“I know you are, but what am I?”
We’ve all been there. In the midst of an intense sibling battle, the oldest holding something of yours just over your head to where even your tippy-toes can’t even reach. You swear you’re five seconds away from calling Mom. You make one final attempt to launch yourself high enough to knock your things out of their hands—and it happens. The two of you collide, falling over and knocking that very expensive, very fragile vase your parents love so much off the table, sending it crashing to the floor shattered in what seems like a million unfixable pieces.
That’s when the transition happens from natural sworn enemies to secret conspirers. It happens so quickly that Hollywood couldn’t even script it. How are you going to cover this up? What series of lies should go into the story? Who is going to take the blame for this one?
And so goes the wonderful world of sibling relationships. Practically living on a fine line between love and hate. And although there may be days when you despise their very existence, you still know somewhere very deep in the back of your mind that you wouldn’t trade them for the world. Sometimes this revelation doesn’t hit until the adult stages of life, which is how it happened for me and my older brother.
My brother Sean and I were vicious kids, disagreeing mostly just for the sake of disagreeing. I can only imagine how frustrating this must have been for my parents. My poor mother ran a daycare out of our home and then later became an elementary school teacher, so we either helped to condition her for war or she developed Stockholm Syndrome. Regardless, she was the pivotal inspiration for the relationship my brother and I developed later in our adult lives.
Our parents are lecturers. Not the professional, collegiate kind but more of the have-a-lesson-for-every-possible-instance kind. The most common lecture that we received in the aftermath of a big fight was about how much we needed to learn to appreciate each other. It went a little like, “Whether you like it or not, you share a bond with your brother/sister that you will not ever have with anyone else on the planet, so just work with it.”
Sean and I were mature kids, so when we received a lecture, we understood immediately what it meant and the weight that the words carried. Of course, this didn’t stop us from fighting over every little thing—we were children after all. However, after about the seventh sibling lecture, a transition occurred. Sean is not a natural-born leader but he did begin to try to “take me under his wing.” He taught me big-brother things like how to skateboard and how to lie to our parents (sorry Mom and Dad). When he learned to drive, he became my chauffeur and the forced time together helped to shape my interests. His music taste greatly influenced my budding ear and he taught me how to draw, something that sparked both of our career paths.
Now, we’re older. We’ve moved away and back. We’ve been through college and careers. We’ve faced tragedies and major accomplishments. And through all of this, we’ve gotten incredibly close. If you had told me 8 years ago, before my brother moved away to college, that we would develop a genuine friendship, I would’ve laughed in your face. I fully expected our relationship to end when we stopped being forced to live in close quarters, and that we would only talk when the whole family got together. But something else happened.
Our sibling relationship developed into a full-fledged friendship. The kind of friendship that sends memes on a daily basis. The kind of friendship that can go without talking for weeks or months but still have a connection. The kind of friendship that can talk about the hard stuff along with all the good.
Our mother’s lectures resonate more and more with me every time I talk to my brother. The bond you have with a sibling, whether you’re incredibly close or haven’t talked in years, is something that cannot be recreated through any other relationship.