Growing up, I was perpetually caught in the dichotomy of whether having a sibling was a good thing or not. Sometimes I was glad to share my life with someone around my age, but I was also sad to share my parents’ love and affection with another person. It’s an extremely strong bond between siblings even though it doesn’t always seem so on the outside.
I remember my grandmother making hErLekAi gujju (a dish with a certain type of orange peel) every single day, because she’d learnt somewhere that it would help cure her younger sister’s cancer. Now you can’t explain why someone would do this apart from unconditional love and affection. Dire situations call for some extreme emotions, but most of the time, their relationship wasn’t that great. It was more like the relationship between any two siblings.
The problem with issues and disagreements between siblings arises from poor expectations. Growing up, you are nourished on the stories of Rama and Lakshmana from Ramayana who were inseparable siblings that went to great lengths to be there for each other, and if you’ve grown up in an Indian household with a sibling, you would have been made to idolise this relationship between two siblings and strive to maintain this level of intensity throughout your life. You think if Lakshmana could follow Rama to the forest, when he was banished, why can’t my sibling come visit me every weekend, or even better, why won’t my sibling respond to my WhatsApp text on time. Lulz.
So here’s why I think Lakshmana followed Rama to the forest – there were limited forms of entertainment then, and the opportunity cost of going into the forest with Rama was quite low. It’s not like he could go to US for MS instead, right? So, we should all quit idolising this move of Lakshmana’s and get real. Younger siblings will not follow you to the forest, let alone come to JJ Buy and Save with you.
Everyone’s got their own lives now, especially as we move to a more individualistic culture where we thrive on space and freedom. Most of the time, younger siblings are tired of having grown up in the shadow of the older ones and are dying to break free from the shackles of not having their own identity. We have to learn to accept their choices and give them a little boost of confidence to let them know that they’re doing ok and they don’t need us.
A friend recently told me that he is upset with his younger brother’s choice for a partner and wanted me to speak to the brother, and as much as I could see the concern in the older sibling, I knew the right thing was that as older siblings, we all sometimes just need to sit back and cheer our younger ones as they learn to walk and run on their own. They might fall, they might cry, but there’s no need to run and catch them before they fall because we are all adults now and so we can all fall, and learn from our own mistakes. We just need to accept their choices and love them through these choices, no matter how contrary it might be to everything you believe on your own.
So many years of social conditioning is hard to break away from, but just my 2 cents to all older kids – love your brothers and sisters, be there for them when they need you but don’t lose sleep over them. That’s all.