When You Aren't Close To Your Adult Siblings

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
Nikola Stojadinovic / Getty Images

Sometimes I’ll mention one of my siblings in a conversation and the person will pause. “I didn’t know you had siblings,” they’ll say. And I can understand why they think that. The fact is, I’m not super close with my siblings.

When I see pictures of my friends having birthday parties or barbecues surrounded by their siblings, I always feel a little weirdness in my chest. My siblings and I have done that on occasion, but never with the same kind of regularity. I can never relate to people who turn to their older sisters for advice, or a show like Fuller House where the main character turns to their adult sibling and invites them into their lives.

It’s not that we don’t have any sort of relationship with each other. We do. But our relationships are more like a “don’t talk for a few months and then send each other a text to make sure we’re alive” kind of thing. We’re the kind of siblings who wish each other a happy birthday on Facebook.

People may find it weird that we’re not closer, but I have never really craved an intensely intimate relationship with any of my siblings, even now that we’re adults.

I’m the youngest of five. They are all half-siblings, and significantly older than me. And since most of us have different mothers, we each grew up in very different circumstances.

So as a result, my siblings and I aren’t close. It’s not that we don’t like each other or get along; it’s just that for the most part, we’ve all lived different lives. And for me, being the youngest, I was so far behind everyone else that I didn’t even really have a connection to any of them until my late teens.

The sister closest to me in age is 11 years older than I am. By the time I’d become someone interesting to be around, and not someone who just wanted to play Barbies all day, she was a mother herself. Though to her credit, she made an effort to be a good big sister.

Before I left for college, she insisted we have lunch with our older sister, and for the first time in my life, it felt like I actually had sisters. I didn’t even realize at the time that it was something I’d been missing; I was used to living my weird parallel life as an only child/kid who had several older siblings.

I spent the next few years living my college life, and my siblings were all raising their kids and living their own lives. Though we talked occasionally and looked out for each other, we were just in such different places in life.

At this point, most of my interactions with my siblings are through social media, and they are generally supportive of what’s happening in my life. When my son was born, both of my sisters posted about their new nephew and how excited they were. Social media has become a great way for us to stay connected, because I’m not the “let’s talk on the phone” type. And even though we’re not close, I still like to know what’s up with them.

I’m never going to have that sitcom style closeness with my siblings. That was never our reality. And I’m okay with that. There were times in my younger years when I wished I had a more “normal” upbringing. Most of my friends had siblings they were close to, and I was envious of that. Of course, then they’d fight and I’d be happy that my siblings were too busy with kids and jobs to pay attention to me.

We may not be the conventional definition of close, but I’ve learned over the years that there isn’t one definition of family. As an adult, I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. We’re never going to be the type of siblings who get together for holidays or take family vacations or pose for those goofy photos. In fact, the five of us have never been in the same place at the same time.

My siblings are great, and I’m glad they’re about to guide me through adulthood. Even if our relationship looks different than most siblings.

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