Most of us are born into families with other children. Siblings are a complicated group. They needn’t be, but most often they are. Finding our niches within the hierarchical order is tricky business. There is usually a pecking order. And it normally runs oldest to youngest, with the latter having no one to peck on, so to speak.
Perceptions of life are affected by our own lives, so they’re necessarily skewed by what our brain interprets of the goings on around us. Obviously these interpretations are our truths, not necessarily lining up with those of others. This isn’t to say they’re not valid, for to us they are.
One of the truisms in life, I think, is that we should listen, really listen, to what someone is saying. We tend to hear what we want to hear. I wonder why that is? It’s almost as though we’re only using one ear. This is definitely the case in most marriages, mine included. But I guess when 2 strangers get together, there’s a lot to sort out, and for marriages to survive there needs to be give-and-take, a lot of it.
Give-and-take among siblings is another matter. When they live under the same roof it’s probably essential, to minimize the bloodshed. But when they’ve left the roost to find their own way in the world, coming together again can be, as I said, tricky.
I’m 61 and the youngest of 9. It’s not easy to throw off the mantel of “kid sister.” I don’t often see my siblings, so the issue rarely comes up. Nonetheless, it’s not an easy position to occupy, especially when I’ve successfully led my life outside the hierarchy. I’ve never been able to say to any of my siblings “I think you should do this.” Not that I would want to do so. I think they’re all just fine as they are. Just as I couldn’t tell a stranger how to live her life, I couldn’t do so with family. I could only offer advice and support, if asked.
I have great admiration for my husband and his siblings, always have. I’ve known them for nearly 41 years, having interacted with them much more when he and I were dating. The last 30 years or so we’ve lived on the mainland, away from the rest of them. There was obviously a hierarchy among the 12 siblings, but it wasn’t overtly apparent to me. The camaraderie among them was palpable, still is. The banter back and forth among sisters and brothers is light, fun, loving. There’s no heavy talk about setting and achieving goals, working at better jobs, pressure to attend college. Not that these aren’t important. But I think my husband and his siblings set examples for one another. They led the way, they didn’t point in the direction and say “Go do it.” They just did it.
The pattern of showing by example has filtered down to all our nieces and nephews. Many have graduated from colleges on the mainland, and some have traveled outside the country, even as far away as Australia, one nephew living in Mongolia as a Mormon missionary for a couple of years. There is excitement within the family whenever we gather, catching up with one another, getting better acquainted with newborns, or children who’ve grown up in our absence. No matter the lives they lead, there is equality among my husband and his siblings, and their children and their cousins. And it’s for certain, they’ve all “got each other’s backs,” that’s OHANA, Hawaiian for family.
My mother-and-father-inlaw, and their marriage of 40 + years before he died, are to be credited for their successful, love-by-example raising of 12 children. A legacy they have surely left to all who come after. I’m very fortunate to have found love and comfort under the shelter of my in-laws welcoming “umbrella” these many years.
for everyone coming in out of the “rain”…hugs…hugmamma.