Sunday Reflections: Lessons from Sibling Love

Guy and Bug watching the clouds.  Guy was about 6 months old, and Bug laid down and grabbed his hand.  One of my most treasured pictures!

Guy and Bug watching the clouds. Guy was about 6 months old, and Bug laid down and grabbed his hand. One of my most treasured pictures!

For all intents and purposes, I was a horrible big sister. The story goes (though I don’t remember) my parents brought Melanie home to a hostile environment.  I did not want a sister (I’d requested a brother), and I really did not want to keep that wailing, pooping, attention hogging thing in our house one second longer.  So, when the baby started to fuss while my mother was occupied preparing dinner, I took matters into my own hands.  Apparently, I smacked her.  And then indignantly defended my actions with a, “Well, someone has to teach THAT baby not to cry.” It would foreshadow our relationship for years to come.  I always loved her–  at 7 I fought my first (and only) fist fight defending her against the neighborhood bully (I lost)–  but I would go on to treat her with deep contempt, and sometimes outright cruelty. Psh, to sibling rivalry, we had a sibling war. Now, 30 years later, she is a good friend of mine.  We’ve (mostly) buried the hatchet, and we both love and LIKE each other. But the memories of my resentment and treatment of Melanie left me in a near panic when I was pregnant with Guy.  I desperately uttered prayer after prayer that my children would be best friends.  That Bugaboo wouldn’t experience GuyGuy as an invasion.  That karma wouldn’t bite me in tuckus. I don’t deserve it, but I got my wish.  We have our share of sibling arguments– he took my toy, she pushed me down– but mostly they love each other with a gentle sweetness that warms J and I all the way through.  When Bug is crying, Guy can’t get to her fast enough, and when he does, he can’t hug her big enough.  If a checker gives Bug a sticker, she will boldly ask for another to give to Guy, and she will protectively guard it until we get home to him. They are friends, best friends.  I am lucky. I feel confident that they will have each others back against the enemies of the world, that when I am not there, they will have each other. However I was not prepared that I could be the enemy. The other day GuyGuy did something really dangerous.  I won’t tell the whole story, but will say it involved a stool, turning on the stove and a wooden spoon– I will also say, he knows better.  Apparently, when I discovered him, I raised my voice.  I wasn’t so much yelling at him, as I was responding in panic to the situation.  I was scolding and marching him off to time out when Bug flew out of no where, breathing fire and ready to fight. She pushed herself between me and Guy, squared her shoulders, and shouted, “That’s my brother!  You be nice to him! He’s just a little kid! You stop right now!” I was shocked.   Not because I wasn’t being particularly hard on Guy, and not because she was so disrespectful and insolent.  I was shocked because of the courage it took for Bug to put herself in that position. I am one of the biggest authorities in her life.  I can make everything fun and enjoyable come to a screeching halt; I have the power to turn her whole life on end, and she knows it.  Yet something I did touched a deep moral chord with her and motivated her to action, to protection– potentially at her own expense.  She could have stayed in her room, and ignored the situation.  Guy would have been none the wiser, and she would have been safer, but she took the risk.  She put her “life” on the line for him. I felt a mix of relief and pride.  If she is willing to stand up to ME in his defense, I feel even more confident she can stand up for him to a bully or bad friend, or teacher, or bus driver or anyone else who might mistreat or misdirect him.  Her love for him and for what she deemed right, was deeper than her love for herself.  I can’t help but feel proud of her. I also can’t help reflecting on my own life.  I can’t help wondering if I have that same courage.  Am I willing to sacrifice what is comfortable for what is right? When faced with a situation that nags at my moral code, do I stand up or stay out of it?  Do I stop the gossip?  Do I correct the friend telling the bigoted joke?  Do I step in when I witness a mom in a parking lot going ballistic on her kid?  Or do I excuse myself to the bathroom, laugh uncomfortably, look the other way. I think a lot of times I decide standing up is just not worth it.  Not worth the fight, not worth the cost, not worth the consequence.  And sometimes I’m right, because unlike Bug, I know that life isn’t black and white, and you can’t fight every battle with every person,  but sometimes. I don’t stand up because I’m lazy or afraid or not willing to sacrifice–  and that’s where I think I can learn a lesson from Bug.  Because some things are more important than my comfort.  I think I need to find and pull from that well of courage more often!



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