“You don’t know how lucky you are.”
Once again I had my three children lined up on the couch after another bout of sibling mayhem.
“I would have given anything to have had a brother or sister. I don’t understand how you can be mean to each other. Your siblings are a gift.”
The looks coming from the couch made me believe my words were landing on the floor in front of them.
I was raised alone. I envied my friends with brothers and sisters, especially older brothers. I promised myself I wouldn’t raise an only child. In my mind, the term should have been lonely child. During these brother and sister brawls, however, I thought maybe I was wrong.
My kids now live around the country. They stay in touch constantly. Sister and brothers have each other’s’ back. They often laugh through social media about incidents from their childhood. (Say “big red bat” in our family and we all have a hearty laugh because of a childhood antic.) These three will also call one another out if need be. Mom no longer intervenes. They take care of each other.
I now know I was on track about the bond that grows between siblings. Childhood is the time it is built. The growth of this bond didn’t just happen. Because I had no sibling experience, I must confess I was winging it. I look back and see our family had specific behaviors and rules that led to the adult friendship.
Not just “please” and “thank you,” but also holding doors open, offering a chair when one of them entered a room. Our family members treated each other as well as we treated strangers.
Even the boys who shared a room had special places for privacy. Whether that place was under a blanket or a “fort” in the backyard, we understood we all need a place to retreat and be alone. This practice included possessions. Siblings were not allowed to randomly “borrow” from others. Property lines were respected.
“I’m sorry” is a powerful statement. Unless it said with meaning, it’s just a phrase. It was important for our children understanding saying I’m sorry is more than a nicety, more than courtesy. Apologies are for us as much as the person we hurt. We taught forgiveness with our own confessions and seeking forgiveness. A mumbled “sorry” was not enough.
We valued being with our children. Family members know each other without time together. We made it a priority to include our children in as many activities as possible. We read together each day. We had goal of a family meal each day. We sat together at church. As our children started having jobs, we made allowances for working hours. The goal, though, remained the same—to be together as a family.
Maybe because I was raised alone, I don’t understand jokes at the expense of other’s feelings. I’ve witnessed families who seem to survive on insults. Some members of those families certainly didn’t thrive. We didn’t allow our children use insults about each other or use a special attribute as a joke. With redheads in the family, one girl, and a child with learning disabilities, the opportunities abounded. Each member of our family is a special creation of God; we respected God’s creation. Later our children became defenders of others outside our home.Each member of our family is a special creation of God; we respected God’s creation. Later our children became defenders of others outside our home. Click To Tweet
What did Jesus teach?
Jesus taught us to “treat others the same way you want to be treated” (Luke 6:31 NASB). Treating others well begins at home. Treating others well is the beginning of a lifelong sibling comradery.
Ultimately though it comes down to us—parents. We need to exhibit the behaviors we want our children to have as adults. It’s well to remember we are raising adults. Parenting adult children begins at birth. We desire for our children to not be productive adults; we desire they are adults of good character.
Our true character is how we behave when no one is watching. As our children become adults we can see their character by how they interact with each other. When I see the bond my three have as adults, I know those sibling squabbles were training ground God gave us to prepare our children’s hearts for adulthood.