Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Family Ties...Minus Tina Yothers

I read an article in the NYT Motherlode blog the other day about how to make sure your kids grow up to be friends. Actually, I think the article was asking readers if there was an actual way to make your kids grow up to be friends. By means other than, you know...beating them with reeds until they promise to run right out to their nearest Piercing Pagoda and buy a Best Friends necklace for their sibling.

This subject has always fascinated me. I am very interested in the whole concept of sibling rivalry and the bonds that tie us all together in knots so complex that extricating ourselves from them is like trying to pull gum out of a 2-year-old's hair (or a gum wrapper from her nostril, which I've had recent experience doing, and proved to be more difficult than the Popcorn Kernel Incident).

I think this fascination stems from the fact that my five siblings and I are very close. Like, extremely so. Like, for awhile there it was almost an unhealthy, co-dependent kind of relationship, built on love, trust and mutual appreciation for Jaws, Star Wars and Silence of the Lambs. And alcohol.

But I would like to figure out exactly why we're all so close, so that when my children get older, they will enjoy their own unhealthy, co-dependence on each other, fueled by their own appreciation of scary movies and Zima snuck through bedroom windows and stashed inside bathtubs full of ice. I think much of our closeness stems from the fact that my siblings and I all have a similar sense of humor. And by similar I mean dark, irreverent, twisted, and founded upon the idea that if we laughed loudly enough our parents wouldn't notice that we were walking around with only one contact lens because we tore the other one roughly three hours after receiving our very first pair, and we were NOT about to tell our father that he just dropped two hundred bucks for us to spend seventh grade with 20/400 vision in our left eye.

Anyway, the main idea from the aforementioned article that resonated with me was: if you really want your kids to be close, you've got to let them

1.) fight
2.) have secrets
3.) make fun of you. With abandon.

Well, Rollie and Elsa definitely have that first one covered. They fight just like any other set of siblings. Always have, really. Rollie will boss Elsa around, Elsa will get annoyed and lunge at him, Rollie will invariably resort to kicking at her like a mule. Elsa will cry and tattle. Rollie will run and hide. It's almost tedious in its predictability. I mean, once in a while can't they throw a chair at each other just to mix things up a little?

The only person in my family who I ever really fought with was my sister Carrie. You remember Carrie, don't you? Two years older...irritable...liked to write stories about me in which I was a bumbling idiot who never bathed, changed clothes or had any friends. Man, did we fight growing up. Although I will say that it was usually because I did something to piss her off, and Carrie was never one to hide her displeasure. Displeasure here usually manifested itself in clawing my arm with her fingernails, running me over with a hose caddy or spool, or verbally assaulting me with a Christian Bale-like ferocity, only without the charming accent.

Dispersed throughout our childhood, however, were moments when we were comrades. Silently giggling together through never-ending church sermons. Sitting together in mutual punishment for failing to eat our mother's horrific concoction of squash and seasonings that was an abomination to child palates everywhere. Getting stuffed in the way back of our father's un-airconditioned '75 Buick station wagon as our family barreled toward a relative's house in the dead of summer (and getting waylaid for an hour or two because either a.) the car broke down, or b.) someone's belongings blew off the roof rack). It seems like it was the rough times in our young little lives that really brought us closer. The times when we could band together in shared loathing for long sermons, squash, Buicks, and roof racks .

Which makes me think that if I want my kids to have a close relationship with each other, I'm gonna need to start introducing them to some hardships. Something besides me failing to DVR Wonder Pets.

As far as my children sharing secrets, they seem to have that one covered, too. Many times have I heard them giggling, then a rustling in the pantry, and when I finally heave myself up from whatever tuffet I've been lounging on to investigate, I find them hiding somewhere with an entire bag of marshmallows, laughing over how large their cheeks have gotten, filled with sugary goo. They are not yet savvy enough to not get caught, but as soon as they are, they will have their share of secrets that I won't ever be privy to. Which is fine with me...do I really want to know that they just ingested their own weight in Skittles?

One thing my kids haven't done yet is make fun of me. That I know of, anyway. But I'm sure in about eight years they will have this one covered too, mainly because I will be embarrassing the crap out of them just by merely existing. Which I frankly can't fathom. I mean, I'm definitely not the coolest person on the planet, shocking as that may sound...but I really don't know how I'm going to embarrass my children. Perhaps just picking them up from school will be downright mortifying (and I plan on having a normal car--I will NOT pick them up in a broken down motorhome like my own father had been known to do on occasion. Seriously, it's the times like waiting outside with fifty other eight graders after a school dance when my ride home was mistaken for either a.) a U-Haul, or b.) the ice cream man, that solidified my relationship with my siblings. Who else would understand the horror of having the most embarrassing mode of transportation on the planet, driven by the school's band director? My siblings, that's who.)

But if my children take after me in any way, shape or form (aside from their affinity for Dairy Queen), they will find a way to make fun of me regardless of how cool a parent I am. And if I want them to foster a closer relationship, the kind I still enjoy with my siblings, I might as well start downloading some old Milli Vanilli tracks now, just so I have something to blast over the car speakers when I pick them up from their own school dances. Since I won't have a motorhome to cart them around in.


  1. Oh man...thanks for this! I have 6 siblings, one of which is a sister a couple years older...we also fought like crazy as kids and as soon as she went to college we became best friends...have been ever since! Thanks for making me think of all of them (as if I don't already, but you know what I mean!)

  2. @ Sarah--Big families are the bomb. My sister and I are definitely BFF now, but 25 years ago we would have happily smothered each other in our respective sleep over a Barbie doll. Glad you get to enjoy a great relationship now! :)

  3. I am glad that we,in our own bumbling way, fostered such camaraderie and love among you. It's one of those delayed enjoyment things that parents FINALLY get to enjoy.