Friday, July 18, 2014

He Ain't Heavy... He's My Brother

The other night we talked in my women's group about sibling relationships. It was an evening full with emotions, I knew that it was a sensitive and emotional topic but I didn’t know that so many people had complex and loaded relationships with their brothers and sisters.

I shouldn’t be surprised , the earliest example of course is Abel and Cain, but when we move on to Jacob and Esau it doesn’t get any better. Even among women the situation is tensed as Rachel and Leah were married to Jacob and the jealousy among the sisters is reenacted in their children’s  attitude to the favored son Joseph.

According to an article The New Science of Siblings by Jeffrey Kluger  in Time Magazine 2006 “For a long time, researchers have tried to nail down just what shapes us--or what, at least, shapes us most. And over the years, they've had a lot of eureka moments. First it was our parents, particularly our mothers. Then it was our genes. Next it was our peers, who show up last but hold great sway. And all those ideas were good ones--but only as far as they went.

The fact is once investigators had strip-mined all the data from those theories, they still came away with as many questions as answers. Somewhere, there was a sort of temperamental dark matter exerting an invisible gravitational pull of its own. More and more, scientists are concluding that this unexplained force is our siblings.

Within the scientific community, siblings have not been wholly ignoredaling , but research has been limited mostly to discussions of birth order. Older sibs were said to be strivers; younger ones rebels; middle kids the lost souls. The stereotypes were broad, if not entirely untrue, and there the discussion mostly ended.”

Research has only recently started to look at the significance of our siblings in our life and the how they shape our identity..

My mother had three brothers and did everything within her power to maintain good relationship with them. Growing up she always talked about the importance of being close to my brother, the sentence ” we  won’t be around  forever, you two have to get along “ was one of her mantras (together with  always finish your work before you play so that you could enjoy it better).  Still by taking sides with my brother, my mother did not help matters much. 

When I became a mother the relationship between my girls became a major concern to me. My brother and I are 7 years apart and my daughters are only 20 months apart,  and they were raised almost like twins. As children they were very close but when they became adolescents they drew apart as each developed her own life.  When my daughters fought I tried not to take sides, but still they felt  that I did, maybe my mother also didn’t , but I always felt that she sided with my brother.

When I think of the close relationships between Dorothea and Celia in Middlemarch or between  Elinor and  Marianne in Sense and Sensibility it makes me sad that life doesn’t imitate art. But the other night with my group one member said that even if they break our heart, we are willing to give our siblings a second chance, something that we wouldn’t necessarily do even with our closest friends. This notion made me hopeful that within the family if we try hard enough we could reopen closed  doors.

From Time magazine,9171,1209949,00.html

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