One day, when I was about 7 years old, my brother offered me a quarter, the caveat being that I would have to earn the quarter by running around the perimeter of the house, outside, in my bare feet. This would not have been so much of a barrier had it not been the middle of winter, and had the snow not reached the height of my kneecaps. Alas, my head spun with the possibilities… Dubble Bubble? Popeye cigarettes? Dip-N-Stix? Desperate times called for desperate measures, and with little hesitation, off came the shoes, off came the socks, and I burst out the front door and started the most hellacious sprint of my short life. I can’t adequately describe the searing pain that shot up both legs the moment my feet hit that snow. I tripped on the root of the overgrown euonymus bush on the side of the house and tumbled face-first into the snow, so now I was thoroughly frozen, but I got to my feet and kept my eye on the ball, or quarter, in this case, and continued around the house to complete my feat. My heart was pounding (early hypothermia?) but I was just so pleased with my accomplishment, and even more excited that I was well on my way to financial freedom. I heaved on the front door handle with the last smidgen of energy in my body, thinking only of the quarter that awaited inside.
The front door was locked.
As I stood on the front porch, eyes wide with terror, I could hear my brother laughing hysterically on the other side.
Flash forward to last week, when this CNN (online) headline caught my eye: “Siblings Still Pushing Your Buttons?”. The article’s author, Jane Isay, has written two books: "Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings," and "Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship between Adult Children and Parents". [Frankly, I’m surprised I wasn’t contacted for either of these, but that’s an aside…]. Ms. Isay suggests that we reframe our historical experiences with our siblings in an attempt to achieve a new perspective, and even reconciliation.
As I scanned through the comments below the CNN article, I admit to being deeply comforted by the camaraderie of picked-on siblings out there. To the guy whose sister used to trick him into playing “Houdini” and would then tie him to the kitchen chair and leave him like that for a couple of hours while she went out to play, I raise my glass and say a hearty thank you for sharing your angst. Perhaps we can get a group rate on therapy….
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
In her new book, They’re Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy, journalist Francine Russo writes about a difficult stage of life: the “twilight transition” when boomer-aged siblings reunite to care for aging parents. This period is laden with new challenges – dividing assets, dementia, caregiving issues – and has the potential to inflame old sibling rivalries as adult siblings deal with the end of their first family and take over their parents’ place as the decision-making generation. As noted by Ms. Russo in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail: “There’s a huge re-emergence of sibling rivalry over parents because when we see that our parents’ time is limited, all the unmet needs we’ve had resurface: to be loved, approved of, forgiven….”
In her book, Ms. Russo interviewed siblings, gerontologists, family therapists, elder-care attorneys, financial planners, and health workers to offer practical advice on such topics as:
– the negotiation of caregiving issues and dealing with unequal contributions or power struggles;
– the making of major medical and financial decisions, when parents cannot;
– how to cope with unresolved childhood rivalries and hurts; and
– tips for avoiding conflict.
Click here to read Ms. Russo’s interview in Monday’s edition of The Globe and Mail.
Bianca La Neve
Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.