Friday, 20 November 2009
The Accidental Relationship
As the eldest of six, siblings have been very significant in my life. The same holds for my wife, who is one of eleven.
As our four have all left home, it is probably a good time to reflect on the sibling relationship and its significance at different life stages. You don’t choose your siblings (hence “accidental relationship”) but they have a major influence.
When I was a child, I fought cat and dog with my brother who was eighteen months younger. My two sisters also copped a fair degree of harassment from their older male siblings, myself included. My wife reports the same from her older brothers.
Whether this was harmful or helpful – I’m not sure. It was probably a bit of both. Our parents were always around to make sure it didn’t get out of hand. My siblings grew to become strong and confident adults, who have lived successful lives. Perhaps this robust give and take helped. Between us we have a school principal, an assistant director-general, two successful wives and mothers who balanced professional careers (music teaching and public service) and child rearing, a company manager and a rural GP whose hobby is emergency medicine.
Our relationships have seemed to grow stronger with the passing of time. We have a joke about our family “Mafia”. Each of us has a different area of expertise (music, finance, education, caring, technology, and medicine), and we never cease to call on each other in times of difficulty when sound common-sense coupled with genuine expertise is needed. We may spend months in which we have no contact, but when something difficult or challenging comes up, there is this immediately available support network that seamlessly kicks in.
The only time I ever felt isolated from it was my two years in the army, especially during my tour of Vietnam. Having said that, instead of the one or two letters that the other diggers received at resups, I would often get a relative avalanche of mail from my bothers and sisters. So even then, the network was there.
Recently, one of my brothers has been going through a very tough time as one of his kids battles with the aftermath of the removal of a cerebral tumour. He’s needed all the support he can get, and it’s pretty much been there.
I hope my kids maintain these mutually supportive relationships as they move through life.
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