Ludoo has started following his sister around like an overexcited, bouncing puppy. He hangs on to her every word, begs her to play with him and copies everything she does…much to her irritation. Luddo is five and Flump is nine. She clearly has better things to do than to hang out with her needy baby brother. He, on the other hand, can think of nothing more fantastic. We have a classic case of unrequited sibling love in our household.
Take scenario one – It’s Saturday morning and Ludoo starts shouting at the top of his voice, “My sister, where are you? I love you! Where are you?” My heart melts, silence ensues, followed by the sound of Flump slamming her bedroom door. Poor Ludoo.
Let us consider scenario two – A conversation in the car takes place as follows: Ludoo says, “I love you my big sister, I love you.” Flump ignores him. Ludoo repeats, “I really love you.” Flump remains silent and unmoved. I ask Flump, “Isn’t that nice? Did you hear your brother?” and Flump replies, “Yes, I heard him.” I then ask her optimistically, “Is there anything you want to say back to him?” Flump reluctantly slurs, “Thanks.” Ludoo remains undeterred and continues to exclaim, “I just love you, I really do.” End of conversation.
Of course I can’t help but feel sorry for my poor little boy, but strangely enough he doesn’t seem discouraged by the repeated rejection. Occasionally Flump will give him a shred of attention, particularly if it entails giving instruction, which Ludoo will eagerly comply with.
The sibling dynamic is an interesting one. It constantly evolves and has many dimensions. I don’t for one second think Flump will continuously reject her brother’s affections. I’m sure, at some point in her life, she will start to appreciate him. And I’m also sure, Ludoo will, one day, lose interest in his sister. Either way, the sibling relationship is never static.
In fact, sibling relationships are normally the longest-lasting family ties that we have. They are with us for longer than anyone else throughout our lives and will see us through marriage, divorce, aging and death/bereavement. A positive and strong sibling relationship will help cushion us against the blows of life, and that’s why it’s so important for me, as a parent, to nurture that in my own children.
Of course sibling relationships aren’t always easy in adult life. The close history that siblings share can also create tension, and often differences will arise over family related matters. Or sometimes siblings will just drift apart because we don’t invest in these relationships in the same way that we do other relationships. We tend to take siblings for granted.
Ultimately I have no control over how Flump and Ludoo will interact later on in life. All that I can do is set the foundations for their relationship now by reiterating the importance of family and respect. I try to set up activities which they can enjoy together and which foster teamwork. I try to set an example by remaining close to my own siblings and maintaining regular contact. I hope, with time, Flump will become more receptive to her brother’s affections and realise just how lucky she is to have such an adoring younger sibling. He may annoy the heck out of her now, but in years to come, he could well be her anchor should life ever become stormy.