They come in all shapes and sizes. Some smell funky and others are imbecilic. For some, they are caring and offer all of what they have. And, unluckily for others, they don’t exist at all. I talk about siblings; brothers and sisters. They are, without a doubt the most precious gift a mother and father can give you! They’re the best!
With four of my own and a first-hand look at those with and without them in the classroom, personalities; characteristics, mannerisms, our competitive streak and our nurturance are all shaped, if not defined, by our siblings. And for those without them…what can I say? You’re missing out. Of course, there’s a huge rally favouring the only child lifestyle, and this is not 'hot off the press' news either. Which ever side of this argument you stand, reading about it is always worthwhile, so sit back and enjoy. Perhaps read with your brother or sister?
With so many advantages of having a sibling, I thought, because it links so perfectly to my latest book, I’m The Best, based upon the happenings of Billy and his brother, James, I might divulge the opportunity to spruik the benefits of this almighty relationship. ‘A handful’ is a common phrase exuberated from gasping adults, carers, babysitters and more, so I’ll give you a handful of reasons ‘why siblings rule’! Before I do though, I shall enlighten you to the other side of this argument; that indeed, only children (or singletons) are the way to go. As, in most multi-sibling households would often hear, it is only fair.
With the latest terrorist attacks in France and Boston, both being inflicted by sets of brothers, I assure you, we shouldn’t be concerned about a pattern of heinous behaviour from siblings. I must, however, inform you of the singleton dark side argument. This has been around forever; the argument of negative impacts a sibling or siblings can have on an individual. I feel I shall open your mind to the wrong side of the fence first then stamp it out with the most refreshing puree of sibling bliss. It is, after all, the mightiest of developmental weapons a minor can have whilst taking on the treacherous world beyond the safety of Mummy and Daddy.
I’ll get to why many feel being the only child feeds narcissistic, maladjusted and spoilt brats in a moment, but first, let me delve into the dark side, the one where siblings are frowned upon. “In biblical times”, analyses Dr Avidan Milevsky, a professor and therapist in Children’s research, "there are accounts of jealousy, competition and even murder”. Oh the horrible thought of having a sibling! That sandpit saga could turn nasty, no brutal if not monitored properly. Even our favourite psychologist, Sigmund Freud believed bullying took shape within the household and mental health issues and disease stemmed from ill-treatment of siblings. Elvis Presley and Leonardo Da Vinci were only children, right? What could possibly be worse than bringing a little brother or sister into the equation when you have enough talent in the first born to preach to the neighbours about! But people, let’s face the facts; when asked about the ideal number of children, the common person, unless you live in China and it's 1965, under the one-child policy, would suggest anything but one. In fact, the first president of the American Psychologist Association, G Stanley Hall, referred to being an only child as a “disease itself”! So please, let us move into why siblings rule!
Number One – boundaries.
We push boundaries all the time. In our place of employment, at festivals, with friends, in love and even in our risk taking from time to time. As humans, we love to push the limits and often we become nervous wrecks in the process. Socially, physically and mentally our siblings test us and do their very best to push our buttons in such a way, it borderlines torture! But without these experiences, where will we learn? The classroom is a magical place but if boundaries aren't already well versed, children can often ostracise an individual who won't stop this incessant invasion. It happens more than you think. Being annoying is only understood when one has learnt that annoying is actually annoying. So who will a singleton annoy to work out this boundary, Grandad?
Number Two – blissful sharing.
At times, we all do it. We sneer at the thought of sharing; that chocolate, that money you’ve earned all by yourself, even that present of which someone clearly bought for all the family. But sharing is a necessity and a skill we must learn as soon as possible as a child. Siblings help us share everything; from cuddle time and attention from parents to lollies, toys, television remotes and even a bedroom. Of course, it would be just easier if there was only one child in the house for the aforementioned list’s ease, but what happens when these singletons reach the front gate and enter the real world? In a classroom, workplace or a restaurant, everywhere, we must develop a sense of sharing. It makes us better people and what better people to learn from than a sibling?
Number Three – there goes my hero!
Whether we like it or not, our children, all children in fact, will outgrow the need for Mum or Dad. They still love you dearly but they now prioritise the acceptance and understanding of friends, a mentor or someone famous. For a child with a brother or sister, this fills the quota nicely. There’s nothing quite like the role model that an older sibling encompasses; they assume a trusted ear, a steady shoulder to lean upon and more importantly a story teller or warner of roads recently walked (even if those roads were rebellious and behind Mum and Dad’s back). As children reach teenhood and then adult life, they crave a role model and unfortunately, it isn’t until they consider having kids of their own when that hero becomes the parent. Mimicking behaviour, good and bad, is part of a child’s development, which is why having heroes are so important, particularly a positive role model. Although not donned in a cape, an older brother or sister plays the role emphatically!
Number Four – friendship.
I have taught many singletons and, although each is different from the next, they all have one commonality; loneliness. They all lack social awareness of the peers their own age and are continually plagued and baffled by this redundantly used word at school known as resilience. I’m not suggesting singletons have a hard time making friends, each to their own. I am relishing in the fact, siblings make great friends. You can fight, knowing there’ll be no backstabbing about it, you can hone skills in sports and learn how to play fair. You can also learn how to trick your opposing player without having to tippy-toe around the issue of a grudge if caught. When things go bad, in any situation, a sibling acts as the ally who will have your back, the one to metaphorically and literally pick you up when you’re down. And this point leads me to the final stanza. Siblings are remarkable.
Number Five – love.
Regardless of relationship’s strength, and despite the helpless fact you share a name and bloodline, your sibling will hold, forever, a special place in your heart. I will finish with my most powerful blow and it doesn’t come from my own experience. Sure, I have had times when I have rung a sibling in need of advice or when I was near inconsolable; they were undeniably heartbroken for me and did everything in their power to help soothe the pain, but this story simply jumped out at me when I read it. A twenty-month-old baby, playing outside, trips and hits her head in a resounding fashion. She ultimately lost consciousness and soon enough the paramedics are on their way. The ambulance arrives and soon the stretcher wheels the little girl off towards the rear end of the vehicle. One sibling, a seven-year-old boy observes, visibly upset. The other sibling, a nine-year-old boy stands nearby taking in the whole situation. As the scene would suggest, Mum races over to comfort the younger of the two siblings but can only muster a half-hearted hug. At that time, eye-contact was made with the other sibling and an almost Hollywood-like scene unfolds where the boys embrace, far outweighing anything a parent could offer in that moment. The comfort and support in one sibling embrace is not only irreplaceable but simply magical.