By Macile Dietrick
Tuesday. Lunch. You chat idly with your friend and amble into the quad. You weave your way through the traffic of hungry students until you reach a table, where you and your best friend and your acquaintances and that girl whose name you still don’t know have eaten lunch since you were freshmen. Then, above the laughter and clamor, just as you bite into that chunky peanut-butter sandwich, you spot him.
He’s the unspoken enemy: foiling your plots to look suave in front of your friends, disclosing embarrassing secrets about your childhood, stealing the last cookie from your minefield of Tupperware traps. He is annoying. He is stupid. And he hates you on equal premises.
Most of us have the sibling, brother or sister, older or younger, that we wish our parents would just ship off to boarding school. In her book, Is Sibling Rivalry Another Name For Love, Mary Ebejer states that a third of parents describe their children’s relationship as “shifting between truce and war,” 7% as “the worst of enemies,” and 25% as “occasionally mean-spirited.” But why do we choose to alienate one another?
The reasons lie buried in the sandbox of time. During childhood, your brother is your best friend—you ride tricycles together; you play Monopoly together; you watch Pokemon together.
But as you grow older, you develop individual hobbies and your own personality; you attend school, and you make new friends. As you continue to broaden your interests, your brother becomes more obsolete in your busy-bee fourth grade agenda. Soon, he becomes a nuisance.
What used to be a hilarious joke is now embarrassingly dull. What used to be playful wrestling is now agitated violence. What used to be your friend is now a bitter foe. We grow into adolescence, and the flares of hatred begin to smolder into disdain. Then we mature into adults, and the embers cool: our friend and our enemy becomes a stranger, living a foreign life, a forgotten memory.
Imagine growing up without ever visiting Auntie and Uncle. Your family would be limited—your childhood would be incomplete because your parents and their siblings quarreled as children and never settled their issues as adults. As generations pass and families continue to lose contact, they deprive their kids of an essential childhood bond and experience. Moreover, the heritage and traditions heralded within the ancestral lines begin to fade, diminishing the cultural values of future generations.
However, this fate has begun to decrease, psychologists at Ohio State University say, the bond between siblings in adulthood continues to strengthen. But this is a critical age—teen angst, high school drama, and the “Oh my gosh, my family is so lame” phase can scar your relationship with your siblings as adults.
And it is important not to throw out your baby brother with the bath water.
Not only do siblings connect a family and shape a childhood, but they also influence social success outside the home. A psychological study in Clemson University, South Carolina revealed that people closer to their siblings tended to be closer to their friends.
While parent-child relationships form a basis for forging friendships at a young age, sibling intimacy contributes to longer-lasting, greater quality friendships, and ultimately more satisfaction in life.
So before you avert your eyes and pretend you’re not related, remember who played the license plate game with you as your family trekked to the Grand Canyon. Remember who pretended the floor was hot lava with you as you navigated through your house on the furniture. Remember who exchanged knowing glances with you and snickered as Dad tried to say something “hip.” Before you even knew what it meant, he was your friend. Your rival. Your comrade.