Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thick Water

What, really, is the point of having a sibling?

The other day I got a question I hadn’t heard in awhile: “Are you related to [semi-famous actress with the same slightly unusual last name as me]?” It’s a question I used to get a lot, back when she was popping up fairly regularly in well-known movies. Now she mostly does supporting work on TV, as happens to depressingly many actresses who get a little long in the tooth.

The answer is, yes and no. Here’s the story: my father became an officer in the Navy when he graduated from college, mostly to bug his parents, I think. While he was stationed stateside, he met a girl—let’s call her Joyce—who had gotten knocked up by a recruit. The knocker-upper said “oops” and shipped out, leaving Joyce with the ticket. So my father married her, and she gave birth to a child—let’s call her Annelise—who had my father listed on her birth certificate. It was a “real” marriage, as far as I know, and my father was Annelise’s father (as much as anyone in the late fifties who was in the Navy and shipped around the world was, which is probably not a lot). My grandparents were horrified, especially my grandmother, who was, to be honest, a real bitch. She was mean to Joyce and never treated Annelise as a grandchild.

Once my father was out of the Navy and hanging around for long enough for Joyce probably to figure out how difficult he could be, they divorced, and my father left the state. Annelise was about five years old. Eventually he knocked my mother up and married her. I always knew about Annelise—they told me I had a sister, my father would occasionally go visit her (and paid child support), and they said I’d meet her one day.

When I was five, my father fell off a mountain on his motorcycle and died. For awhile we knew what Annelise was up to because my father’s social security benefits were divided amongst all of us, but I never did get to meet her. Once the benefits were gone, I didn’t hear about her until I saw her name on the credits of a movie. Then pretty soon she seemed to be everywhere. My aunt wrote to her once, and Annelise wrote back, politely saying, essentially, your family was always mean to me and my mother, and now you want to know me? (My grandmother was mean to my mother, too, but Annelise never knew that.) When my grandparents died Annelise declined her share of the proceeds, which was rather nice of her, since it meant more for me and my brother and sister.

I’ve never met her, and she’s not genetically related to me. So, not my sister. But: we did have the same father, a father we both essentially lost at the same age. Does that make us sisters?

It’s not like my undisputed biological sister feels much like a sister either. We have met, of course, but we were almost six years apart and always very, very different:

boy haircuts
hanging with the geeks
traveling alone to Europe
flat chest and stringy hair
getting advanced degrees
My Sister
princess clothes
caught smoking at school
unprotected sex in Corvettes
buxom and extremely pretty
getting married
smoking, smoking, smoking
(It’s not like I wasn’t, um, experimenting, I just worked at hiding it rather than flaunting it, you know?)

She was always sure that I looked down on her for not being as intellectual as I was. And I really don’t think I did. (I looked down on the Corvette thing, because really? A Corvette?) In a lot of ways, I envied her. I envied her for not having had a father die (she was born after); I envied her bravado; I envied her looks; I envied her singing voice; I envied her seeming sureness about settling down. I also felt like since she was my sister, we HAD to be close. I spent years trying. I finally thought I had, around the time she adopted her son. We talked a lot, I visited her often, and I defended her to my mother during my sister’s divorce from her very nice husband. She was always kind of … bitchy, but I told myself that was a front for her insecurities.

Then my sister got the most obnoxious new husband you can imagine. A guy who the best thing you can say about him is, he doesn’t hit her … I think. A guy who, after they visited us, my unbelievably tolerant husband said, “That guy is never allowed in my house again.” But she looooooooves him. And seems to have morphed into his clone. She says mean things about everyone, she spends her evenings getting drunk on Bud Light and smoking, she keeps talk shows on her TV 24/7 … it’s like she’s working on making me look down on her. Which, well, now I do. We haven’t seen each other since shortly after their wedding four years ago. We speak once a year at Christmas.

So: My sister? We have the same mother, but the same father only genetically. Does that really make us sisters?

If my sister were left alone in the world and homeless, I would help her out. I’d feel obligated. But why? Why does a genetic tie mean anything? I have friends who would—and have—dropped everything to help me out in times of need. And I will always be willing to do the same for them. My stepfather? Even were he and my mother to divorce, he would be part of my family forever.

This is one reason I feel no guilt about not “giving” HB a sibling. There is no way I could guarantee him anything from a brother or sister. Let him find his true siblings as he goes along. In my experience, the majority of only children appreciated not having to share their parents, and an awful lot of people have siblings to whom they might as well not be related. (I haven’t really mentioned my brother. That’s perhaps an even more complicated story.)

How about you? How do you feel about your sibling(s) or lack thereof?


Anonymous said...

"She was always sure that I looked down on her for not being as intellectual as I was. And I really don’t think I did. (I looked down on the Corvette thing, because really? A Corvette?)"

This really resonated with me. Maybe it's a common experience for anyone who follows the straight and narrow and goes to medical school, and comes from a very blue-collar background?

I know my family loves me, and they know I love them, but that doesn't prevent me from wincing at my younger brother's incredibly stupid exploits (getting arrested for borrowing a friend's bicycle, wanting to drop out before his senior year of college and "find himself", etc. etc.), and getting accused of being judgmental. I am also the butt of a lot of snide little comments along the lines of "Well, I guess they didn't teach you about the [restaurant/mechanic/etc.] business at [Ivy Leave college], did they?" And no one really knows what to say about my profession, so we just don't talk about it.

I've gotten used to it, and take a perverse sort of pride in watching my WASPy boyfriend's face twitch when my cousin's weddings are incredibly tacky, or my grandfather tries to order Bud Light at a five-star restaurant, etc. etc.

Anyway, I like to think my brother and I might be growing closer as he gets older. (The bike arrest, WTF do you say to that? Charges were eventually dropped because he really had just borrowed it, but seeeeriously? WTF??? But he seems to be receptive to some thoughts/guidance on the college thing.) But I don't think he'll ever come over for Thursday night book club. I feel more than obligation towards him--I love him in a maternal kind of way--but I am not anticipating a meeting of the minds. We don't know our cousins well, so I've always thought it would be fun if our kids could grow up close, but who's to say proximity would create that?

After all this not really sure what I'm trying to say. I guess my general philosophy is that he's not heavy, he's my brother :).

Thanks for writing. It's really nice to hear from someone a little farther along than I am.

Snickollet said...

I'm an only. Kind of. I have a stepbrother who lived mostly with his mom when we were growing up. We're totally different people with a lack of a relationship.

I never minded being an only child growing up. Now that I'm an adult and I see my parents getting older and I know they are going to need help as they age, I wish that I had someone to share that process with. Of course, there's no guarantee a sibling would share it with me, but still.

I agree with you completely that shared genes does not a relationship make, and I rely on my friends for traditional family-type support.

Really interesting post. Thanks,

Anonymous said...

I have sisters. We're close, in the sisterly way where we also fight and push each other's buttons. Two of us now have children, and the cousins are very close. My own two love each other enormously. I hope their closeness will stay as they grow older.

Someone said that I was giving a great "gift" to my elder child when I was pregnant with my second. I didn't see it then, 'cause I was focused on how my elder was going to have to share her parents. But, now, I see how wonderful my younger is for my elder, truly, he is a gift.

Just me said...

My sister and I are not close. We are also very different. As we've gotten older, I can sense that she would like us to be closer, but... well, lets just say, if we weren't related we probably would not choose to ever have any interactions.

Sometimes that makes me sad. But that sadness does not overpower my irritation and discomfort when spending longer periods of time with her.

I am lucky to have met a woman who may be my "soulmate". She is more like a sister to me than my own sister, and I can't imagine ever not having her in my life. As the quote says, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves”.

EmJay said...

I have two brothers I never talk to except when one of my parents is sick. I am pretty certain the next and last time I will see them will be my parent's funerals. This causes my mother a great deal of grief,but I decided a long time ago that they were toxic to my life. I am probably better able to declare boundaries now, but why bother. I never understood the idea that siblings created a special bond, I just didn't ever feel it and I was one of four kids. My husband is one of five, they seem to have something different. I have been much happier since I came to understand that we choose the people we want to love and care for and we make that choice everyday. Whether we are related or not the choosing part of love is the heart of the matter.

Becky said...

I'm not meaning to completely side-track the post but now I'm really worried about the child she adopted who is now wandering through her seemingly not very great home. Is the child ok? Is he living with his dad? Does his step-dad treat him reasonably well?

Michelle said...

I have a brother, but less than zero relationship with him.

I am currently going through more fertility treatments in order for my son to have a sibling. I was the one who was with my grandparents as they died. I will be the one who is with my dad. I don't want my son to have to shoulder that responsibility alone unless that is what he desires.

DoctorMama said...

Becky: I know, I worry too. But everything I've seen of her interaction with her son (which is of course none lately) has been good. She does seem to be a loving and consistent mother. I grill my mother about it -- she sees them a couple of times a year -- and she says that this still seems true, and my nephew is a cheerful boy who does well in school and is passionate about martial arts. When my sister's husband starts to yell at the kids (he brought a daughter to the relationship: his first wife was two months pregnant when he left her for my sister), my mother says my sister sort of whisks them away. So, not ideal, but not awful. My nephew's father shares custody 50:50; he has remarried, and he and his wife are stable, kind people. (The adoption is an open one, but the birthmother has sort of disappeared to the streets, sadly.)

mary said...

Sounds like me and my sister. Except her husband is a lot nicer than she is.. We barely talk maybe 2-3 times a year... we're only 1 year apart too.. but TOTALLY different.

Linda said...

It was always just me and my brother. I know he loves me and God knows, I think he hung the moon but I always feel like a failure around him. Like I'm stupid and ruled by my emotions and there's just not a thing I can do right. I don't think he can help it; he's not a soft person. A lot of people feel that way around him, despite the fact that he's a great guy in general.

But. He married my sister-in-law, Beth. And finally, after so many years of being sister-less, I finally had a real, true sister to share my heart with. My mom couldn't have birthed a better companion for me. In fact, it's all the things that are different about Beth that make her such a good friend and confidante. So I'm totally with you in that genetics don't play as big a role as the heart.

Oh, and as an extra: my next door neighbors are moving and I feel like I'm losing my parents. I want to cry every time I see them carrying boxes out of their house. So there's another example of non-genetic family. I don't think my son knows they aren't related to us by blood! They're just PopPop and Gramma Sally to him & what a happy coincidence that some of his grandparents live next door!


Carolie said...

I guess I'm very, very lucky, as my two brothers and I are very close. I could not imagine my life without either one.

That being said, I am closer to/spend more time with/confide in my "siblings of choice" more than my "siblings by blood."

This may sound horrible, but I think I will be the most grateful for my brothers (and trust me, I'm grateful now!) when we will have to care for and/or make decisions about our parents (who are divorced and are now both happily married to other people). If I had to care for two infirm parents (who must be physically separate) by myself, I don't know if I could do it. Knowing my brothers will be beside me emotionally, financially, and physically is a great comfort as my parents get older and more frail.

Is "having help dealing with eldery parents" a good enough reason to give HB a sibling? Hell, no! I think there are pros and cons to having siblings, and pros and cons to being an only child. All I can share is my experience.

Vic said...

First off you should be the one writing a book. Wow. Both my brothers are wonderful people. Always have been. We are not close in the sense of "doing lots together" as we all live a great distance from one another. We do have a close connection and most importantly a shared childhood. My father passed a few months ago. It was at this time I was most greatful for having siblings. Not in a supportive sense but rather to help move forward as we were able to share experience from our past with perspective. Tremndously healing. My wife and I were toren about having a second but we wanted our little girl to have those shared childhood experiences with someone. Someone she will always be able to connect with.

This is an intensely personal subject you are picking at. It should nor can it be judged. I say that because of the "when are having another?" question(asked impolitely of us too many times). My mental response was always "none of your f#$%ing business".

Anonymous said...

Now I want to know about your brother, too! My mother passed on the great gift of infertility to me, so my brother and I were born 13 years apart. He's a nice guy, easy going, but my sister-in-law is the daughter my mother never had. I feel certain that if we were on a sinking ship my mother would instruct the emergency crews to rescue her first. She favours my nieces (one in particular) over my kids to the point that it makes others uncomfortable. Not me though, as I expected it and luckily my two have grandparents on DH's side who adore them. My brother and I could quite happily never see each other again - we have no gripes with each other, have a laugh when we do meet up, around twice a year, but really have zero in common other than DNA.

Meantime, our daughter was born 8 years after our son. I was desperate for another child and she was the result of many cycles of IVF. I never did it to "give" my son a sibling, but because I craved another just for themselves, if that makes sense. The pair of them get on well, and she has brought out a caring side in him I think but I've no idea how their relationship will pan out in the years to come. And really, I don't mind. They will be old enough by that time to make their own decisions.


Mommy Attorney said...

I am an only child and always desperately wanted a sibling. My mother could not for medical reasons, and I knew that, but I also remember making her cry because I was crying that I wanted a baby brother or sister. Until I started school, I felt very much alone. I worry about being the sole caregiver to my parents.

My husband is one of four, and while there is definitely tension at times, all of his siblings truly enjoy spending time with each other.

I guess you try and fix what you know didn't work for you. In other words, I know I'll try my hardest to give my daughter a sibling because I know being an only child didn't work for me. Having siblings didn't particularly work for you, so I can understand the choice to have an only child.

Mary said...

This is how non-close my 2 sisters are to me: they (and my parents) all go to the same church. When I'm in town, and they see someone from that church and introduce me, the person ALWAYS says, "I didn't know you had another sister." (Also, I don't go to church, and the rest of the family is big into church, so there is some tension there.) Pretty sure if we weren't related, we would have nothing to talk about, since it's kind of like a work-friendship: can't talk about religion, politics, parenting styles...
Verification word: ungat. Is that like the opposite of "begat?"

tadpoledrain said...

Just t0 thr0w my 2 cents in: I am the 0ldest 0f f0ur (huh, my 0h key isn't w0rking) -- me, 2 years later my sister, 11 years after that my half-sister, 3 years after that my half-br0ther. I am ridicul0usly cl0se t0 my sister, and the 0nly reas0n I'm less cl0se t0 the half-sibs is because they are s0 much y0unger and I d0n't live with them all the time and didn't c0mpletely gr0w up with them. But still really, really cl0se. I can't imagine my life with0ut any 0f them, and I really h0pe that d0esn't change as we all get 0lder.

Anonymous said...

I have two brothers. We were close at times. I now live very far from them so only see them once a year. I only call them on birthdays. Even though I don't have a close "day to day" relationship with them now I still have them in my thoughts and I believe that I am in their thoughts as well. We shared our childhood and for this they will always be part of me. My grandmother was a real bitch but I was still sad when she died. She was part of my childhood as well after all. I'm also trying to have a second child but it helps that my daughter asks for a sibling and constantly talks about having a little sister or brother. I know she may feel differently if a little sister or brother manages to arrive but I have to hope that she would be open to this new person in our family.

Anonymous said...

This'll take a minute.

Mom wanted six kids (no, I don't know why). Thanks to DES-daughter-hood (we think, anyway), she got two kids out of six pregnancies--me and, 4.5 years later, my brother.

When I was 14, we moved from rural Vermont to suburban East Bay California. I fought like hell to stay out there when Mom returned to Vermont...and my brother joined her. Dad went back east when I was in college--I had just moved out at 19 (I did community college first). Our parents divorced eventually.

My brother and I had two very different childhoods and we share a lot of our worst characteristics. We're close, I think, and we talk every couple of weeks or so. It's awkward, though--because I fought to stay where the education was better, I got more of it...I'm still getting more of it. But the difference in our experience has come in handy.

Mom died in November after a 6-month battle with lung cancer. I dealt with the doctors, the bills, the family battles (she and her siblings were REALLY tight, and her father's a meddling jackass), and now the estate, all from a distance. He was the "good" kid who lived closer and spent more time with her (although he'd call me when it was just too much), and he was there when she died.

Could I have done it alone? Probably. But there's no one else I would have trusted to make the call when the paramedics asked what they should do. I could not--would not--have accepted anyone else's decision. (Mom didn't have anything in writing...which was kind of a pattern, it turned out.) And making the decisions I've had to make over the last year has been easier knowing I have his trust and support.

(It's also been harder. My boyfriend has had to remind me several times that I did not inherit parental responsibility when Mom died.)

After 27 years, though, the kid somehow still thinks *I* hung the moon. I don't know if it's better than the alternative, and I'm much closer to my friends (and some of their families, who parented me when my parents didn't) than I am to my family...but it's something.

Lynn said...

I'm glad i'm not the only one.

Not just siblings, specifically, but my immediate and extended family as well-- explain to me again why shared DNA means "unconditional love"? We share DNA and a large number of memories due to the fact that i grew up with these strange people, but if respect and love are earned and freely given, well... i suppose that makes my friends more important to me than family.

My mother always says, "blood is thicker than water" when she's trying to get me to "be nice" to my brother (who she refuses to admit is a self-centered egomaniac). Maybe that was truer back in the day, when family lands and inheritance were so dependent on shared DNA-- but if i can go out in the world and be a successful member of society all on my own, start my own (sane) family, and be happy, what do i need those people for?

Megan said...

I have only one sister and she's 7 years younger than me. We have the same sense of humor, a lot of the same world views, and of course very similar upbringings. Yet somehow she has taken these identical puzzle pieces and built something completely different with them.

When I was 15 my idea of rebellion was cutting class to go home and sleep or staying up all night reading a book, but this girl is crawling out the window at 2am, getting drunk with 18 year old guys in their pick up trucks out by the lake and failing all her classes.

Despite all of this, she is somehow my anchor. When things get shitty with my boyfriend or my friends just knowing that she exists helps give me some perspective. I guess I think of her as a constant, as what insulates me ever being completely alone. I may not be able to hold a conversation with her for more than 5 minutes if it doesn't involve clothing choices or ragging on our parents but I don't know how I'd get on without her.

Anne said...

I love what Megan said about taking the identical puzzle pieces and building something completely different. My sister and I are the same but different. We are 5 years apart, with a brother in the middle that she is not close to, but I am. We talk daily. When our mother was dying, being able to lean on each other was one of the most important learnings I took from the whole horrible experience. We also learned how useless our brother could be.

After we lost our mother, I took another deep breath and charged down the infertility road again. One of the reasons I chose to try again was that I never wanted my daughter to go through losing us alone. I know I can't guarantee that our son who is 6 1/2 years younger will be as close to his sister, but I like to think that if I teach them to respect each other, that too will come...or they will have each other to complain to their friends about!

Jennifer said...

I have a very similar situation. Every now and again it breaks my heart like your post did.

kimberlina said...

I have three brothers and am not close to any of them. It doesn't help that I live overseas but none make any effort to be in touch. I have at times but am not going to be the one who makes all the effort. one brother I wouldn't bother to turn up to his funeral if he snuffed it. One other was a nightmare to live with when we tried that a few years ago. could never be happy for me for anything only compared and was jealous etc. I hear from him occasionally - like once in a blue moon. The other brother is OK although I have had my run ins with him too. We don't keep in touch but I see him if I go back home to visit my parent because he still lives with them.
I have a 4 1/2 yr old son who will be an only child and I feel bad about it - just in case he is missing out and would be one of those who did have a nice experience - even though I had a crappy one. Our son has never asked about a brother or sister though. I hate the idea of him being alone when we snuff it but hopefully he will have a family of his own. Its hard and not something you can escape feeling a little bad about even if you do have a bad experience yourself.
Does HB ever ask for siblings? Do you ever feel guilty - for the reasons that everyone states?

E. said...

I love all the responses this post has generated!

I'm an only child, but my folks got divorced when I was two and I was extremely close to my extended family. I always wanted a sib when I was little b/c I assumed he/she would be a playmate. But I must say, I learned to spend time alone, a huge gift. I'm in the same boat as Snickollet in that the only reason I still wish I had a sib is so that someone else could be keening and rending their clothes with me when my beloved mother dies and standing around crying confused and ambivalent tears when my complicated father dies. It will be weird to be the only person in the world who's lost my mom and dad when I lose them. But I can't assume a sibling would feel the same thing about that loss anyway.

In my experience watching other people and their families, siblings can be close and loving or "whatever" or mortal enemies, and there's no way to tell which you'll get or ensure things will turn out one way or another. "Giving" your kid a sibling is no reason to bring another person into the world. HB will find people who are family as life goes on, even if they're not "blood."

I will say, growing up, that I was really close to a number of my cousins, and that was important to me.

Coral said...

Fascinating family history, now of course it is to work out who this semi-famous person is!

Nah, you do not want to hear about my sibs!


Anonymous said...

Wow. I can relate. I have a half brother from my mother's first marriage when she was 22; I am from her second, born when she was 38. My half brother and I hardly know each other and have never been close.

I also have a whole brother, only 18 months older than I. He "divorced" his family -- all of us -- when he was 23 and I haven't seen him since. I didn't know how to contact him when our mom died. A couple years later, when our dad died, I did have his contact information, and spoke briefly to him on the phone. Me: "Are you planning to come to the funeral?" Him: "No."

It's sad. I wish I were closer to my siblings, but honestly, neither one of them has ever liked me much, even when I was little. (Apparently I was shrill? Tantrum-prone? The spoiled youngest child? The only girl? Mom's favorite? I don't know, but they never liked me as a litle girl, and never got to know me as an adult.)

Now, my husband's brother is living with us, and I am really glad to have him in our life. It's nice to feel connected to someone who's part of my husband's life, who knew him long before I did, who shares a whole history with him.

I wish I had more family of my own, though, if only to have somewhere to go on Thanksgiving. -victoria

ozma said...

Oh, this is so complicated for me. What a great question and what great stories though.

I have some crazy sibling things like this I will one day discuss...

Anyway, my siblings were my LIFE. They were everything to me. I think I loved them almost as intensely as I love my child when I was young. I can't even describe it. They felt like an extension of myself.

Then, we lived apart. And my family is very, very, very dysfunctional. So it has become more difficult over the years to have that idea that there are these people who are just extensions of my soul--because they are hooked into my family in ways that I have kind of separated from, just for my own sanity. (Totally in theory...honestly, my parents and at least one sibling probably calls me every day).

Another issue is because my family is dysfunctional, I raised my siblings. This is partly what created the intensity and the closeness.

I have been dead set--very committed--to having another child. But I must admit that my daughter's relationship to her sister or brother will be nothing like my relationship to my sisters and brothers because so much of that was about 'how do we survive, together, with these totally insane parents.' My daughter would both gain and lose. She would gain someone to have a certain childhood connection with, a family member, etc. But she would lose that laser like absolute focus on her that she gets now. Which she absolutely revels in (at least so far--eventually, it will probably become annoying).

So really, it is more about what I want, what my gut tells me. My gut tells me to have another kid, by hell or high water. It's just something I feel in some deep way is right...but I can't claim it is FOR my daughter.

I think she loses in a sense because there is this FABULOUS thing in childhood of having this person who is connected to you in these intricate almost ineffable ways. But I cannot guarantee she will have that--in fact, she probably will not.

So I've kind of given up the whole 'gotta have a kid for my daughter' thing and just admitted it is about me and I just want another kid

kris said...

i have 2 older brothers. we are all close in age *like 18and 21 months apart) so we were close growing up. we went thru love/hate periods but we were always there for eachother. when our paretns died there were the inevitable fights/hard feelings about who helped more and who got what and we drifted apart. now my brothers seem to either be best friends or distant cousins.. and i talk to each of them once or twice a year and never see them though we live within 20 minutes of each other. but we do have a common history.. we have memories we share.. only children miss that but whether that matters or not i don't know.. my son will find out i guess.

Heather G said...

Oh Mary that's awful.

I have one sister that is severely intellectually disabled so some of the good things about having a sibling (learning to share, life's not all me me me) were there but few of the great things a sister could be. I secretly love reading tales like yours as it consoles me somewhat.

I want to have another baby but not for my son to have a sibling but so I can have another child to love. Humm maybe life is all about me me me after all.

mama mama quite contrary said...

Very intersting post. I have more siblings like the average person and I feel like I am the Lisa Simpson of the family, wondering if the rest will ever get it.

mama mama said...

Sorry... meant to say *than* the average person.

DoctorMama said...

kimberlina asked, "Does HB ever ask for siblings? Do you ever feel guilty - for the reasons that everyone states?"

Yes, he goes through periods of asking -- for a baby sister, specifically. Once he threw a tantrum about it. But he moves on to other things. He now calls my friend's baby his brother, and is very serious about it.

And no, I don't feel guilty, for a lot of reasons. Because I know that another child would absolutely take away attention I think he needs from us. Because whether he would end up close to a sibling is a total crapshoot. Because I don't expect that we will be a burden when we're old (we put every dime we can into retirement savings, for one thing, and we will make arrangements for our own care when the time comes) -- and even if we are a burden, it often seems that one child ends up shouldering it anyway (as so many above mention). Because having another child would just about do me in, I think, and he needs his mother. And because listening to siblings bicker makes me want to claw my ears off.

The one thing I mind about not having another is not having a spare. One child is not a lot to put all one's love and worry upon. If I could have wishes granted, I'd have had a child four or five years before HB; he'd be a good youngest. But there's a lot of other things I'd wish for first.

DoctorMama said...

(And I really love hearing all these stories. You are a wise bunch, you know?)

Anonymous said...

DoctorMama, I'm glad you mentioned the issue of a "spare" in your comment. It sounds morbid but I have had friends lose their young, only child and I can't imagine that happening and then having no children at all. In addition I want a sort of "do-over" on the baby phase and, actually, I do want my daughter to have a sibling. I am 8 years older than my only sis and not incredibly close but I love having a sister and that my child has an aunt and cousins etc. We are currently considering fertility treatments to have #2 --Melissa

Anonymous said...

I'm an only child--sort of. I grew up as an only child raised only by my mother. I never met my father and he died when I was 8 or so. I always knew I had a half sister, but always assumed that I would never meet her and never *felt* like I had any siblings. I begged for a baby brother or sister for *years*--which I'm sure was *very* uncomfortable for my mom (she has never been married) but it she never let on that that made her uncomfortable (I just kind of figured that out much much later).

I have always been very curious about all of my father's family (none of whom knew of my existence when I was a child). When I was about 30 I looked my half sister up on the internet and found her, and emailed her, and she emailed back. She told me that we have another half sister (by a third mother). That was about 4 years ago. The half sister I knew about I see whenever I visit the state she lives in (the same state my mom lives in--so about once a year), and we email and occasionally talk. I've never met the other half sister (I'm open to it, but she doesn't seem interested--and that's OK with me).

For some reason I very happy that I have the one half sister in my life, but I'm not really sure why. And it doesn't really bother me that I don't know the other half-sister, and I don't know why. Also, four years or so into knowing the one half sister, I'm still quite confused about what it means to have a half sister, with whom I share genetics, but not much history. Half-sister and I aren't close, but I worry about her well-being probably at least as much as I worry about the well-being of my very very close friends (who I basically consider to be family). I don't understand why I do, but I do, I guess because we have the same father, but I'm not sure why that matters. And I don't worry at all about the well-being of the other half sister, which I guess is because I've never met her, which seems to make it difficult for me to worry about her.

Ugh. No answers here. But I really really love the title of this post--thick water--that's about the most accurate descriptor I've ever heard of my experience with half sibs.

Jennifer said...

I love my sister. LOVE her. She is the most genuine, funny, perceptive person I know. If she weren't my sister, I hope she'd be my friend.

I love my brother too, but in a much more complicated way. I love him almost like one of my kids, in that unconditional, you are mine kind of way. He is six years younger than I am.

I am so happy I have siblings.

This comment makes me almost want to have a few more kids.


Sort of.

Kim said...

I have one brother, and we are almost 7 years apart. He was that annoying little pest when we were younger and now, we are as close as I think two people who live 500 miles apart can be. We talk regularly, and as he lives close to the rest of the genetic conglomerate, he fills me in on what's going on since my parents don't.

His wife? Sweet. Nice enough. Not much personality honestly and I'm not totally sure what he sees in her. I was sort of disappointed I wasn't getting a "sister" since it became clear we just weren't compatible in that way, but the reality is, I'm closer to my brother than I am to most people so it's ok. I do know that my sister in law is also the "adult daughter my mother never had" since my mother adored me until I came out and moved away. But that is freeing more than annoying.

To me, my brother and I are close because we share the same values, and grew up with the same crap. Not because we share genetics.

Laura in L.A. said...

This is way late, but I have one sister two years younger, and I love, love, love her. I suffered from infertility as a single woman for 6 years--my sister went through 2 cycles to try to donate her eggs to me. (She has a wonderful husband and 5- and 6-year-olds, too.) I am finally pregnant with donor-egg twin girls, and I am thrilled. It will be hard, but I am so grateful my girls will at least have a sib. (I think this is more important to me because I will be a 44-year-old single mother.) I will be moving into my sister's home for about 6 months after the twins are born next month, so she can help me.

I often say that I was not lucky in love, or career, or aquiring material things, but I did get the BEST sister! I just try to be worthy.

mamagonekrazi said...

"There's an evolutionary imperative why we give a crap about our family and friends. And there's an evolutionary imperative why we don't give a crap about anybody else. If we loved all people indiscriminately, we couldn't function" by House, MD

That being said, I agree with blood tie's not guaranteing a good relationship among siblings or relatives. However, the fact that your or my siblings suck doesnt doom our children's relationship with their existing or future siblings!

If one can let them "find their true siblings" as they go along, one might as well let them find it for themlselves if blood is going to make a difference. Feeling or not feeling guilt about saving them this trouble by not having a second kid is extremely irrelevant to the first kid's well-being but is closely tied to the conveniences or inconveniences the decision would bring into the decision maker's life!

carolinagirl79 said...

I lucked out. My parents adopted me and then 3 years later my princess crown came off and a baby sister came into the house. We're both lawyers who majored in Journalism undergrad. We're both married. We both have 2 kids. We're close. We live within 4 blocks of each other and speak every week. We both have fibromyalgia, go figure. We both ADOPTED our two kids, from different foreign countries. Our kids are not blood related to each other either. But I wanted to give my girl a sister because I was so lucky with mine.

As our mother is on a downhill slide to the Pearly Gates (Stage 7 Alzheimer's) and Dad died a long time ago we both feel very lucky to have each other for support. To make it even better she has the nurturing skills and I have the money manager skills.

Certainly I'm painting a rosy picture. We have vicious battles at times. As our children enter adolescence, our different parenting styles are starting to surface. But all in all, we could be in a Norman Rockwell painting, maybe interpreted by Picasso.

My daughters are literally as different as night and day; the fact is that they are both warm blooded humans (I think) is about all they share in common. I hope that they stay close even if they don't end up living on the same street. But ultimately, that is their story to tell and their life to pursue.

I can already name the one who will be studying medicine at UCLA (3000 miles away from home) and flying to Europe during breaks the one who will be a social worker and live 5 minutes away from her parents.

But I think (hope?) they'll be texting every day.