National Siblings Day falls near my birthday. I think this is significant. It’s an apology by the universe for taking away my position as the baby of the family. When you’ve been the baby for six years and then become just the third child, you feel forever cheated.
Not that I didn’t love my little brother. I got to play with him like he was my doll come to life. He survived my ministrations by the skin of his teeth. He was better off than a friend’s little brother; she and her sister would stand over their brother’s crib and smile at him until he smiled. Then they’d frown at him until he cried.
National Siblings Day was created to celebrate those human beings who came along before you, to smooth the parental waters. These waters were just a pond when they arrived. New parents put them in cute clothes, never let them make mud pies and then eat them (mine were delicious), and they used cribs that met all safety standards. Except for that time the crib fell inward and trapped three dogs and two kids.
As the third child, neither parent cared whether I ate enough vegetables or was disciplined properly. I never needed it anyway. When your head is buried in a book 15 hours a day, even under the covers at night with a flashlight, you aren’t causing trouble. Neither cared whether I was destined for greatness, they just hoped I would turn out better than their first efforts.
I’m not worried my brother or sister will read this, and if they do, I’ll handle it in the manner I handled all sibling crises in the past and still do, by sticking my fingers in my ears, my tongue out, and saying “Neener, neener, neener.”
A few years ago, there were Three Little Siblings in the national news who lit out for parts unknown. They’d robbed a bank and had stolen a car and were on the lam from the law. I found their tale fascinating, not so much because of their crimes, but because they were grown siblings, acting in unison, and reputedly in cooperation and harmony.
If you can manage this in any family, why be a criminal? You must have some redeeming personal characteristics that would enable you to work harmoniously with others, perhaps even schmooze your way to the top.
If I could ‘get over’ on anyone in my family, maybe even talk them into knocking over convenience stores with me, I’d be in a far better spot than I am now, assuming we didn’t get caught. I’d at least be head of my own corporation, happily robbing pension funds.
Were the outlaw siblings exhibiting deep dysfunction, or were they Little Men and Women who had bonded properly in the bosom of their family? As Bess in Little Women once said, “Little birds in their nests agree.” These three would have stomped on Bess and stolen her nest.
My sister would fink on me at regular intervals, and my brother teased me unmercifully. As an adult, he became something of a socialist, and there may be a connection here. Sociologically speaking, he wanted to remind me that I was just another cog in the family dynamic and that we were all equal.
My sister, on the other hand, was ticked that she was no longer an only child who got into trouble for her misdemeanors. I was smart enough not to get caught for the most part, and no one was paying attention anyway. Me and Mr. Potato Head were getting kinky under the covers, too.
An internet search of the word ‘siblings’ will bring up a zillion self-help articles for parents to teach their children how to get along and not stab each other with forks at the dinner table. None of the articles are congratulatory ones for the successful emotional blending of siblings.
My brother was always tipping back in his chair at the dinner table, so all we had to do was give him a little push to get even for something.
Sibling rivalry is a mainstream term that everyone knows, and the three siblings on the lam could lecture on how to overcome it. Clearly, their mother did something right. Her children get along swimmingly.
Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are alike, while unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. This trio of Gambino wannabes shared their AK 47 with admirable generosity of spirit.
They only had the one, and they weren’t arguing over it.
Many families like to get together every now and then for a reunion, or even for Thanksgiving. These reunions include siblings. I’m always amazed when someone tells me about a family reunion that boasted 200 people who flew in from everywhere and met up to celebrate in Hawaii. I can barely get people to drive 20 minutes across town to meet for lunch or dinner. (Maybe Hawaii has something to do with it.) And I don’t like to drive anymore, either.
The family is the first place someone learns strengths and weaknesses, such as Work Hard, Save Money, Be A Good Citizen. I learned some of my skills from our very own government. For instance, when I was younger, I applied for credit and bought things I didn’t need.
I did learn to work hard, but that was to pay off the debt I’d created. This is normal behavior for the third child. We make up for all the hand-me-downs we got growing up. I still have a dress my mom bought me when I was seven that I only got to wear once or twice: an I. Magnin white sailor dress, with attached petticoat and red and blue trimmed streamer and collar. Even back then, I had a thing for the Navy.
I learned my good citizenship in a time-honored government way, too; listening to conversations that were transpiring in the living room when I was supposed to be in bed asleep. I’d belly crawl to the top of the stairs and lie there in the darkened hallway, while my older siblings got to stay up and talk to our parents.
I learned to listen in on an extension without being detected, and thus learn many other things that way. You can’t pass skills like that on, anymore. Landlines and extensions are disappearing, and only the government gets to eavesdrop.
You could possibly learn eavesdropping at the office, but it isn’t necessary. You just have to check out someone’s Facebook page to find out what’s going on.
Kids today learn valuable skills from their phones and apps. My survivor skills were honed with nothing but my brain, which I blatantly used before there was a Swiss Army cell phone. This new survivor phone is loaded with a knife app, a fork app, and a spoon app. I can download many tool apps to this phone should I ever be featured on a survivor show. One of the first apps I’ll download is a clothing app. I refuse to go into any jungle naked.
I needed survival tools in one of the toughest locations ever devised to break a human being down to the essentials: The middle-class suburban home.
The media never has anything good to say about this place. They consider it highly boring. Kids aren’t poor or rich, overly privileged, nor deprived. The streets are safe and clean, and the neighbors don’t generally shoot you.
All of this was accurate in describing my growing up years. That’s why I never discovered a cure for cancer. I was happy to just bask in the glow that came from being the ‘good child’ who never gave my parents any trouble.
I learned that no matter how good I was, my siblings would still resent me for something, generally for being the one who got something they didn’t. This was intangible, like getting to stay out later than they did, or as one child said to his mother once, “She got more bubbles in her milk! Its not fair!”
My childhood memories reverberate with fights, arguments, and tears, mostly during family road trips. I got to sit in that little space in the back of the VW. I’d signal truck drivers to blow that horn, which they’d obligingly do, making my dad jump and drive off the road.
My mother would be sunk miserably in the passenger seat, no doubt wishing she had never gotten married. Arguing over who was taking up too much room in the back seat, or who was looking out the opposite window, a window that didn’t belong to them, didn’t affect me until my baby brother came along.
By then, I don’t think we were taking too many road trips.
We had lots of fun at other times, but our ‘sibling rivalry’ didn’t end when we grew up and moved out. The three of us, (there used to be four) would not be able to agree on how the world should end, in fire or ice.
One would be cold and vote for fire; the other would want to conserve resources and vote for ice; and the third wouldn’t care, and say as much, if they had decided they weren’t going to preserve an injured silence anymore.
How the three siblings on the lam could agree on which bank to rob, which car to steal, which weapon to use, not to mention who got to drive, and who got to ride ‘shotgun’, is beyond me.
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