Tag Archives: sibling relationships

Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways Sibling Relationships Affect Your Development

SiblingsI was watching a high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last month when I was suddenly overcome by a desire to leap out of my seat, jump on stage and start belting out “Any Dream Will Do” with the title character. 

And I suddenly thought: Who on this planet can possibly relate to this impulse to shed my middle aged composure and burst out in song?

And the answer was: my sister. She and I were raised on musical theater, have been to countless Broadway shows, and often communicate with one another via lyrics from our favorite show tunes. 

Sure enough, the next day – as soon as I told her (via email) where I’d been the night before – she responded with a choice lyric from Joseph…to which I replied in kind. 

We all know that sibling relationships are vitally important in shaping who we are and how we behave. Still, I find that I can’t read enough about the precise ways in which sibling dynamics (or the lack thereof) affect our development into adulthood.

Read the rest of this post over at Better After 50:

Image: Siblings via Wikimedia Commons

Tips For Adulthood: Pick Five Obsessions

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Well, I’m back. Or, in the immortal words of Neil Diamond: “Hello, again. Hello.”

If I could offer one sage piece of advice from the last four weeks of my existence, it would be that when at all possible, do not start a new job two weeks before you move house.

And if I could offer a second piece of advice, it would be to try not to have your office move buildings two weeks after you move house.

But I digress…

During my time away from the blog, I had a chance to reflect on many things. One of the things I realized is that when your life is in turmoil, it’s reassuring to fall back on a few reliable things that you know will bring you joy.

As you age, you come to have what I refer to as a set of “quiet obsessions” – i.e., those topics which are endlessly fascinating to you and which you can never learn enough about. Indeed, the very fact of revisiting them becomes a touch stone of sorts.

These quiet obsessions are the inverse of having a hobby when you’re grown up – (something I also advocate) – but equally useful. Rather than keeping you fresh through experimentation and change, the quiet obsessions serve to anchor you in who you are and provide some continuity and depth in your identity.

I have lots of secret obsessions, but here I’ll just list five. Have a think (great English expression!) about what topics never tire you out and leave them in the comments section. I love learning about other people’s quiet obsessions!

1. Political conflict. I’m not sure where this obsession comes from, but I have a deep-seated fascination with intractable political conflicts, of the Israeli-Palestinian, Northern Ireland, Bosnian variety. I’m drawn to this topic in films and I’m equally drawn to it in books. And I’m especially drawn to first person narratives about the aftermath of political conflict, like this moving story about a bar in Queens that never managed to rise above the Balkan conflict. There’s something achingly compelling, I think, about political stalemates that endure, leaving their indelible bruises along the way. Yeah, I know. It’s  bleak. But I can’t get enough of them.

2. Watergate. Also political – but with a happier ending – is my obsession with Watergate. I am one of those people who could listen to the late NPR correspondent Daniel Schorr talk about the Watergate scandal forever and a day. I’ve also seen All The President’s Men God knows how many times. Imagine my delight, then, when I read this gem: an article in a recent New York magazine revealing how Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee secretly harbored some doubts about the Woodward/Bernstein narrative about Watergate all along. For a Watergate junkie? I seriously could not put this article down.

3. Bilingualism. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by foreign languages. I bought a How To Learn Russian book when I was in second grade. I majored in languages in college. And I’ve always been particularly envious of those friends of mine who grew up speaking two languages. So whenever I read a new study touting the benefits of bilingualism, I”m all over it.

4. Sibling relationships. Ditto new research on sibling relationships. I firmly believe that sibling relationships are among the most formative in shaping who you are as a person. Even in adulthood. So that new film, Your Sister’s Sister? Yeah. It’s on my list.

5. People’s relationship to their work. I often say that in another life, I’d be a career counselor. It’s true. I could analyze people’s relationship to their work and why certain jobs/routines/skill sets do or do not suit them until the cows come home.Which is part of the reason I enjoy job-hunting so much. But no, I don’t care to revisit *that* particular obsession again…
How about you? What topics do you find yourself never tiring of? Tell me. I’m curious…

 

Image: Washington DC- Foggy Bottom: Watergate Complex by wallyg via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Sibling Relationships: Are They Still Crucial in Adulthood?

I was in a bookstore the other day and told my kids that they could each purchase a small book. My eight year-old son came back with a book containing a 1000-question quiz about J.R.R. Tolkien. My five year-old daughter came back with a book about sea creatures.

“It’s a non-fiction book, Mama,” she said proudly, “non-fiction” being a term recently incorporated into her vernacular.

“Great! Why did you choose it?” I asked.

“Because I want to learn lots of facts,” she answered. “So I can be like Isaac when I grow up.”

Her comment went through me like a knife. It was one more sign – like her cross-dressing – of just how much she idolizes her big brother. Whereas he could quite happily live without her.

My husband and I keep hoping that this will change as they grow older. We often tell our son how we both fought a lot with our siblings when we were young, but are now good friends with them. But inside I’m not so certain.

Much of the literature on sibling relationships seems to focus on childhood. Things like birth order get championed as crucial determinants of personality type, and there are loads of books and advice out there for managing sibling rivalry.

But what about sibling relationships in adulthood? Do those matter, too?

The evidence would suggest that they do. A recent study of Harvard grads found that being close to one’s siblings at college age was a crucial determinant of emotional well-being at 65.

Which isn’t surprising, of course. For many people, sibling relationships are the longest ones they’ll have over the course of a lifetime. And in America, at least, 96% of all people have at least one sibling.

Anecdotally, we all also know that sibling relationships continue to matter in adulthood. I was quite taken with this article by Emmet Rosenfeld in the Washington Post last month. It tells the story of twin brothers, one of whom (the author) is struggling to make ends meet as an educator (married to an educator) living outside Washington DC, while his brother (a lawyer married to a psychiatrist) lives a rather high-pressured, high-priced lifestyle in New York City.

It’s a very frank account of how the brothers – who grew up in the same family and had very similar undergraduate educations – diverged so markedly once they hit adulthood. And in it, you feel all that familiar mix of jealousy, competition, regret and admiration that so often characterizes adult sibling relationships. (Truth in advertising: I know the brothers in question, though only in passing).

Twins, of course, present a very special case of everything. I’ll never forget one twin friend – a successful businessman, whose brother was a doorman. When asked whether they ever competed as children he answered, “Of course.” Then he paused and added: “And I won.” Ouch.

But if these sentiments sound harsh, it’s because they’re also very real.

And so when I look at my daughter painstakingly copying down the names of all the sea creatures in her little book so that she can one day recite them from memory – as her brother now does with the characters who populate the Lord of the Rings trilogy – I do feel a pang. And I wonder if she, too, will one day feel the need to write a personal essay dissecting the early competitive/imitative dynamic with her brother and how it’s shaped her as a grown-up.

Undoubtedly, she will. I can only hope that they’ll be best friends by then.

*****

If you’re interested in the whole head scarf/women’s rights debate in France, have a look at my piece in PoliticsDaily today.

Image: Sibling Rivalry by Ucumari via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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