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Leaving the sibling rivalry behind

When I was a child I longed for a sister. A genetically identicalcomrade who would share my love of pink party dresses and understandBarbie and Ken’s tumultuous make-believe romance.

When I was a child I longed for a sister. A genetically identical comrade who would share my love of pink party dresses and understand Barbie and Ken’s tumultuous make-believe romance.


Instead, I got a younger brother. He didn’t want to play with my Barbie dolls, he was far more interested in decapitating them.


James — yes we’re one of those unfortunate pairs whose parents thought it would be cute to give us names that start with the same initial — was not a pretty playmate. He was a gross, annoying brat who kicked the back of my seat on road trips. A basement dwelling creature who only emerged out of his room to forage for food and roll his eyes at my high school awkwardness.


Of course, I was no angel. In any juvenile brother-sister dynamic it takes two to torment — and I had a smug, first-born complex and a seriously bossy attitude.


Does any of this sound a bit familiar?


Unless you’re an only child, in which case you probably have your own issues, I’ll bet you have countless stories involving an insufferable brother or sister.


Siblings, it seems, are in constant competition for their parents’ attention and acclaim. Inevitably, comparisons are drawn and children strive to live up to the labels they’ve been given — the “pretty one,” the “smart one” and, of course, “the favourite.”


However, time goes on and the teasing and bickering starts to dissipate. As siblings mature they do the unthinkable — they start to enjoy each other’s company. At some point we stop seeing them as our bratty little brothers and spiteful older sisters and we start thinking of them as adults.


Somewhere between the end of high school and our 20-something years, my brother and I called a truce. Rivalry gave way to revelry and eventually we became friends. Yes, it turns out that my unbearable kid brother is actually terribly witty and pretty fun to be around, as long as we’re not living under the same roof.


Occasionally, we regress — falling back into that childhood dynamic around the big family holidays when stress levels are high and there’s never enough wine on hand — but we’ve tamed our childish tendencies for the most part. And even though he still rolls his eyes at me from time to time, I’ve come to realize that I really do love him. Like a brother in fact.

 
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