When one of my sibs was diagnosed with cancer, we all decided to get together as much as we could of a Friday, mid-morning. No pressure. If someone couldn’t get there, it was okay, you could have a cuppa and chat with whomever showed up. If no one did, you’d chat to yourself. It’s the first sign of madness, you know!?
We try to be inclusive. Some Friday mornings might involve two people, other times ten.
This Friday catchup was christened ‘Sister’s Day’, but I’ve realised how inaccurate and exclusive this moniker is, because ‘How to Be Your Best Sibling’ point 3 involves a discussion of this:
3. Include Brothers
Okay, here’s the tricky thing. In a family of five girls and one boy, it’s really difficult to involve our frat-man in conversation during Sister’s Day. Firstly, he’s not the type of bloke who’d want to sit and chat over three hours, 25 used tea bags and no lunch. He’s not the man to open face and reveal what’s inside his head or ponder the number of wrinkles in his navel (eww, thank goodness) or dissect the reasons why Person x relates to Person y while repelling Person z.
Being our best sibling doesn’t mean subjecting a brother to communication torture. It means involving him.
This is a huge revelation. I’m a believer in honest, upfront family discussion, would rather be open than underhand and encourage family members to be the same with me … but I exclude my bro. I don’t mean to, but it’s too complicated. The tyranny of distance, the fact I have so many female relatives on hand to confer with, the speed with which time flies — it all amounts to this sibling being ‘left out’.
He won’t want to come to Sister’s Day (to be renamed ‘sibling’s day’ from June 1st) but he needs to be kept in the family loop. There’s really no excuse. Inclusion is important. It’s a way to make others feel valued and it’s vital in harmonious family situations.
Which leads to:
4. Realizing that some siblings are closer than others
Another of those ‘acceptance’ things as we work our way to becoming our best sibling, and this one can be quite difficult. Perhaps even harder than accepting the comparisons and periods of jealousy.
Some siblings will bond and others won’t, some might be friends, others might feel like tagalongs. Currently, I’m overseeing (which is like parenting, but you are the referee in one of those fights where the boxer bites the ear off another dude) a couple of siblings who HATE each other.
I hate her, she’s dumb, she’s mean, I really hate her hair, she’s an idiot, she ignored me at school, you like her better than me … While in truth, I like neither of these little Mike Tysons.
I love them to bits, of course, but they are siblings at war. Entirely different to the stage my siblings are situated, but you can’t put old heads on young shoulders (wish you could, I’d totes request more than young shoulders, ffs).
If we can accept that some siblings will be closer than others — even within the same family — we might be ambling towards ‘best sibling in show’ territory. We can be jealous of our sibling’s relationship, even pine for it ourselves. I actually think this is pretty normal.
But we have a LARGE spectrum for normal in our fam, and we love sitting on the ‘extremely, very normal’ part of this array.
It seems that to be ‘our best sibling’ we have to act like the Blessed Mary Mackillop and ultimately achieve cannonization. If we’re to accept this and accept that, include her, him, the cat in the hat, his neighbour’s sister who has no friends …
No! It shouldn’t be that hard and we shouldn’t have to be that good, but as with all things human and emotional and (almost) selfless, it’s difficult to be the best person we can for someone else’s benefit. We want a payoff. We want to be the closest to Sister 3 or the most bonded with Brother 2, because it’s not fair!
And so we cycle back to ‘accepting periods of jealousy.’ O!Brother and O!Sister, what a difficult set of relationships you bring to the family table, but life wouldn’t be the same without you all.