At twenty-one, I find myself consistently asking questions about adulthood and independence. Most inquiries nowadays usually sound like something along the lines of “Which anti-virus software is the best to use for my laptop?” or “How much is a one bedroom apartment going to cost, and will I be able to afford it right after graduation?” My personal favorite is “If I add all of the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies to the bowl without reading the directions to the recipe, will they still turn out okay?”
But there's one question that's been on my mind that I've yet to find a direct answer to:
How can my brother and I be siblings and adults at the same time?
Let me clarify: There's no sibling rivalry. If anything, we're just two people who happen to live in the same family. In addition, there's a fair amount that we have in common and can agree on. We both like puzzles, good books (though on some stories we differ here and there), musicals, and the color blue. We're both nerdy, Christians, and lovers of good humor.
But my brother and I are also different—so different that sometimes we clash. He sees the glass as half empty, whereas I may or may not have drank half the glass to make it look half empty. On top of that, we're at different points in our lives, which leads us to not being able to understand each other as well as we probably could. He's done with school, married, and in the workforce. I still have another year of academics ahead of me and am still thinking about what kind of job I'd like to have in addition to writing. And over the years, we've grown distant and unresponsive to each other. He only talks to me if he wants something, and the same goes for me. We give each other a gift or two for Christmas and birthdays, we see each other once a month or two for family dinners, we go on a one-week family vacation in the summer, and that's that. Hence, I'm wondering if siblings should be close to or indifferent from each other when they're adults.
To find the answer, I first reflected on my parents and their siblings. My mom has two brothers and a sister, all of whom she loves very much but doesn't get to see a lot. Just listening to my mom talking about them and watching them in the chances they do have to interact shows me the strength of their bonds. My dad has a sister, and we see her and her husband and children at least twice a year. And even then, they keep in touch regularly.
Next I took a look at my friends.
Everyone I know stays in touch with their siblings regularly—but as we're still in college, it's too soon to tell if that's going to change for anyone or not. At first, it seemed like the only one who doesn't talk to her siblings is me, but then I found an online discussion board on adult sibling relationships, and this is what someone who goes by Draelin had to say:
“Sometimes I regret not being closer, because my brother is a cool guy. But then I think that he never picks up the phone either, so it's not entirely my fault we're not any closer now than we were twenty years ago. There was never any huge rift or mega-argument that drove us apart, we were just never really together in the first place.”
The more I looked at the discussion board and read comments of similar circumstances, the more relieved I felt. There were sibling cases identical to mine! I'm just as normal [ish] as the guy across the street! But more importantly, I also realized that the success/failure of a sibling relationship mostly depends on the way life is and the way you want it to be. My brother and I fought a lot when we were kids, but at the end of the day we cared about each other. And in some ways, I think we still do...just not enough to be kindred spirits. As we got older, started high school, and eventually went into college, we just didn't make the effort to stay connected on top of everything else that was going on. And if we did, it just felt forced.
I don't know how our relationship as brother and sister will work out as time goes on. I don't even know how he sees the relationship, though I know he gets annoyed with my biting comments at times. But while I'll still send him Christmas/birthday gifts and attend family get-togethers, I'm not going to worry so much about my relationship with him anymore. For one, we still have our whole lives ahead of us. For another, it's possible that we're just two different people who don't mesh well. I'm not going to change who I am for anyone, and he shouldn't either. If I want to be close to my brother, then I have to make the effort to try. And if he wants to be close to me, he needs to make the effort to try as well.