Monday, February 18, 2013


Sibling Differences

Ask anybody and they will tell you that there are people on the branches of their family tree exactly like my Aunt Gloria.   No children, loveless marriage, obsessed with her dog, martini drinker, snobbishly passionate about art, ballet, and orchestra, and unable (or unwilling) to relate to anyone under the age of 16.

Until I reached early adulthood, I never quite knew if my Aunt Gloria realized I existed.   Technically my great-aunt, (my grandfather's sister), she and her husband George were a permanent fixture at  holiday dinners.  After planting the obligatory welcome  kiss on my cheek (which I always tried to wipe off without her seeing), she only had eyes for one - just one - of my parent's three children....my older sister Bev.

Something about my sister's personality captivated Aunt Gloria, and a result, Bev became the lucky recipient of her attention.   At the time, I told myself it didn't matter, that my aunt was old and snobby and crabby and that I didn't want to talk to her anyway.

My brother Steven, six years my junior, didn't seem to care.  But to me, it really did matter...

It mattered a lot.

She liked Bev better than me, and, not understanding why, in the mind of a painfully shy preteen girl....I came to the only rational conclusion I could at the time.....I must not be good enough.

As an adult, I can now look back and not fault my sister at all for being on the receiving end of my aunt's affection.  And in fact, in the waning years of her life, I reconnected with Gloria, and I feel blessed that, before she passed away, she had the chance to meet my 5-year old daughter Melissa (now 15).

Gloria treated my sister different than me because quite simply, she is different from me, just as all siblings have those remarkable, unique characteristics that set them apart.  As adults, we develop a deep love for our siblings, and celebrate our differences, as I have certainly done with both my brother and sister.  But as children, in most families, sibling rivalries abound, leading to jealousy and hurt only made worse when an adult who should know better showers one sibling with more love than another.  Like my Aunt Gloria.

Fortunately, as a mother, I have not had to cope with the pain of witnessing my own daughter suffer this kind of emotional confusion when adults favor one sibling over another.  I inherited my beautiful step-daughter Jessica when she was in the throes of her teen years.  However, by the time her sister Melissa came along, Jessica had entered young adulthood, living a life of her own.  My daughters, though so incredibly close, never lived under the same roof, and the two decade span between them keeps them immune from typical sibling battles.

Not so for my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 13.   Incredibly close in age and with each other, they could not be more different in personality.  Recently, they told me about a negative experience that brought back memories of my own childhood, and my Aunt Gloria.

In response, I gave Chris words of support that I wish someone had shared with me. I told him, "Brandon is awesome because he's Brandon.  You are awesome because you are you, and don't ever change who you are because the people that come into your life who matter will love you for who you are."

Indeed, I speak from experience.  I have long since grown out of my painful shyness, yet the fundamental personality traits that were inherent in that preteen girl who sat ignored by her aunt at family dinners are still very much a part of me.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband Bob accepts  all of those traits.  He loves me for who I am.

So to my beautiful, talented Melissa who I love with all my heart, and to every child who has ever felt less than wonderful about themselves, I shout from the rooftops, "You are wonderful, you are awesome, don't ever change who you are!"


                                      Me with my wonderful siblings Steven and Bev!

I love getting feedback.  If you like my stories please tell me in the comments below!

12 comments:

  1. Lisa, This is beautiful and so are you! Love, Svet

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    1. Svet, thank you so much! You are beautiful too!

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  2. This is a great story. We've had a good bit of sibling rivalry in my family as well. Even now, my younger sister tries to project rivalry where there is none, which is more stressful than rivalry itself!

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    1. Hi Kate, I knew when I was writing this one that it was something that so many people could relate too. Thanks for visiting!
      Lisa

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  3. Wow...your story shares some rather eerie similarities with me and my great-aunt Alice. She lived in New York and the only communication we had with her was when she sent a tin of popcorn every Christmas. I know this [the Christmas popcorn] doesn't have much to do with your story, but after reading your awesome story all these memories of my snobby Aunt Alice are coming back. Really great read, Lisa.

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    1. Thank you so much Nate! It's like I said, everyone has someone in their family like my Aunt Gloria!! Thanks for visiting - I am heading over to your blog tonight, I always enjoy your writing!
      Take care,
      Lisa

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  4. I am one of three and we each had a relative who favored one of us. My parents were very cool about it and explained that some people just feel closer to other people. They let us talk about it but made sure that we knew it had nothing to do with us. That helped, but you are right, it can be very painful. Thanks Lisa for a great piece!!

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    1. Kathy - a compliment from you always makes my day!! And I knew that you, as a mother of three could relate!!
      All the best,
      Lisa

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  5. Lisa, what a great post! I wish people understood how much they hurt others by favoring one child over another. It can destroy relationships between siblings and bruise self-esteem. Sounds like you patched things up with your aunt, which is very healing. Love your message to Chris. I'm sure he appreciated it.

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    1. Hi Annie, thanks for your kind words. I believe Chris did appreciate my words... I hope I made a positive impact! We can only try.

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    2. Inever knew u felt this way.I NEVER liked our great aunt. I did not feel privledged by her. After many years she disowned me.I thought you became her favorite. I even saw her in Manyunk,and she ignored me.So did uncle GEORGE. Itried to reconnect w/ her when I Was pregneant,but to no avail. I even told her that one of the twins would have her sister's initial for a middle name. I remember you connecting w/her,and I never knew what I did wrong as I got older. It's a shame we never talked, because this woman and her husband were fruit cakes. She had no right to play favorites. Now that we're older feel free to discuss anything that bothers you....... Sorry Aunt Gloria made you feel this way:(

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  6. Family dynamics... not really that different than the rest of society we deal with, but it hurts more, doesn't it? I was blessed with wonderful aunts. I never felt like any one favored any one of us.

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