Archive for Sunday, April 8, 2007

Sibling relationships often rocky in the beginning

April 8, 2007


Our 9-year-old granddaughter Zoe recently watched a home video that showed her older brother Gabe kissing and cooing to her when she was a baby. A tear slid down her cheek as she cried out in surprise, "He used to like me!"

It's sad but true; Zoe and Gabe are like oil and water, and I blame the Chinese for their rocky relationship. According to the Chinese zodiac, Gabe, a Sheep, and Zoe, an Ox, are powerless to resist the characteristics of their signs: Sheep - elegant and creative, you are timid and prefer anonymity. You are most compatible with Boars and Rabbits BUT NEVER THE OX; Ox - bright, patient and inspiring to others. You can be happy by yourself, yet make an outstanding parent. Marry a Snake or Cock. THE SHEEP WILL BRING TROUBLE.

I am confident that the day will come when Zoe and Gabe will be close. I'm confident because, as a child, I relished the thought that, once grown, I'd never have to see or speak to my sister Lesta. Who knew she'd develop into a person I actually love and, even better, like?

Years ago, my friend Carolyn, whose teenage daughters fought like cats and dogs, asked me if my sisters and I had a good relationship when we were teenagers. "Are you kidding?" I asked.

It was a serious question. Lesta - only 13 months younger - and I were very competitive. Our parents didn't encourage that competitiveness, but teachers sometimes did. Lesta still resents the high school teacher who asked, "Why can't you be more like your older sister?"

No teacher unfavorably compared me to Lesta - at least to my face - but my Spanish teacher suggested that I end my relationship with "that farm boy" I was dating. I not only spurned her well-intentioned advice, I later married him. And I must say that Ray has proven of far more value to me than two years of high school Spanish.

But back to my childhood relationship with Lesta. I still have a scar on my bum, the result of her pushing me down the basement stairs. Mom said that we were taking a doll buggy downstairs and, as the oldest, I was walking down backward ... but apparently not fast enough to suit Lesta, who shoved the buggy into my midsection causing me to tumble downstairs and land on a sharp toy. (Huh? Where were the kid safety police when sharp toys were being manufactured?)

A few years ago, I learned that Lesta likely jabbed my tonsil with a pencil when a doctor, concerned that the black spot in my throat looked ominous, wielded a scalpel on me. As soon as he announced he had removed a piece of pencil lead, I said, "I'm blaming my sister!"

"Oh?" he inquired, "perhaps we should send her the bill."

Lest it appear my sister was a bully and I a wimp, you should know that I struck the first blow at the tender age of 16 months when I tipped over Lesta's bassinet. Do I need to mention she was in it? Although I have no recollection of the incident, I'm pretty impressed that my tiny muscles had the strength to perform such a feat.

But Lesta's and my childhood struggles allow us to accept our grandkids' relationship problems for what they are ... temporary. And very often, funny.

Sydney, Lesta's 5-year-old granddaughter, cracks us up. Although her sister Alicia is much older, Syd is extremely competitive with her. She sulked for days when Alicia, a college student, wore new shoes that Syd decided were prettier than her own black patent Mary Janes. Being pretty is such a big deal to Sydney that when her father complimented another little girl on her appearance, Syd embarrassed him by screaming in the presence of the child and her parents: "You think she's prettier than ME?"

Lesta, a doting grandmother, often addresses Sydney as "Sugar." One day, Sydney asked, "Why do you call me Sugar?"

"Because you are so sweet," said Lesta, "What does your Grandma Joanie call you?"

"Knock it off, Sydney!" Syd replied without hesitation.

Grandma Joanie may be closer to the mark because I think it's a blessing that Sydney doesn't have siblings nearer her age and closer to her size. They'd be fortunate to escape with a tumble from a bassinet or a scarred bum. As for Gabe and Zoe, I believe that one day Gabe will be kissing and cooing to his new niece while Zoe videotapes her beloved brother playing with her baby ... provided, of course, that the baby is not an Ox.

- Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence. Information about purchasing her book, "Life Is More Fun When You Live It Jest for Grins," is available by calling 843-2577 or e-mailing


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