There’s something special about your siblings. You share parents and a childhood home. Sometimes you hated living with them, but you know you’d never want to live without them. You understand each other in a way that nobody else can because you were shaped by so many of the same experiences. They drive you nuts! You’ve been dealing with their flaws and quirks for decades. But if anyone else dares to point out that your sister or brother is anything but perfect, they’ll have you to answer to. (Honestly. The nerve.)
Our siblings aren’t always our best friends, but they have a special place in our hearts.
My experience was a little different than a lot of people’s because I was an only child until I was eight years old. Up until that point, I never wanted anything more than I wanted a sibling. My mom finally had another baby at the tail end of my third-grade year. My only brother was just a few hours old when I met him. It was the first time I ever cried happy tears. I will never forget the moment they laid that little baby in my arms, and I immediately knew a love I had never known. He was my dream come true.
That was 26 years ago, and he’s a man now. He doesn’t remember those early years when he was my living doll. He only has a vague recollection of the preschool years when he would sometimes come and sleep at the foot of my bed during a thunderstorm. For him, memory of the time I ran outside to yell at the neighborhood bully for being mean to him is growing hazy.
His childhood and mine barely overlapped. I started high school when he was 5. When I got married, he was only 12. I have always loved him because he is my “baby” brother. I know he’s a grown man now. But he’s also that tiny baby with a shock of black hair whose little face made me cry tears of joy for the very first time all those years ago.
We don’t have the typical sibling bond of a shared childhood. For most of his childhood, I was an adult or close to it.
Which is why I’m about to put aside all this mushy stuff about our childhood and get real.
We are grown-ups now, and we don’t get each other. Not at all. Not one little bit. We have not one blessed interest in common.
That’s not to say that we don’t have a good relationship. I love my brother. I respect the life he’s chosen for himself. It’s just that, I’m not really certain how two people can grow up in the same house with the same parents and end up with almost nothing but DNA in common.
I mean, that might sound like a stretch, but it’s true. Our interests, opinions and ideas rarely overlap. We are on the same side of most political arguments (thankfully), but that’s about it.
My brother is unmarried by choice. He has no desire to ever raise a child. He’s a talented working musician who holds a great day job because he’s also realistic and smart. He has a tiny apartment right in the middle of downtown Nashville. He knows where every cool thing in the city is located. Even if he doesn’t frequent the establishment, he can give me a bar or restaurant recommendation for any friend who comes through town based on their personal interests.
I chose a family life in the suburbs. I am a wife, mom and writer. My house is 45 minutes from the city, and I couldn’t tell you one single cool place to have brunch or drinks downtown. I mean, maybe if it existed 7 years ago before I had my first son, I might know how to give you directions, but I am almost sure I’ve never been there. The thing is, I wasn’t cool before I was a mom, and nothing has changed. I can totally give you detailed instructions to every Target within an hour of my house, but I don’t get many points for that skill outside of my mom circle.
Despite our very different lives, my brother and I talk a few times a week. He sends me articles about things he thinks I might like, even if he doesn’t care about them himself. I ask him about pop culture and political things that I’m having trouble understanding. We celebrate each other’s accomplishments. Even if we don’t understand the specific importance of whatever they’re going on about, if one of us is excited, we are both excited.
Nothing we want in life overlaps in any way, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy for one another.
He doesn’t want kids, but he is glad to see me raise mine. When I found out I was pregnant after a miscarriage, my brother was happy for me. When a major player in the music world emailed him about his work, I was impressed, even though I had never heard of the guy. We do our best to support each other.
It’s just weird because I know that if we didn’t share parents, we would not choose to know each other. If I met my brother in any circumstance in 2019, we would not leave that meeting as friends. It’s not that I wouldn’t like him, but I’m a mid-thirties homeschooling mom, and he’s a mid-twenties single musician. We make no sense as anything other than siblings.
But that’s the best part about the closeness of siblings, isn’t it? It’s not dependent on commonality. It’s almost inherent. You just love them for reasons you can’t explain, and that’s that.
Life can get messy, but when push comes to shove, you’re there for your sibling, no questions asked. If they’re hungry, you feed them. If they need a place to stay, your house is theirs. When they fall in love, you love that person, too … if they treat your sibling right. If someone breaks your sibling’s heart, you hate that person right along with them until the pain and anger subside. Their success is your success. Their joy is your joy. Your siblings’ dreams are your dreams.
Of course, sibling relationships can get complicated like any other relationship. Sometimes our siblings can’t remain in our lives because they aren’t safe people for us to have around. I know that not everyone who has a sibling finds an ally for life.
Even those of us who have good relationships with our brothers and sisters aren’t always best friends. There’s beauty in the fact that they don’t really have to be. You just mean something to each other because you’re family. When you’ve always been there to support one another, your love for your sibling just starts to become an irrefutable truth.
Whether you have a million things in common, or exactly zero, your siblings can be a source of comfort, support and love. I guess our moms were right when they said, “You better be nice to your brother. One of these days you’ll understand how special your relationship really is.”