1000 miles apart and I don’t ever see us getting together.

  6. I always find it strange how siblings can dislike each other, probably because my brother, sister and I are close.

    Thankfully we’re not the “talk every day” close or I’d go insane. Although we might see each other only a couple of times a year (and my brother lives only 30 km from me), the bond is strong and we’re always there for one another.

    When I realized that that’s not always the case I was flabbergasted.

  7. My dad and his sister don’t get on. After thirty or so estranged years an attempt at reconcilation has been made. No one really knows what caused the rift- least of all my dad, but they are trying to forge a new relationship. I find the whole thing incredibly sad. My aunt is my godmother and I’ve lost out on her for thirty years. I saw her for the first time in 12 years last week and what struck me was how like me she is. That made me feel weird.

    Families are hard work, sometimes.

  8. Lynn – Aw, that’s nice. Two of my brothers and I get along very well – they’re so much younger than me though, so it’s not ever a real closeness on an equal footing -I’m always the older sister. The other brother has problems. We used to be very close and are very much alike and fought like cats and dogs. He’s chosen to remove himself from the family pretty much entirely and I haven’t seen him for 14 years. I’ve tried. I really have, but he wants nothing to do with us.

    Tom – Yes, it’s always a good idea if you’re marriage is in trouble to bring a new person into the union — child, 2nd wife, 2nd husband, plumber… I believe that’s what Dr. Phil would recommend.

    Sky Girl – My mum and her youngest sister were like this too until all the other siblings died. Now that they’re both old ladies in their 70s they’ve finally become friends and talk and visit all the time. And yes, I think it would have made a huge difference if we’d been closer in age.

    Kitty – Holy crap! My sister isn’t a demon, she’s just weird and troubled. She hasn’t really done anything to anyone like your brother has — she’s just a little prickly. Everyone tolerates her and then breathes a sigh of relief when she’s gone and laughs about all the crazy stuff she says and does.

    Dr. Monkey – It’s hard to get out of the “oldest sibling” mode, it really is. Growing up I was always responsible for them; looked after them; they came to me for help with every friggin’ thing and still expect me to bail them out now occasionally because it’s my duty. And then if I try to give them advice they didn’t ask for I’m being bossy. Just a perspective from the other side.

    Jazz – I know, it’s sad. I think a lot of it is down to how the parents nurture and foster sibling relationships early on. Ours seemed to always be pitting us against each other. I suppose it was their way of trying to get us to do better. Of course it also depends on the kids – their personalities, etc. It’s tough and very sad when siblings aren’t close.

    A&J – There’s a lot of history between siblings that’s hard to overcome. And we tend to revert somewhat to childishness when we’re with our sibs and/or parents. That certainly doesn’t help.

    Stella – Are you? Interesting. I think I’ve gotten that day-and-night impression from you actually when you talk about her. Crazy eh? The one person who should be closer to you than anyone else in the world…

    MisssyM – Very hard work. Why weren’t you able to see your aunt all this time just because your dad was feuding with her? My brother hasn’t spoken to any of us for 14 years, too and he’s missing out on all his nephews and his niece, but they’re still young. And I miss him, too, but he’s being stubborn. Foolish people.

  9. First of all, you ARE adorable. I have recently seen proof of this.

    Second of all, I’m an only child so any stories on the subject of siblings are always of interest to me. You don’t miss what you’ve never had so I have no yearning for a sister or regret that I don’t have one. This post still does make me feel a little sad, however – for you to have the potential for a relationship so wonderful and fulfilling in your life but to just never have it come to fruition that way.

    But is interesting to learn that you have a Porcupine of sorts in your own life!

  10. There’s 4 years between my brother and me and I can assure you that I am not too fond of him.
    I know so many people who say “Get closer to him! You’ll regret it later!” and when I have tried he turns right back into the same old douche that he always is.
    Sometimes its better to leave well enough alone and not do anything.

  11. It does feel weird to read about not having a close bond with your sibling. I obviously hated my younger brother when we were kids, but we grew very close as adults.

    I am sure he sometimes sees me as you do your own sister, though. The troubled child and all that.

    I am sure he often resented me, as well. First I was the best student while he was doing just okay, then later I became the rebel while he was low-maintenance to my parents. And my grandparents always doted on me, while even now he remains “the boy” instead of being called by name.

    I am glad he never held this against me. He is way more successful now than I am, earns more money, is brilliant in his job, has a gorgeous girlfriend, and a beautiful place in Italy. It just took him longer to excel at what he does.

    I appreciate his friendship, I respect and love the kind of man he has become. Generous, emotional, calm – a lot like my father.

    My father had 4 brothers and sisters when growing up, and he wouldn’t talk to one of his brothers even at his sister’s funeral. Neither would any of the other siblings. Some dislike runs deep, I guess.

  12. It is sad that sometimes the way our parents send signals tend to drive wedges between siblings by making us compete with each other. I don’t think we can blame them cause their reaction may be considered normal even if it is damaging in nature. I guess it is up to us to overcome these obstacles by finding other means of finding self assuarance.

    Are you closer to your brother who dethroned you as the difficult child?

  13. Oh can I assume that by “revilery” you really mean “RIVALRY”?
    Or are we celebrating not being only children?

  14. Lesley – I think the Lonely Onlies have it made in the shade. I used to yearn feverishly for a relationship with my mum and/or dad like my daughter has with me. She’s the centre of the universe at home and how cool is that? Did I say something about a Porcupine in this post??? Or are you still harkening way back to the beginning of the year for some reason?

    Lebowski – Ya, your brother is a total douche from everything I’ve heard and seen. And there’s no reason to try in those circumstances. Thing is my sister isn’t a douche per se. She has some intolerable quirks and is a little messed up — nothing harmful to others. She just makes me want to scream when we’re together and that’s not really good for healthy relationships. (And no, I really mean “revile”ry – as in saying nasty things to and about siblings. I sort of made it up)

    Gila – It’s nice to hear you and your brother are close now. Lots of kids fight with their siblings when they’re young and manage to work it out to become friends as adults. Sometimes the fighting is more intense and never gets worked out.

    LGS – I was quite close to him; we are very much alike. But he, for a whole bunch of reasons has decided to divorce himself from almost everyone in the family (except the sister, oddly enough). So I haven’t seen him for a long time. Hopefully he’ll come around some time. I’ve tried, but he resists. I have no idea what his issues even are.

  15. My extended family is one of contrast.
    My own two siblings and I (older brother, younger sister) get along famously. We’re not in your face, joined at the hip close, but we are on very good terms.
    My sister lives about five minutes from me, and I have Sunday supper at her house every week.
    My brother lives eight hours away. We see each other three or four times a year, either when I’m at home or he’s in Ottawa visiting his son, our sister and me. We talk on the phone a few times a year. I must admit that he usually instigates it, calling just to see how I’m doing.
    We know there is a special family bond that says that whenever one of us needs one of the other two, he or she is there, no questions asked. And we love and worry about our Dad equally.
    My brother and I are friends, but not bestest buddies. I have other people in my life who fill that bill.

    My stepmother’s family, on the other hand, is something we have a hard time perceiving. She has five kids, and only occasionally communicates with one of them. Two of them live in the same small town, and they don’t bother with each other.

    It’s easy for us to say that life is too short for that kind of crap, but we really don’t know about the baggage that caused their situation. It’s just sad that our stepmother has to rely on us to be family, when she has one of her own that could be included as part of a blended family.

    Sad, indeed.

  16. I don’t have a sister, but I always wanted one. Not sure why. I doubt it would have made my life easier, but I guess I always assumed there was a built-in friendship there. I have a brother who’s 8 years older, but this still resonates. I don’t think we were very close until I went to college (but we never hated each other. We were just totally different). At that point we started to to find things in common.

    I admit it—I was totally the annoying younger sister who, according to him, got away with murder. He was the older boy who got to do whatever he wanted. I always felt competitive and insecure because he was the straight A student with a million friends. I was a lazy student and had a couple of close friends I trusted. I preferred books to people.

    It’s funny, now that we’re older, we’ve been comparing notes and have found he was just as jealous of me as I was of him. Now we can laugh about it.

  17. I was so hoping for a happier ending!

    My sister is about 5 years older and I’m sure she was less than thrilled to have me (baby sister) show up. I love the way you compare it to a wife – so true!

    I’d say it was difficult when we were young because we were at such different stages of life, however, we became much closer when she started university and I started high school. We finally got out of each other’s hair, and found that although we have a lot of differences, we also have some similarities.

    Today, she drives me a little bonkers once in a while (and vice versa) however, we are quite close.

    Daisy

  18. There are 4 of sibs in my family. Older bro, older sis, me, little sister. All two years apart, except my baby sister, she came five years after me.

    We’ve never had any major feuds. Maybe we’ve avoided the competitiveness because we were all so different. My brother was the brain, older sister was the hippie, I was the artist, and my little sister was the jock. Each of us were able to develop our own niches without a sib trying to out do us.

    As far as a sister bond. My sisters have it. Big time. My mom and two sisters are really close. So close, they can’t fart without the others knowing about it. I’ll pass on that. My world revolves around my wife and kids not the sibs.

    But I love my siblings, and hell yes, I’ve give any of them a kidney or anything else that I could spare if they needed it.

  19. Bob – Wow, you have dinner there every Sunday? I’ve lived in the same town with all of my siblings and mother and sometimes only saw them once a year. I’m a little envious.

    Mo – I know how you feel about always wanting a sister. I wish I had a sister sister, too. Unfortunately it’s not an automatic best friend. Just like having a dad doesn’t automatically guarantee the “daddy’s little girl” thing. Why can’t life be like TV?

    Daisy – Hi! Thanks for visiting and leaving the comment. It’s always nice to hear there are still sister relationships that are good out there.

    Reeky – That’s the oddest family configuration I’ve ever heard of. Everyone so different? We are all quite alike in many ways — our interests, talents, lifestyles, etc… Hmmm, maybe that’s the problem.

    Nat – I like and get along with all my sisters-in-law much more than my real sister, too.

  20. XUP, I don’t know how you answer all of these comments. There are so many and because of your good content, they are so involved! Nice work, by the way.

    I have siblings, I am the oldest…I get along fine with them. I have a mother I’d like to send somewhere else fairly often.

  21. My brother is almost 10 years older than me and he was apparently thrilled to have a baby sister. Too bad I don’t remember those days. We get along great, though it took until adulthood for us to really get to be friends on the same level. Makes sense, really, considering the age difference. My mother’s sister was 7 years older than her and they were very close and she was devasted when her sister died even though they had lived on different continents for 50 years. My father on the other hand would have nothing to do with any of his siblings and it was embarrassing to find out I had an uncle living next door to a family I used to babysit and had never heard of him. (unusual last name was the giveaway). I always wanted lots of cousins – that way we could be close, but they’d go home where they belonged so I could still have my own bedroom and parents.

  22. Like your sister, I was the good little sister (but to a big brother). The reason why, and maybe this was the case in your family, is after watching my brother make all these mistakes and get in so much trouble, A) I knew how to avoid it and B) Did not want the drama. My brother and I were close on and off (we’ve mostly lived across the country from each other) but it all went away when his mid-life crisis swerved away from sports cars and affairs into a full-blown crack habit. I actually used to pray he would die so at least his kids would get his Social Security. He hit bottom, discovered religion and now our relationship could best be described as “tentative.” Maybe your sister sounds better now?

  23. My parents waited about 3 years or so before bringing my brother into the world. So far, everything has worked out okay.

    Now (30 years later) my mother just needs to find a way to get him to move out of the basement.

  24. ok so my real sister, i hate with a passion and dont acknowledge her when she walks my me in the street.

    my step sister on the other hand i talk to (she does annoy me but i put up with it and just dont answer the phone when i cant deal)

  25. Laura – Reading and answering the comments is my favourite part of blogging. I wonder if people actually read the responses?

    Violetsky – I always wanted lots of cousins, too, so we could have big Christmas dinners and summer vacations together and stuff. Unfortunately all my cousins lived in Europe, so I never got to know them.

    Geewits – Gee Whizz. You’ve definitely trumped my sibling issues. It would be nice if bro found a middle ground between crack addict and holy roller, I guess.

    Chris – Have they tried just booting his sorry ass out? The direct approach usually works best.

    Jobthingy – Oh well, at least you’re building yourself a nice little family of your own now.

  26. although it sounds as though you have pretty much come to terms with your relationship or lack of it with your sister, i can understand and hear the saddness.

    i have two sisters of my own that i love to death. but i also have a sister in law that i love as much as i do my own sisters.

    if you haven’t already, maybe you will someday have a friend that you’ll have a friend that is better than a sister.

    i also don’t think it’s always reasonable to expect to be best friends to your siblings.

  27. XUP: Oh – you had included in one of your comments that she’s prickly. So I just loosely used the analogy! (Too loosely!) I do admit that being an only has its perks. I don’t have a sister but I have a mom I’m incredibly, super-tight with. I can’t imagine not having that.

  28. I read the responses! See? 😉

    No sisters for me either. I have a brother, but I rarely see him … he lives in Vancouver. We see each other every couple of years give or take, just enough to keep it awkward and unnatural — and to make me wonder if we are the same two people who spent every day fighting, laughing, playing, living when we were young … It’s kind of sad actually, when I think too hard about it.

  29. I read ALL the comments all the time, even the posts where I don’t have anything to say. I love it that there is so much interaction with everyone here.

  30. I’m 6 years older than my brother. Because of that, and the fact that we’re opposite sexes, our upbringings were quite separate. We really didn’t have much to do with each other for many years. When his wife told me, just a few years ago, how difficult it had been for my brother to live up to me and my accomplishments, I was astounded, to say the least. I didn’t think I was much to live up to, for one thing, and I had no idea that he would even try! I only see him a couple of times a year now, but we do enjoy each other’s company, and it is nice to have our shared past.
    And yet, despite appreciating having a sibling, I chose to only reproduce once. And like you, XUP, I like having an only child. She doesn’t know anything different, so she says she’s mostly content without a sister or brother. The only thing, she says, is that because she’s never had any siblings, her fighting skills aren’t very good!

  31. Raino – It’s odd though that you think people that share so much with you from genes to culture to upbringing to environment — that if you can’t get along with those people, what chance do you have to form strong relationships with complete strangers?

    Lesley – Ah ha! Good to hear about you and your mom. I hope the same thing happens with me and my daughter.

    Olivia – It IS sad. Like I said to Raino — these are people who theorecticaly know you better than anyone; but end up being almost strangers.

    Violetsky – Good to know. People do get into some good discussions on this blog. I love reading comments on other blogs too.

    Kitty – Sure. We don’t actually have to have anything to do with either of them during that week anyway, do we?

    Pinklea – Ha! My daughter gets a lot of fighting practice with me, so I’m not to worried about that. They do get a bit self-important sometimes. Like everything should always work out the way that’s best for them — not used to sharing. For instance, my daughter gets to decide pretty much every day what she wants to eat for breakfast, lunch & supper. A small thing, but totally unheard of when I was growing up with 4 siblings.

  32. I have one sister, 3 or so years younger than me. She lives about 9 hours away, but we talk on the phone weekly. We were regular sisters I guess, we fought but we loved each other, and it’s matured into a pretty great friendship.

    I’m glad that I have two daughters. They spend a lot of time playing together, and though they have their share of spats, and jealousies, I think they’ll be friends for their whole lives.

  33. I was hoping, too, as I was reading along that you two became close. I only have one sister. We used to be close but she recently cut me out of her life. It’s a long story but, to tell you the truth, I don’t miss all of the drama. Anyway, thanks for dropping by my blog. It was nice to visit yours.

  34. Alison – That’s nice to hear and I’m sure your girls will be great friends, too. I don’t know what the secret is to fostering good relationships between siblings, but I’m glad that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about.

    Kitty – I think you’d have a marvellous time with my sister. You’d be slapping her within the first 10 minutes.

    Linda – Hi! Thank you for the comment. Sorry my story didn’t have a happier ending — although it ain’t over till the fat lady sings, right? Who knows what might happen. If my mum and her youngest sister can become friends finally in their 70s then anyone can, I reckon.

  35. I am the baby of the family so don’t know what it is like to have a sibling thrust upon you. It probably isn’t nice. (My siblings still talk about what a brat I was. LOL) We moved around alot (dad was in the military) and frequently only had each other as playmates. It forges a bond. My sister and I don’t have a lot of interests in common as adults, but I consider her one of my best friends — we can fight like only sisters can but in the end I love her to pieces, and I would do anything for her or my brothers.

  36. Raino – You’re right. But it doesn’t seem like it should be right.

    Louise – We were all trapped together all the time. We live way out in the middle of nowhere; had no other relatives around and all our friends were miles away. Soooooo – really no wonder we can’t stand each other.

    Laura – HA! Thanks

  37. having two older sisters (i was an accident), i can vouch for the pain that sometimes accompanies close sister relationships.

    i believe as adults we can choose our own family members, sort of a “do over”.

  38. Leah – It’s true that we form our own little families as we get older. It’s not quite the same thing, but it can be better in many ways. And, please don’t ever refer to yourself as an accident again. What a terrible image. I’d venture to guess that most of us weren’t exactly planned, but no human being should be referred to as an accident — an unexpected surprise, perhaps…