From Siblings To Friends

This will be a short and annoyingly vague post, but I felt compelled to write something.

I think one of the ways I realize I’m an adult is reflecting on how the relationships with my immediate family members changes. Like the way my mom became more of my friend. She’s definitely still my parent, but we also have a friendship vibe now that didn’t exist when I was younger when she was only my parent. Course, I have siblings trying to become caretakers to my parents who do not need or want caretakers, but that is a whole other conversation about adulthood and changing family relationships.

The other relationships were the sibling dynamics. I have multiple siblings and I could write a whole reflection on each of them. But I’ll just focus on one sibling for now.

***

When we were little, I used to think Sibling and I were alike. We look fairly similar in photos from when we were little.

Self-portrait of me and my sibling when we were little. Just kidding. This is a stock photo. Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

As we grew up, we looked less and less similar. (Actually, today, I don’t think I look anything like any of my siblings, nor do I think they look anything like each other.) I see it almost as a physical manifestation of the fact that personality-wise, we are also completely different people. We have wildly different interests, passions, talents, values, outlooks, lifestyles – everything! We are nothing alike. To the point where, even though I love my sibling dearly, even though I have a huge amount of respect for my sibling, and I enjoy spending time with my sibling, I found small talk with them, particularly small talk over the phone or Zoom call, almost painful at times because we had so little in common.

Also, because this was my sibling and not my friend, I was constantly in that mode of trying not to look inferior or share too much, which ruled out most conversation topics. Actually, I just realized I do this with all my in-person friends too (at least the ones I still talk to) so maybe that didn’t make a difference.

***

Fast-forward to a recent phone conversation with this sibling.

What really struck me was how, during the conversation, each of us were kind of dancing around each other, keeping this wide distance of privacy and between us. After all, we were siblings, but not close friends or confidantes.

And yet, there was this recognition that we could bridge that gap. That we were more similar than previously assumed. That we could really be true friends in addition to being siblings.

This was my facial expression mid conversation-dancing. Like, “You mean to tell me we don’t have to dance around each other, and we can actually be confidantes?! What?!?!?!?!” Photo by Jansel Ferma from Pexels

***

The thing about siblings is that so much of your early relationship is so heavily influenced by all these other factors. Your birth order and age gap. The labels from your parents, teachers, school, classmates. You know, the “this one is the smart one, this one is the artist”, everyone-in-a-specific-labeled-category kind of thinking. If your parents encourage any weird dynamics like through favoritism or rivalry whatever.

Maybe that’s really what relationship-building in adulthood is about – shedding off all those other labels, layers, and history. Figuring out how to have relationships without those pre-conceived notions.

38 comments

  1. Siblings are both a curse and a blessing. I have one sibling who recently sent me two cheap, trash-worthy gifts that were so ill-suited that I wondered why the sibling bothered. I sent them a text thanking them for the gift and before I texted, I had taken the two pieces of crap from the box they were mailed in and placed them in a bag of stuff that was about to be picked up by a charity. At least this misbegotten attempt at a holiday gift may serve a purpose besides being annoying. All of their gifts are equally poorly chosen.Yes I have a problem and it is this sibling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve found, relationships must mature naturally like people with acceptable boundary lines becoming respected rather than rejected. Your relationship with your mother is affirmation of just that transformation on both sides. imo. Cherish it.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m the youngest of three, “the accident” as my mom once told me. I’ve always been the weirdo, the trouble maker, and I have pretty much nothing in common with siblings. We get a long, and I see my sister every work day because she works for me and sits 8 feet from me, yet we have almost nothing in common. That may be why we get a long and she can work for me. Although she is getting ready to retire.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love my siblings, and I cannot imagine working with them. I have one sibling who was somewhat interested in a job at my company once. (We don’t work in the same field, but they had an opening that would have been a reasonable fit). I never would have sabotaged my sibling’s application or anything, and I have plenty of professional respect for them, but I would have hated working with my sibling. We would never be able to work together.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Fascinating post! I especially like where you said that the realisation of being an adult is more apparent in changing dynamics with our folks from childhood. I think childhood friends contribute tremendously to this realisation too!
    This is a cultural difference Ofcourse, but in our culture, family is always the one you share all your secrets with, so your sibling is your closest friend. Better option than sharing secrets with parents, huh? To me, my mom was always a best friend, we’re more like sisters, we look like it and behave like it too.
    Very nice to know about your lovely rapport with your siblings. There may be tonnes of things to be at loggerheads about, but what binds you together is stronger than what sets you apart. After all, you are genetically more related to your siblings than anyone else in the world! (Unless you have an identical twin). Truly enjoyed this sweet, heartwarming post 💖
    PS: I KNEW it wasn’t you and your siblings in that pic. 😏 Didn’t assume otherwise even for a second. You do such a great job in hiding your identity. Apparent from the fact that you carefully didn’t even reveal the gender of your sibling!

    Liked by 2 people

    • So interesting to learn about how your culture impacts your familial relationships. That is amazing that your mom has always been a best friend. I’m sure she appreciates having such a close relationship with you too. And you’re right about childhood friendships also changing during adulthood. I’m still good friends with two friends from childhood and it’s been interesting to see how the dynamic has changed over time.
      It’s funny, this sibling and I have never really been at odds or fighting or anything like that per se (I have another sibling with whom I fight more, hehe), but we also haven’t had a true friend relationship either, mostly because on the outside, we are so different. It was eye-opening to realize that we may have a lot more in common that meets the eye.
      You know me too well! Yeah, I masked my sibling’s gender on purpose. Using “they/them” pronouns was a little odd because my sibling is not non-binary, but I prefer as little identifying info as possible!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. For sure! My brother and I were raised as if we were the same age. (He’s two years younger.) It’s weird. We were potty trained together. (Sorry if that’s TMI.) And then our younger sister, eight years younger than me, was the baby, and she milked that for all it was worth. Nowadays, my brother’s the only person who agrees with me about how diabolical our sister is. I’m glad he’s in my corner, because no one else in the family is. It’s not like I really want everyone to hate her. But whenever she does something horrid, my brother’s the only person who’s in my corner. But even he’s hard to talk to. When he and I have a conversation, it’s awkward and stilted. He might be slightly autistic–I’m not sure. No one ever evaluated us for anything growing up. Well, you’ve got me going!! 😀 Any chance you and your sister are even cuter than the girls in that stock image? HA HA HA! Great blog post! Very relatable!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My brother and I are very different. We’ve gotten closer as adults in a sense, but not in the sense of being friends and having a lot to talk about. I think a lot of it is that family is important to him. He’s seen me at my worst, so I have no sense of needing to try to mask around him.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s funny with sisters, you could go a long time with not much more than small talk, but when necessary, speak of difficult things quite easily. As far as mothers go–well, from my recent story, you can probably guess I have some emotions simmering!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thinking back, I suppose that has been the case with all my siblings. I find frequent small talk with them painfully annoying at times due to differences. But then there will be a more “real” conversation that flows easily and that I’m glad we had.

      I don’t know how much of your story was inspired by real life, but I feel for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Relationships (of any sort) are so complicated. The older I get, the more I miss the kind of friendships one could afford at school when your greatest responsibilities were homework and cleaning your room and you could spend all day with a friend at school and then hours on the phone as well. I am still struggling to navigate my friendships now – I perceive them as a kind of series of yoyos where I think one friend is close and then they move away for a spell because life gets in the way. I value all my friends for such varying reasons. My sibling relationships are not simple either. I love them but I haven’t “grown up” as you put it. I can’t tell if I haven’t grown up in their eyes. Or if I really just fail to be grown up when I am around them. Honestly, I often don’t feel grown up. At some point, perhaps my perception of my age will catch up with reality but I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Feeling “grown up” is a whole other set of odd complicated feelings. I have younger siblings who seem more grown up than I am. Some of that is because they did mature faster than me in many ways (I’m not my parents’ youngest, but I am arguably the least competent at “adulting” tasks).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My relationship with my siblings wasn’t that great in our youth. As the eldest I figured I was a misplaced princess, but all that changed in the early 80’s when our parents died within 2 years of each other way too young. My SIL in fact is closest thing to being my BFF, but all of us became friends. We socialize regularly and hang out. So I guess I am pretty lucky. Oh, and at 74 I notice my eldest son. Most frequently adopts a parental tone. Chris

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It must be nice that you have grown closer as you’ve aged. I’d think that’s ideal when we lose our parents and others to have a friend in a sibling.

    In my family it’s worked the opposite way. My sibling who was once more flexible seems to have become more rigid and seems to have written off becoming closer because we weren’t close as kids and I dared to leave the ultra-fundie Christian version of her church and become a Jew. My mother was never close to me. My Dad was, however, and was not a churchgoer when I was growing up at home. It’s a very dysfunctional family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Some were never close, some were always, and some grow apart, and some grow closer. I think it’s tough to gauge or determine such outcomes. Maybe it’s the way time and life creep up on us. That’s reality. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Strange how strong stuff like labels can affect us. You see someone much younger than you who knows more about something, suddenly you might feel the need to save face when you could’ve had the opportunity to learn something from them. It’s like they were meant to inform us, but for some reason, they mislead us instead.

    Liked by 1 person

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