Monday, October 11, 2010

The Joy and Other Hazards of Siblings

When I was in high school I decided to write an essay about a hamster I had when I was little. I can't figure out what on earth the point of essay was, I assume it went beyond just "My Pet Hamster" as it may have even been a college application essay. The point is I wrote it up, and my sister read through it and proceeded to tell me how I'd gotten the story all wrong, "that's not how it happened" might have been her exact words. My story included this little tidbit: my hamster had been lost for a week or so, and when we opened up the sofa bed for my visiting uncle, there was my missing little guy. I can't remember what my sister's version was, but my mom then walked in to straighten us both out . Turns out she'd concocted all sorts of stories to protect our innocence, age-appropriate for each of us (we were only a year apart, but my sister was always wise beyond her years). I sure looked a silly believing the hamster was still alive after a week in a sofa bed. I honestly don't know how my mom did it...hypnosis, a new hamster, distraction with shiny objects. I was a very gullible child, even falling for my younger brother's "did you know gullible is not in the dictionary" joke.

This happens a lot when I get together with my siblings, which is not that often. My mom loves to step in to correct our versions, but we love rehashing stories of our childhood just by ourselves. There was the time my dad challenged a group of my friends to abstain from using the words "like" or "you know" for 10 minutes, the bong that my mom, sister and brother all used in vastly different years and the time my brother walked in beaten and bloodied and begged me not to tell mom he'd been riding his skateboard. For month after that she drove him to and from his gardening job since clearly riding his bike was too dangerous. Pretty sure he'd deny that one.

My kids have only been on this earth for 6 and 7 years, but they already have stories up the wazoo. I love to hear them wander through the confusing tales, interrupting each other, giggling when corrected and, my favorite, retelling the funny parts 30 seconds later and laughing and laughing. I know they appreciate having each other and I'm so grateful for that. They may beat each other up occasionally, but they never hesitate to proclaim their love. I didn't appreciate having a sibling growing up, never even considered living with them and now don't see them nearly as often as I'd like. At least we're all still around, though, call occasionally and may someday plan an actual family reunion. Watching my kids and their cousins play dodge ball with their stuffed animals, it relieves me to know they'll have each other for when I'm not around.

This post was inspired by the book The Kids Are All Right by Diana, Liz, Amanda and Dan Welch, a wonderful memoir written in alternating voices by four siblings which I encourage everyone to read.  It bears no relation to the movie of the same title (well, maybe a little, read this, tis funny).  I received this book free as part of the Left to Write Blog book club. 


  1. Don't kids just tell the best stories?! I am sure you are having a ball with your little ones...I'm looking forward to the stories my baby girl will tell!

  2. Thank you so much for your post, Nicole! It sums up exactly what my siblings and I were so excited about when we began writing The Kids are All Right together. We even had different takes on the title: Dan thought it was a "giant neon sign to our parents in the sky" telling them we were ok; Liz assumed it meant that we had all turned into people we were proud of; I liked it because it held a double-meaning: Since we told our story in four voices, and left in all our disagreements, we gave each other room to hold onto our own truths. Therefore, we were all, or each, right. And Amanda's first response? "I hate the Who."

    Thanks so much for reading The Kids are All Right!
    Diana Welch

  3. I love this post. I love the semi-secret language that siblings have and the stories they share.

    Hey, how's the hamster doing?

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    @MAMA_BRANDI My husband is always amazed how amusing kids are.

    @Diana - Thanks for commenting, you are such a wonderful writer. I love those take on the title, especially Amandas :) My brother has a teacher supply/toy store called "Teach Your Children"

    @Marinka - my kids are learnign spanish too, so really will have a language we don't understand. Our hamster family was like a dynasty, and eventually most died tragic deaths. my son wants a hamster but I'm afraid our dog will get it, and I do mot have the skills my mom had for concocting stories.