Thursday, January 26, 2017

Can Siblings Be Friends?

Poor baby brother had no idea what he was in for. #friendsforever

by Danetta Kellar

“She’s all into her brothers and sisters. I just don’t understand it. It’s weird. I mean, she’s nice and all, but people just don’t hang out with their siblings for fun.”

I was standing in line at the airport while this conversation went on behind me between two college students. They were assessing and judging a long list of people they knew, and this particular girl had bewildered them. A relationship with siblings? A good one? An enjoyable one? Evidently, such family relationships are not the norm anymore. They are even considered unnatural.

As a mother of two sons and a daughter, this made me very sad. Our family has made the decision to pursue kindness, forgiveness, and the cultivation of healthy relationships in our home. We openly examine and discuss cultural norms that make it seem okay to put each other down or disrespect one another and we compare them to Christ's teachings of encouragement and respect. And for those who know us, we are Exhibit A for How to Fail but Keep Trying.

Teaching kids to build healthy relationships with each other is very hard work. Some days the way of the modern world seems easier. You hurt me, I leave you. Problem solved.

I want to quit sometimes.

Doors slam and people stomp out of the room. 

People yell and say words that cut deep, that aren’t really true some days.

But in the end, we have made a commitment. And we circle back around, roll up our sleeves, and jump back in the ring. Because sibling relationships matter that much. Family matters that much.

We are learning that healthy relationships take work and dedication, honesty and humility. They are full of failure that just won’t stop trying again.

I believe the home and family is a gift from God meant to provide a place where we learn the skills of life. 

Sisters are a great opportunity for boys to learn how to respect girls. Brothers are a prime chance for girls to learn how to respect boys. Personalities are different all within one family, and children learn how to live with others who don't think the way they do or like all the same things. Conflict resolution is a skill no child should go without. Siblings make that training possible on a daily basis.

Children can grow up to have successful adult relationships using the skills they were taught at home. They are meant to eventually leave and practice those skills as they contribute to society and build healthy relationships of their own. 

Sadly today, this is almost a joke, a vague Little House on the Prairie ideal. 

Many families are ripped apart by anger, selfishness, and unforgiveness. And once the doors are slammed, so is the heart. If someone hurts you, offends you, or makes you angry, walk away. Social media has simplified the process by giving us a button to click. And just like that, we are no longer in relationship.

This disposable attitude toward relationships has leaked into the family, and directly into the sibling relationship. 

Can siblings be friends? I know they can. 

True friends fight and make up. They confront each other and hurt each other with the truth. Friends forgive, and friends seek forgiveness. Sometimes they claw and punch. They make one another feel awkward being known so well, and desperately comforted for the very same reason on a different day. Trouble days are fondly remembered as fun escapades. Friends protect and defend each other from a cruel world.

One moment a sibling can be heard in my house shouting angrily, "I hate him!" The next day, the same sibling says with conviction, "He is my best friend!"

No family gets it all right. No parent does either. 

It takes a tough parent with an even tougher commitment to steer kids to this goal. It takes time in the Word and prayer, reminding ourselves of God’s plan that is greater than the present. It takes trying, failing, crying, and trying again and again. It means saying no to some attractive social opportunities so families can spend time together and learn to like each other.

One day of defeat does not define your children’s future. Your defeat does not define you as a parent. 

It is all the little moments, the times you stopped to make time for reconciliation, the days you followed through with discipline even when it was inconvenient, the family nights that started with arguing and ended with Team Kids beating Mom and Dad at an epic game of Uno. All those faithfulnesses added together lead to healthy adults who know how to thrive in healthy relationships. Even with their siblings. 

Siblings can be friends. It just might take twenty years. Hang in there.

If you have a story to make us laugh or fill us with hope about the possibility of sibling friendship, please share! If this is a topic that hurts, let us pray for you. This is no easy task.


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