Sibling Rivalry

I just don’t get sibling rivalry. I have three kids, so I’ve seen some of it in my day, though my kids are very close and don’t fight a lot.

Maybe the reason I don’t get it is because my situation growing up was unique.

I have one brother, five years older than me. The perfect set up for sibling rivalry. Except my brother was born mentally and physically retarded. Now before you get all PC on me, I want you to know that when we were growing up in the 60s and 70s, that is the term people used for children like my brother. He never grew past the stage of 3 months. He couldn’t feed himself, sit up alone, even turn over. So even though I had a brother, I felt like an only child.

But then I also grew up on the family farm around aunts and uncles and cousins. My grandfather died when my parents had been married just a year, leaving behind three very young children and a wife totally incapable of caring for them. So they came to stay with my parents. When I was born 5 years later, the young teenagers were back at home with my grandmother, or already starting their own families, but their children were more like little brothers and sisters than cousins.

So I was an only child, with a sibling, surrounded by many siblings. I was a lot like the child whose parents have a large family and then 15 years later have another child. Did we fight, sure we did. My aunt was ten years older than I, and she and I could have our “discussions.” But we were also very close. When she passed away at 44, I was totally devastated.

People ask did I ever regret having a brother like I did. Nope, I adored him. He was my baby right up until the day he passed away. Pictures of him are still all over my home. He will always be a part of who I became. I learned compassion, and caring from him. I learned not to sweat the small stuff.

And yes, we did fight. Over the back seat on long trips. He didn’t like for me to be on the seat when we traveled, so I rode in the floor board. This was in the days before children had to be buckled in. Mom would put coolers on each side of the car’s floorboard, on each side of the hump. Then she’d put blankets on top to make one big bed. It wasn’t comfortable, but you could lay down and ride, and that was the most comfortable position for the “brat.” So he got the seat, I got the floor board. One summer I rode in the back window. In those days, there was plenty of room in the back window of cars for a small teenager to ride. When we go to Florida, I already had a tan. 🙂

My brother had to have someone sleep with him. Mom spoiled him early on. But as soon as the sun came up, he wanted you up. He had 14 elbows that he grew each morning, and he was sure to put one of them in each tender spot you had on your body until you got up. He would push and push until you finally gave up and got up. Then he would giggle. Even today, my kids will come get in bed with us early in the morning and do the “Bubba push” to get dad and I up and going. When we finally get up, they will invariably giggle. That usually results in lots of tickling and calling them “brat” like we called him.

When I was younger, we played a game called musical beds. Because the “brat” had to sleep with someone, and he had the 14 elbows, he was constantly moving someone out of his bed. Then he’d cry, so someone else would go and get in bed with him, until he’d start with the elbows, and then they’d get up, he’d cry and the process would start all over again. None of us could bear to hear him cry, which is probably why he’s known as the “brat”. Even though his body and parts of his brain never matured, he was very mature in some areas. He understood manipulation. And he understood sarcasm. He could manipulate us into doing what ever he wanted us to do. It’s hard to understand or explain, but despite the fact that he was mentally retarded, he was incredibly intelligent at the same time.

Of course, my kids adored the “brat” too. They, like the rest of the family spoiled him totally rotten. THey were quite young when the “brat” had to get a tracheotomy. Our whole family was terrified of this new problem and how long he would live with it. But my kiddos quickly learned how to care for him and it. They would “pick his boogers” by suctioning him, which had to be done many times a day. They learned how to take out the trache and clean it and put it back in.

Because he was bed bound, and totally spoiled, when you were at my parents, you stayed in the room where he slept. We said we “danced around his bed” to keep him happy. He was most happy when we were all there dancing around his bed. In August 2005, the Lord took the “brat” home. Today he dances himself. And when he’s really bratty, angels dance around his bed.


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