Today I realized I have a skewed view of reality. I grew up thinking most siblings were best friends. I even thought my siblings were my friends. As it turns out, I have been mistaken. This skewed view led to a misunderstanding and hurt feelings that possibly could have been avoided if I had recognized the reality of our relationship sooner. You see, I thought my brother was more than just my brother I had always looked at him as a friend. That led me to the assumption that he viewed me the same way.
Recently we had a conversation in which he made comments that hurt my feelings, not a little bit, but deeply. After collecting my thoughts, I shared this with him along with an explanation of why. His response was harsh accompanied by an empty apology that only sufficed to minimize my feelings. Not the actions of a friend. This led to additional hurt feelings of disappointment. After feeling like I had been treated badly I started to reflect on why a friend would treat me so poorly, not just my brother, but any friend.
I started to explore ideas and definitions of friend. Things like knowing your personality well, consideration of your feelings, common interests and values, reliable help when you need it. Activities like checking on you when they know you’re having a tough time. The things I try to do for my brother. But upon reflection, I can’t name many times when he reciprocates. He calls when he needs something - like a babysitter, my expertise in finance, or help from my very resourceful husband. However, he probably can’t tell you much about me or my life beyond our childhood and surface items that a basic acquaintance would know. Truly, we have very little in common. If we weren’t related there isn’t much that would cause us to cross paths or hit it off as buddies. This isn’t intended to portray him badly. From what I know he’s a good friend. I’m just not one of them, and that’s ok. Also, in his defense, a friendship between us isn’t something I recall our parents fostering. Friendship wasn’t something they modeled for us in our household. What I’m getting to is this: regardless of the topic or situation we fought over, the fault for being upset lies with me. I had an altered view of the relationship, not him. Perhaps we perceive each other and our relationship very differently. He merely treated the situation from a different level of expectation, a sibling, nothing more, nothing less. This realization took me forty years and a proverbial slap in the face: a sibling isn’t synonymous with a friend. This helped me sort through my feelings and move past the incident. I’m hoping that as my expectations shift pragmatically, the conflict we experienced will result in better future encounters.
The most important outcome from this experience is a motherhood goal I hadn’t considered previously: I need to foster a friendship between my children if possible. If that isn’t in the cards at least one of mutual kindness and respect. Friends don't just happen because you grow up at the same address.
Friendship doesn't always just happen.
Photo credit: Nathan Sandolfini, Sandolfini Photography