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Friday, April 13, 2007

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Pregnant with number three, 2004. Photo by Jane Colclasure

Tonight after dinner, I played a round of Cranium Family Fun with the boys. They were thrilled. We love all the Cranium games, and as soon as they had whupped me soundly, they asked if they could take the Cranium Cadoo game up to their room to play. A few minutes later, I began to hear the oldest getting impatient with his brother. Like most firstborns, he has some control issues.

"Hey" I called out. "Play so that it's fun for everybody."

A few minutes later, I heard the wracking sobs of my six-year old. Like most younger siblings, dramatic wailing is his preferred defense. But I heard real pain in these cries, so I took the stairs two at a time and busted in like a stormtrooper.

The six year old was sobbing and kicking, face down on the floor, with the abandon of the broken hearted. The eight year old was huddled against the wall, hugging his knees to his chest, head hung in shame. Between them were strewn the pieces of the game.

"He said I was no fun to play with," my middle son managed to choke out.

I was exasperated and I lost it. Mostly because my firstborn's compulsive bossiness reminds me so painfully of my own. Being first is not without some privilege, but it comes with a heavy burden of responsibility and zero authority. You're expected to be your brother or sister's keeper. But if something goes wrong, you've overstepped your bounds. I remember it well.

"Why are you so bossy?" I said to him (to me). "You're no fun to play with!" I was hugging the little one close to my chest and glaring hard at the perpetrator. And then, thank god, I melted. Because written across his face was all the misery of someone who knows they have just said something shitty to someone they love. And I know that feeling, too. I was feeling it right at that very moment.

I stretched out my spare arm to him. The three of us held on to each other a long while, the baby circling around curiously--trying to find his own place in the tableau--before finally stretching out his arms to hug us all.

"How about some ice cream," I suggested. Because it's never to soon to teach that dessert can heal all wounds. We got up and my son turned to his brother and said with all sincerity, "I'm sorry, ______."

My sweet darling wiped his eyes and looked at the prodigal one. "That's alright," he said.

"Great. How about a hug?" I suggested. They were already out in the hallway, but they turned to each other and embraced with so much tenderness and caring that it felt intrusive to watch. They are two years and four days apart, and they are so close, living with them is like watching a pair of fish swim beneath the surface of a pond. You think you can see where they are, but there is a refraction principle. They move in a world all their own.

No matter where they start out at night, they almost always wind up in the same bed together, piled up like warm, damp puppies. When the oldest went caving with the big kids during our camping expedition last month, his younger brother fretted in anxious silence the entire time, unnoticed by me, until I suggested we go on back to the tent and his little face crumpled in tears. After several wrong guesses on my part, it came out that he was worried sick about his brother going into the cave. We had to sit on the trail and wait until one of the party came back and told us everybody was out and was walking back a different way. The boundary where one begins and the other ends is blurred for both of them, and this concerns and exasperates me sometimes, but it also moves and comforts me deeply. I knew when we had more than one child, there would be less of us, the parents, to go around. What I didn't realize was how much more they would be getting in each other.

I've heard it put that your siblings are your only lifelong relationship. In the usual scheme of things, your parents die before you. Your spouse and children don't come along until you are grown. But brothers and sisters are yours from beginning to end. Siblings are not an unencumbered gift. They come strung with all kinds of obligations, sacrifices, resentments, and hurts. But they are the gift of a lifetime, pearls of great price. The best thing we will ever leave our boys is each other: the very best part of our life together.

Were you especially close to your sib (s)? Are you today? Are you an only? Tell me about it.



Blogger lia from luebeck, germany said...

You told a great story. Not all siblings are lifelong relationships, but you really only need one close one to expand your heart-boundaries tenfold. A close relationship to a brother or a sister shows you the way to make and keep friends. And what would life be without friends? The real plus of a close sibling relationship is that once you grow up they become the Ultimate friend; someone to share all of your joys and sorrows with, and you do not have to do any explaining. What could be more perfect than that?

6:58 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Kyran, you have a beautiful way of expressing yourself. You made me cry.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Jen K-C said...


9:52 AM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

what a lovely story and so true. i don't think i've ever had such an intense relationship with anyone other than my sister. we were almost like twins. our names combined were one name. in our teens we became distant, mostly because of my need to be a town snob. she ran with a wilder crowd (or so it seemed then ). i have many regrets in my life , one of the biggest one was hurting her.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

You are KILLING me with this writing - I just want to sit and let every word soak in so I can memorize the feeling I have right now.

Also, I really appreciate the insight into the oldest having all the responsibility with none of the authority. Since I was the youngest, this is something I likely would not have picked up on.

Good things to think about.

1:19 AM  
Blogger patsyrose said...

I never see more love displayed covertly or overtly than when I see my three girls together. There is an unspoken understanding that flows between them that excludes everyone else. It's very special.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Lisette said...

Well, it looks like I screwed it up. Ah, well, let's try to repeat what I tried to post:

Hey, this is Lisette, your cos Shelley's daughter. She showed me this blog a while ago ('cuz she told me of the writing inheritance I got from her side of the family) and I've been reading it from time to time. I loved this post; I'm the oldest in my family of 3 kids, like your son, and it's certainly no walk in the park. My sister and I are not but 17 months apart and yet mentally it's like we're from different planets. We clash constantly. My brother is 8 years younger than I am, so that creates some conflict, too.

But, as they say, blood is thicker than water. When all is said and done, I grudgingly love both of them to bits.

All the best,

7:55 PM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

This is really lovely. I've been there in that room.

I cherish my brother more and more as the years go by, and the feeling I get when I hug his children tight is almost too powerful for words.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...


did i mention? next to siblings, cousins are the very best thing. and sometimes even better. (less pinching and slapping)

17 months is CLOSE. and you are right, sometimes there is a personality clash that would be there no matter what the birth order. There is an amazing book called Nurture by Nature that your mom and you might find interesting helps you determine and understand the personality types of people in your family, esp. kids.

would love to come see you all in Buenos Aires sometime. what an adventure.


6:27 AM  
Blogger imacolata said...

I came here via sweet-juniper and let me tell you, this is the most awesome, most spectacular thing I've read in a long time.
Thank you for writing it.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Kyran said...

well, come back ANY time :)

1:17 PM  

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