Does anyone remember that 2003 movie, Cheaper by the Dozen? It’s the one starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and a teenage Hilary Duff. In the movie, Steve and Bonnie have 12 kids and they move from the country to suburbia for Steve’s dream job. The entire family has trouble with relocating and the film ends with a huge reunion after one of the children, Mark, runs away.
As my brother picked me up from work the other day, I was reminded of Cheaper by the Dozen. Not because I have 11 siblings—I can’t even imagine what that would be like—but because of the relationships the siblings maintained with each other. There were rivalries, alliances, fights and making up. Underneath it all, there was loyalty and love.
I’ve realized that siblings have a unique relationship. Sometimes the relationship can be extremely close. Other times it can be distant or volatile. Almost always, though, the relationship changes over time and with maturity. Before I entered kindergarten, my brother and I were very close. My mom tells me that when I started going to school, my brother Joey, would constantly ask, “Where’s Ally? When’s Ally coming home?”
If I was writing this article five years ago I would have laughed. That friendship my brother and I shared disappeared in late elementary school/early middle school. Maybe this is because at that age we’d been developing our own ideas and figuring out our identities. Younger children wouldn’t have yet experienced the divide caused by “eww boys/girls have cooties.” Also, at that time, we’d recently moved. We’d previously lived in a housing complex where we’d had mutual friends with similar interests. As we discovered what new activities we enjoyed we began to drift apart.
Then add in teenage hormones, the belief that we were invincible, independent, and infinitely knowledgeable and there was no way my brother and I would ever get along. We became two entirely different people. Joey was, and still is, charismatic, athletic and social. I was, and still am, introverted, quiet and studious.
During middle school and high school, our rivalry grew out of control. Every day as we got off the bus, Joey would rush to the back door before I did. He would then slam the door shut and lock it, prohibiting me from getting inside. He’d laugh; I’d yell. Our relationship was not a happy one.
Now that I’m older, I think that a reason we didn’t get along is because our personalities were so different. We saw in each other qualities we wanted to possess ourselves. He wanted to perform better in school while I wanted to meet new people with ease. I think that this situation can be attributed to almost any sibling relationship. Each person has a distinct personality and due to insecurities, hormones and any other pressure, whether it’s coming from friends or family, relationships become strained. It’s almost like a battle of who has the dominant personality.
This is not to say all siblings will act like opponents circling one another in a boxing ring. I have two friends who are twin sisters. They’ve always been close and even though they’ve had their differences, they’re still close today. They have a mutual friend group and similar hobbies.
As my brother and I are nearing adulthood, we’ve re-forged our friendship. Nowadays, we’ll have long conversations about our weekend plans, our parents and what we want in our futures. With maturity, we’ve grown comfortable with who we are, our interests and our individual idiosyncrasies. We’ve acknowledged our differences and know that we want to get along so that we can always be in each other’s life. For anyone, maturity changes you. You’re more knowledgeable and not as naïve. You also begin to realize what is important and what you want as a priority in your life.
Obviously, not all sibling relationships are like the one I have with my brother. Joey and I are only a year apart and so we both had to face similar challenges around the same time. Many siblings have a larger age gap. Some have step-siblings or half-siblings they may not see often due to a multitude of reasons.
While every family is different, siblings may still face similar challenges. Personalities may compete, differences in opinions on a subject may cause a heated debate. There are a number of reasons why siblings may not get along. With maturity and time, however, the relationship between siblings will change. Whether this is to bring siblings closer together or have them drift farther apart is individual. In my case, I’m pleased that my brother and I get along. He’s another person in my life I know I can count on and he knows I’ll be there for him as well.