I was raised with three sisters. I was the eldest and the age gaps were just enough that I did not really relate to or play with next sibling in line. Not often anyway. As the years marched on this created a divide into our teenage years where neither of us felt really supported and understood and it really has only been as we entered the late 20’s that life’s events brought us back together as more mature adults with more things in common than we had before.
This was only multiplied with the even younger siblings. With my parents work and life situation I often felt more like a babysitter or ‘alternate parent’ than a sister with them whilst they were young. My youngest sister is also actually closer in age to my eldest child than she is to me – just to illustrate the point.
Jeremy’s son experienced a similar disjointedness, we knew he felt quite alone with the combination of the gender and age difference with his sisters. He spent a lot of time playing outdoors and rough-housing with me when we first met and it was clear that it was an experience he was missing in his life. We did not realise the extent though until he more recently told us about his imaginary friends/siblings that he had created to bridge that gap until my children entered his life.
Just like Jeremy’s son, I love my younger sisters very much but definitely felt that sense of separation as I grew up. I didn’t want that for my children so I had them quite close together. The largest gap was two and a half years. In meeting Jeremy, and all this children slotting amongst my own those gaps narrowed even further creating bonds that we never dreamed possible.
With my daughter slotting between his two there is just over two years between the three girls and they love it! They have someone to relate to at all times they are together and someone who shares their interest even if another does not. They are good for each other. So, it was unsurprising when they devised to share their birthday party recently. Of course, our children are going to have our full support on almost anything that strengthens family ties. It was a no-brainer to let them have their big day shared jointly. So, what makes them as siblings work so well together even if they are not all genetically linked?
They teach each other things
Our youngest is an a amazing reader, her class teachers are impressed. Yes, she is intelligent and capable but I am not sure that is the full picture though. She excels in this skill because for the last two years she has been over the shoulder of two very similar aged siblings, watching on as they learned to read. Then, of weekends, sitting with them as they have read her picture books, pointing out words as they go and sounding out the tricky ones. In addition to her switched on young mind she has been blessed with the ability to learn from her siblings. This is beautiful to watch.
They explore the world together
We foster our children’s sense of wonder by taking them out to places they have been to together before at any chance we get. We step back where we can, letting them take the lead, together as a team and work together to work out how the world and nature works, to have them work together to problem solve and help each other reach goals together. Rather than preventing obstacles and challenges, we let them take them on so where one person can’t do it alone, they learn that they can overcome together.
They are there for each other
Last year, two of the girls had a really rough week. They were not acting themselves and it was unusual. They were resistant to even have our normal catch up milo and couch times to chat about life, the universe and everything, so the act of sisterhood stepped in. It was such a natural response too, to explain that you noticed their behaviour was off and that maybe if they wanted to share the problem that maybe they could chat with their sister.
It is strange, talking to me was too intense for them but talking to their sister, even with me in the same room hanging their dresses was relaxed and easy. One of the girls explained that someone they cared about had told them that she hated them both. Their sister listened and asked questions to help her understand and gave them hugs and let them know that she still loved them and that they were lovely. It is the kind of things that brings tears to a mother’s eyes. That love is rare and precious.
They arm themselves to be better siblings
Of course, the aforementioned event, took a toll to the young mind. The sister who reached out to love her siblings needed a debrief later. She came to me and we talked for a while about other people’s choices and how they affect others. We discussed at length how we can’t control others choices. We also discussed how sometimes, even when people say their sorry like this person did, that words can’t be undone and that it can affect other people for a long time. That sometimes people acted strange or even badly because they have been hurt by the words or deeds or others even if the other person had apologised and that sometimes it took time and a whole lot of love to cover those wounds like a band-aid to help them heal.
In contrast, our boys are a combination of introverts and extroverts but all of them wear their heart on their sleeve. They are now also of that age where they confront each other about behaviours and get in each others faces from times to time. They are old enough to understand that behaviour can be questioned and confronted as well as that each of them have a choice about how they respond to each other, to their friends and the circumstances life throws at them.
The boys notice when someone’s response is off kilter, they will actively call their brothers on it and hold it in their face and make them confront it. Of course, we are there, because sometimes it is hard to face how other people perceive you and your actions. They can take a ‘time out’ and then reset with a deeper conversation than they ever really planned for with one of us as parents. But they do it anyway because they all want those strong positive relationships with each other and being honest with parents is how they learn to overcome their learned or instinctual behaviours and learn to exercise loving self-control over their actions but to also have greater acceptance for their siblings coping mechanisms.
They love each other enough to know when to talk to us about how they can do it better.
They are young people who love their family.
How did we make it work that way?
Well, we are not sure that it is our doing at all.
We think our children have a natural desire to be connected with each other. Our job is just to foster it and not let that passion for family fizzle out. Got questions? Want to continue the conversation about this? Join our Facebook parents group, introduce yourself and share your desires for your family and we can support you in getting there. ‘Positive, Passionate & Purposeful‘ is there for you.