The Damage of Comparing Siblings

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings — their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I have a difficult relationship with my younger brother. When we were little we spent all of our summers up at the cottage playing together. As we got older our three year age gap and very different personalities created distance in our relationship. As I moved onto university my brother started down a path towards drug abuse and alcohol addiction. Our relationship has definitely been more about comparing siblings and rivalry and less about revelry.

As I’ve gotten older one of the biggest differences for me in our relationship was how my parents defined each of us in relation to one another.

I’m naturally a very responsible person (seriously, I’ve taken personality tests before and it’s one of my top 5 strengths). As my brother fell deeper into addiction and it’s corresponding chaos I was asked to take on more responsibility, as if this somehow made up for his lack of it.

I remember times were my brother had taken money out of savings to travel. I hadn’t even realized that was a possibility because savings are savings, right? I asked to do the same thing and was told that I couldn’t because “it wasn’t responsible”.

I even remember being told that once we were older the expectation was that I would be responsible for overseeing my brother’s finances. I remember making the suggestion that if my parents were concerned about his ability to be responsible for his own finances, that they put his share of their will into a trust so that it could be overseen independently. I instinctively knew that asking me to take on this would be knowingly putting my brother and I into a position of conflict and I wanted to mitigate that.

But I was still young and too wrapped up in a toxic family relationship to realize just how not okay this was. It wasn’t okay to teach my brother that he didn’t have to be responsible for himself. And it wasn’t okay to ask me to take on more responsibility or expect that I’d take on his share too. It wasn’t okay to ask me to make up for his mistakes.

This dynamic of us as a reflection of each other has played out again and again over our history.

I was thinking about it again this morning. This deep rooted need to be responsible and more responsible has kept me working in corporate jobs that hurt my soul. Because it’s the responsible thing to do. Because it’s the expected thing to do. Because one of us had to.

I’m proud that I’m at the point in my life where I’ve grown enough to be able to begin to move past that baggage. I’ve taken that first scary step and quit my corporate gig and being unhappy was enough reason. Because I deserve to be happy.

The irony is that even when being ‘irresponsible’ it was still a very responsible and well thought out decision. We made a budget and figured out that with some lifestyle changes we’ll be able to live on one salary. Plus we still have insurance through Jason’s work.

My brother no longer talks to me. He defriended me on facebook over two years ago, which feels so petty to type but is also a pretty good indicator of the current quality of our relationship.

I wish that we had a relationship with him, but I’ve been through enough therapy to recognize the difference between an ideal and a hope and what is likely. For the foreseeable future, as a family unit we’ll continue muddling along this path where people are unhappy but we pretend that things aren’t as broken and toxic as they are. I can’t change other people, I can only change myself and hope that I’ll inspire other people to make the changes they need to be happy as well.

When I look at Silas I hope for something better for him. Whether he has siblings or whether it’s just in relation to the people around him, I hope that we can show and teach him that his abilities and self-esteem aren’t dependent on or relative to other people.  People are all different – different academic abilities, different physical abilities, different musical abilities, different personalities, different character strengths. That we all have things that come easily and things that we need to work on and towards. That our confidence doesn’t come at the expense of someone else, but rather from inside ourselves.

My experience has taught me that each child has to be parented differently because each child is unique. I might use the same set of tools (i.e. gentle parenting) in different combinations and frequencies to be able to achieve what is best for the that particular individual and the overall family.

For you my little man, I hope that I can help you learn how to build long lasting and happy relationships.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?

08.13.2013    14 Comments    babies, life