“There may be no relationship that affects us more profoundly; that is closer, finer, harder, sweeter, happier, sadder, more filled with joy…or fraught with woe…than the relationships we have with our brothers and sisters.”
I will never forget the day that my husband, our three children, and I were traveling down south for a mini-vacation. We were on about the third hour of the four hour trip when an argument from the backseat ensued. It went from the typical small jabs to a full-on shouting match that ended with one child saying to another, “I hate you! I wish you weren’t in this family!”
Of course, this was followed by tears. Big tears full of anger and frustration.
In that moment, I had had it.
I told my husband to pull over.
And I meant it.
We pulled over and there was stunned silence.
I had never asked my husband to pull over like that before, so the kids were scared to death. And, to be honest, I didn’t even know what I was going to do or say to them, but I took a deep breath and it all began to spill out.
With a firm and great dramatic flair, I started my rant, “Let me tell you three something. And you each better listen up real good!”
Three slow nods came from the back.
I began my tirade, “I will NOT tolerate this mean stuff towards each other! Do you understand me?!”
Three more little heads bobbed up and down in silence.
I sternly demanded, “You WILL love each other! You WILL be kind to each other! You will STOP using words to HURT one another! And you will NEVER hate each other! Ever!
Am. I. Clear?”
They nodded once more as tears filled the eyes of two of the three.
I continued, “And let me add this JUST SO YOU WILL KNOW…. You will never…and I mean never EVER… let anyone or anything come between you three! Do you hear what I am saying?!”
Even Kevin nodded in solidarity with that one.
Sensing that I was near the end of my diatribe, my husband shifted the gear back into drive so that we could get back on the road, but I wasn’t quite finished. I was on a roll! I became Teri Luther King of the front seat! I got loud! I got preachy! And I became very passionate about what I was saying. I firmly stated, while wagging my finger in the air, “So help me God, you three better figure out how to get along with each other or else! God did NOT put my three babies together in this world to grow up hating on each other!! Nu-uh! I promise you He did not do that! He put MY babies together for a purpose! A good purpose! A HIGHER purpose! Y’all got it? Are we clear here?!”
My three children didn’t budge. They just stared at me in stunned silence.
“I SAID, ‘ARE WE CLEAR HERE’?!”
With wide eyes, Steele answered “Yes ma’am.”
Then Summer, “Yes ma’am,” with tears brimming.
And finally I had to say to Slade, who wasn’t responding, “Slade!”
“Yes ma’am” came his reply as he burst into tears.
I softened my tone, but remained steadfast in my resolve to impress upon them the importance of their love for each other. “Guys, one day your daddy and I will no longer be on this earth to help y’all sort out your problems, and I need to know that you guys understand how the most important thing you could ever do for yourselves and our family is to always remain loyal and loving to each other. I need y’all to promise me that you three will always be there for each other…to always love each other no matter what.”
I wiped the tears that had begun to sting my own eyes.
“Guys, this is the last thing I’m going to say about all of this. You see, I truly believe God put you three together for a reason. He is so wise. He knew that each of you had something so special to offer the other two, so He decided that putting y’all together as a team in this life would make y’all better individuals for this world. Do you understand what Mommy is saying?”
They all nodded in unison.
As we continued on towards our destination, I stared ahead and had a flashback of my own childhood and a very similar conversation about this very thing with my own parents.
The thought of it made me smile.
Over the years, I’ve often thought about the different approaches my parents used to instill this intense and loving sibling bond among my sisters, brother, and myself.
Our bonds with one another have stood the test of time. We’ve had our moments, our breakdowns, our squabbles and hurts along the way, but the one thing that remains is the deep abiding love we all have for one another. Nothing in this world could change that.
Our parents had rules. Sibling rules, I guess you could say.
These rules weren’t written down anywhere and they weren’t really spoken about. It was simply a way of life and we didn’t know anything differently.
Eventually, these “sibling rules” became the ties that helped solidify the bonds of devotion to each other that remain inside the deepest part of our hearts to this day.
Here were some of the “sibling rules” that were instilled in us that helped bind the four of us together during our growing up years.
Rule #1: FRIENDS WILL COME AND GO. FAMILY IS FOREVER.
Since the very beginning of our time on this earth, my parents etched into our brains that family always comes before friends. Period.
If we couldn’t get along with our siblings, then we surely weren’t allowed to have our friends over. The feeling behind this rule was that if we were unable to be kind or get along with our own family, we weren’t ready or equipped with what it took to be a good and true friend to anyone else.
This was a great motivator to learn ways to get along with each other because we all wanted time with our friends.
Our parents helped us recognize early on that the very best friends we would have throughout our lifetime were each other. This fact was impressed upon us often.
Rule #2: THE TATTLER GETS THE PUNISHMENT
Unless it was a dire life and death situation, my mom was not interested in tattle tales. She felt like it was our job to figure out the best way to resolve our own conflicts. And, quite frankly, she was right.
It used to drive me crazy, though, when I would run to my mom to tattle on one of my siblings about some unjust, unfair thing they had just done to make my life miserable in that moment. But before I could even reach her all the way to tell on them, she would put her hand up like *Stop right there* and say to me, “No ma’am. I don’t wanna hear it, Teri.”
“But Mom! She just….”
“Teri, Y’all can figure this out for yourselves.”
“But Mom, she literally just came in there where I was and ….”
“TERI ANN! If you tattle, then YOU will be the one in trouble. You two figure this out and then come tell me how you did it.”
This rule might have driven me nuts as a child, but my siblings helped equip me with the proper life tools that still continue to help me get along with and understand many different people from all walks of life.
Rule #3: LIFE IS NOT FAIR, BUT IT ALWAYS WORKS OUT
Life just simply isn’t fair sometimes.
We all learn this hard truth at a very young age and usually from our brothers and sisters.
As children, we want the “unfair” sibling to be punished and immediately summoned to the dungeon forever. We deplore unfairness, don’t we? Even as adults, life’s unfairness can be a hard one to wrap our head around. It causes us true heartache and frustration.
But my parents felt strongly that the four of us needed to learn how NOT to dwell on what was unfair and to simply trust that, in the end, it all works out.
They would certainly intervene and have discussions with whichever one of us was being unnecessarily mean, but the ultimate lesson was for us to learn how to deal and cope with said unfairness. From this rule, we each learned that the only thing we truly had control over when it came to unfairness was how we chose to respond to it.
Rule #4: YOU ARE WISE WHEN YOU COMPROMISE
When you are born into a family with more than one child, you must learn the art of the compromise. This is absolutely inevitable. From learning to take turns with a toy when you and your sibling are very young, to compromising over who gets the car for the evening once you’ve grown older, life is all about compromising. And there isn’t a better teacher in this world than a sibling to teach you this life art.
My parents helped us hone this valuable skill from the very beginning of our life as siblings. It was so engrained inside our psyche that, as we matured, it became simply a natural part of our existence together.
This valuable skill is pivotal in the success of any relationship, whether it be with a business partner, your friendships, and especially inside one’s marriage.
Rule #5: BE THERE
This one is crucial to the ties that bind.
When we were young, we were expected to be there for one another. Not only physically, but also figuratively.
If any of us needed the other for anything at any time, we were to drop whatever we were doing and make our way to the one in need.
Our parents instilled in our minds and engrained in our hearts that one of the greatest gifts of having siblings was the knowledge that you always have someone in your corner. You never have to feel alone.
It’s all so simple.
You just have to show up.
Be there for one another.
Rule #6: DREAM TOGETHER OR LOSE TOGETHER
When talking about ties that bind siblings together in a healthy and happy way, this rule of thumb sticks out as one of the most bonding and satisfying life experiences of my entire childhood with my siblings.
Our dad was a dreamer, and he loved encouraging us to dream as well. Many road trips included us daydreaming about what our room was going to look like in our “family mansion.”
Dad would kick our imaginations off by saying something like, “Alright kids, who wants to start?”
Usually Kimberly, our resident decorator, would start us off. “Okay,” she would say excitedly, “for my room in family mansion, I want a jukebox in the corner right next to my mini malt-shop, where I’ll serve milkshakes to all of my friends. I want a black and white checkered floor with a disco ball spinning from high above…”
She would go into all sorts of details and designs, and it was fabulous! Dad would usually add on to her ideas with his own suggestions, and we all would get downright giddy whenever he did this.
When it was my turn, I usually loved Kimberly’s ideas so much that I would say, “I’ll have the same!” Ha!
You know, Dad having us dream creations together like that absolutely enhanced our love and bond with one another as a family.
I wouldn’t trade those carefree conversations for anything in the world. You can learn so much about your siblings during dream sessions like that.
Clearly, there is great power in the sibling bond.
In fact, there might not be another relationship that affects us as profoundly as that of our sibling relationships.
They teach us:
How to form friendships.
How to resolve conflicts.
How to be brave.
How to act at school and around other people.
How to love, compromise, keep secrets, and have compassion.
But above it all and at the top of the list: our siblings have a beautiful way of reminding us that, with them, we can always…Keep it real. 😉