educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom
My oldest son was born in October 2004. He was very well planned–Mrs. Brown and I set our own date for when we would like our first child to be born, and the bouncing baby boy arrived within a few weeks of our intended goal. For years, he had enjoyed being the sole recipient of his parents’ attention, and Mrs. Brown and I were settling into the idea of his being an only child.
(The fact that I call him MDB #1 is a clue to how this story progresses…in 2010, we discovered that Mrs. Brown was pregnant with MDB #2.)
Now don’t get me wrong…there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an only child. There are probably millions of “onlies” in the world who turn out to be fine human beings. (This link HERE has a few of the more famous “onlies”.) BUT…I admit that I am happy we have two children.
Here are my four reasons why siblings improve our lives:
At best, our memories are spotty and biased. Much of what we tell ourselves about our early childhoods are shaped by the stories about us told by our parents and grandparents. I remember a couple of Thanksgivings in which my family recounted the many times I had fallen on my head as a baby, the many times I would antagonize my younger brother, and the many times in elementary school I would talk about Jennifer Van Wie (the ridiculously cute curly-haired blond girl who competed with me for top grades.) Of course I don’t remember any of these events…not because I had fallen on my head countless times as a baby, but because I was just too young.
My brother and I, however, have different memories. We’re 2 ½ years apart, which means our memories are more aligned with each other than they would be to our parents and grandparents. Your siblings have conversations with you that your parents don’t have. Your siblings have experiences with you that you don’t have with your parents. Having a brother in my life helps me to maintain a relationship with the only person who remembers when we tried jumping off the roof of our grandparents’ garage.
I could tell my brother to shut up. I couldn’t tell my mother to shut up.
With my mother, I practiced filial respect, deference, and general good manners.
With my brother, I practiced that tiger claw move I saw on those old ’70s kung fu flicks.
With my grandfather, I practiced reciting the A.M.E. Church Communion General Confession.
With my brother, I practiced standing on his toes and then pushing him backward.
With my grandmother, I practiced asking questions about her life in Bonita, Louisiana.
With my brother, I practiced walking in front of him at just the right speed so that he’ll have to catch that wafting aroma of the silent but deadly fart in my wake.
There are arguments and fights we have with our siblings that we’re just not allowed to have with anyone else. Living under the same roof with someone relatively close to your age will eventually lead to conflicts. And without those childhood conflicts, we would have a more difficult time learning the skills necessary to resolve them as adults. As author Richard Bach once said: “Avoid problems, and you’ll never be the one who overcame them.”
Take a look at the picture above. Baby Brown is smiling contentedly in the stroller. He’s happy…he’s safe. You know why? Because of the big kid next to him with the crooked smirk on his face. No matter what happens in their lives, no matter how much they argue or fight when they get older, no matter that their ages are separated by six years…Baby Brown will always know that big brother’s got his back. That is how I feel about the relationships I have with my brothers. As the oldest son, I can look out for my brothers, and they know that they can ask my help on anything. I wouldn’t call it a responsibility…it feels better than that…more like an honor. I feel honored that I can help my brothers if they need it. If I’m at a bar and I see that one of my brothers (probably DeJon) is about to get his ass kicked by the boyfriend of some young lady he was trying to talk with, then that means I’m jumping in the mix with him. And that means we’ll also have another story to tell in the future (I refer you back to Reason #1 above.)
Oftentimes, your brothers and sisters are the peers you get to know well before you venture out of the house and into the school environment. At that moment when you wake up from a good night’s sleep and you look over and your brother is still there, you realize that you’ll always have someone to play with. I’m 39 and ¾ years old and it’s cool knowing that when I wake up I still have someone to play with. Last March, when my youngest brother celebrated his 21st birthday in Las Vegas, I was glad to share the celebration with him (see the aftermath in the post right HERE).
I found an old but interesting New York Times article from 1995 reminding us of the fact that most sibling relationships outlast the marriages that created them (see the article HERE).
When my sons are old and gray and yelling at young whippersnappers to get off the lawn, I’m hoping that they’ll be doing it together…drinking buddies, laughing at memories of me, reminiscing on how good it was that they were blessed with each other.