The Five Things Having Siblings Teaches Us
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is writing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
We don’t know what we don’t know. It sounds like a nonsense expression, but it actually does mean something. Sometimes in life, despite our best efforts, we have to accept that there are things we simply do not know, and therefore, cannot make decisions based on information we don’t have. But this doesn’t only apply to us, of course. There are times when other people behave a certain way because they don’t have the knowledge or experience that you do. It’s incredibly frustrating, but also inevitable. And quite often, this clash will occur when two people have different upbringings. I can think of no other upbringing difference more significant than having siblings vs. being an only child.
My parents did a great job raising my sister and I. But one thing I always felt my father understood more thoroughly was the brother-sister dynamic. Mom was an only child, and there were times when battles between me and my sister baffled her. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized—she’s viewing her parenthood through the lens of an only child, not through the lens of a parent who’s been there, done that with every imaginable sibling scuffle.
With that in mind, here are some things that people with siblings can understand with deeper meaning than those without…
- You are not the center of the universe
There’s a natural tendency for only children to grow up with a sense of being infallible. They never had to share a bedroom, yield to their brother’s movie preference, etc. But once you have a sibling, you learn very quickly that the world does not revolve around you and your desires. It teaches a crucial lesson in that regard and prepares them for a life where, unless you’re Kim Kardashian, the world clearly will not revolve around you.
- Sharing is not only virtuous, it’s mandatory
My older son is five, and he’s had a brother for three years. Even as recent as last night, their ability to share was tested. Each of them had a toy that belonged to the other. There was some whining at first, but eventually, they both realized that if they expected to keep the other one’s toy, they had to share their own. It’s a give and a take. While not always pretty, my kids understand that sharing their toys with others is simply something that has to happen. That knowledge should serve them well as adults.
- Sometimes in life, people will try to drown you under an alligator raft
When I was about eight, my older sister, Nicole, pushed me underwater in our above-ground pool and held me under using an inflatable alligator raft. We were frequently at odds, especially when either of us had the ability to splash water in the other’s face. So, battles were the norm. Now, I don’t think she was actually trying to kill me (I mean, I’m pretty sure), but at the same time, I literally felt like I was fighting for my life. Metaphorically speaking, this has happened plenty of times as an adult. I tell myself that the raft helped me prepare.
- There’s something special about a shared history
Don’t you absolutely love sitting around a table with old friends, reminiscing about old times with monstrous grins on your faces? Well, a sibling is the oldest friend you have. And you’ve been through everything together. Baths, bedtimes, graduations, you name it. And there’s no one else on this earth that understands and appreciates your history as deeply as they do. Because, quite simply, it’s their history too.
- You don’t have to fight alone
Although disconcerting to see your children rip each other’s heads off on a daily basis, you can rest assured that they’ll be on the same side of the battlefield as adults. You may be as different as two people can be, but the ties that bind you override anything that separates you. I realize this isn’t the case 100% of the time, but more often than not, your siblings will be on your side during the most harrowing of life’s struggles.
* Honorable Mention: Eat what you want before someone else does
That’ll do it for me this week. In closing, I’d like to send the sincerest gratitude to Jill Cordes. Jill will be ending this blog at the end of the month. Last July, I was given the tremendous opportunity (by her) to guest blog for Parents, having my work visible to thousands of readers. And while the plan is for my future posts to appear under the “Parent’s Perspective” banner, I will greatly miss working alongside Jill and want to recognize the hospitality and support that she most certainly didn’t have to give me, but did. Jill’s one of the good ones and opened doors for me that were previously closed. Cheers, partner. Looking forward to reading your farewell piece.
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