You May Pick Your Friends, But Not Your Family!!

As parents, many of us look back when our children were kids and think that after all they Brother-sister relationshad been through together, they should be extremely close today. Yet, once they marry their loyalty and love shifts to their spouses and their children and they drift somewhat apart. There are two extremes, where some remain very close and others no longer speak to each other. However, there always remains a special bond between them. I’m reminded of this any time I read what a boy said as he carried his disabled brother on his back. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” (This was the motto of Boys Town, a place where troubled or homeless boys could come for help.) My own relationship with my siblings is comfortable, and harmonious with a visit once a year and a warm wave when passing by. Yet, there remains the wish that our own family would be closer.

I look at them and I think that maybe a one brother, one sister relationship works best. At our house it was a much different ratio, four brothers and only one sister and she was the youngest. We have lots of photos where our oldest son held his sister, they helped look out for her, one drove her to school each day. But, then, they would call her to come to their hideout, then hide under its secret floor. To this day they still tease her, but now, she dishes it right back to them. Brothers and sisters have been described as role models, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors and co-conspirators.

The brothers had secrets they didn’t tell their parents like when one of them jumped in the brother-sister 12haymow and was knocked unconscious, or when they sped home in order to make curfew. Maybe they thought their little sister would tell on them, so she wasn’t in the loop. When someone stole their youngest brother’s bear, they went after it, an incident that hasn’t been forgotten. Years later, one of the grown brothers bought a bear, a perfect match, and took it to his younger brother. So perhaps after all, our kids are still close.

I found it interesting that as one’s age increases, so does the interest in adult sibling broth-sister 13relationships. While one might spend forty to fifty years with one’s parents, life with a sibling can last sixty to eighty years and the bond between them feels comfortable and content when together. Close contact is highest between pairs of sisters and lowest between pairs of brothers. Brother-sister pairs fell between the other two groups. Those who lived within a few miles of each other had the most contact and siblings can usually be relied on for help during times of crisis.

“If you have a brother

then 14

made you cry sometimes.

pulled your hair….

fought with you…

stood up for you...

drove you crazy...

watched you succeed…

saw you fall (and laughed)brother-sister 13

picked you up

scolded you… and

made you strong.

(Sounds like our sons were being typical brothers to their only sister. After all, boys will be boys.) 

All in all, brother/sister relationships don’t remain for each other because of the things theybrother-sister-1 do, but because of who they are.  The fact that   “You can pick your friends but not your family,” may be some consolation for those of you who haven’t spoken to a brother or sister for years. And remember, as you age, your relationship with your siblings oftentimes improves.  I’d like to hear my readers’ opinions on this week’s topic in Shirl and You. Click on the heading of this writing and scroll down to the bottom where there is a form where you may type your comments.

This photo shows the only sister in our household being taken for a ride by her brother. One of the brothers who were not nice to her growing up.

This photo shows the only sister in our household being taken for a ride by her brother. I couldn’t pass up using this photo of a brother and sister having fun together. The bouquet must have been rhubarb, the conveyance, an old fashioned wheel chair, converted into a chariot.

20 thoughts on “You May Pick Your Friends, But Not Your Family!!

  1. I have wonderful brothers! I wouldn’t pick anyone else. Sure, I was teased as a little girl by my big brothers, but I do remember them sticking up for me too. Wish I saw them more!


  2. good writing
    I saw Boys town with spencer tracy adn mickey rooney i think a hundred years ago i forgot it all but gues tehy wre good
    a few years ago i had a freidn tape”the hounds of Notre Dame about a convent school in the canadian wiidernesss very good movie
    oh good clip on mcnugets well iam famous for not eating chicken and we try to avoid fast fodd we go to Mays a lot thanks


  3. I am the oldest of 4 siblings. 2 younger sisters and our brother (who was in the middle) passed away 4 years ago. We all miss him a lot. I have to say we girls are pretty close, given the fact that we do not live near each other (I am in Denver, one sister is in the San Francisco area, and our youngest sister is in Dubai). We skype and email and keep in touch. And of course Facebook helps immensely.

    I am also mom to 4 kids. 3 boys and the baby is a girl. My second son has his own life. He is in the Marines, is married and has kids of his own. He has not been home in 4 years which makes me sad, and bothers his siblings as well. My other kids are pretty close. They hang out (when they are all off work and can manage it) and enjoy spending time together. The boys actually have an apartment together here in town. However I do see a change coming as my oldest son prepares to move to San Diego for work. I have to wonder if he will remain close with his siblings, or be more like his other brother and break away from the family. Time will tell.


    • Thanks for sharing about your family. Sometimes we wonder what it is that makes circumstances the way they are. We all have the privilege to make our own choices. Distance is a factor in how close the family stays together and San Diego is a long way from home. Wishing you a great New Year, Mary. Thanks for writing.


  4. Great story, so true most of the time, my 4 children always were and still are very close. boys 2 girls 2. I really enjoy hearing them tell their stories at get togethers, the last was Christmas Eve day, it was wonderful.My day when they are all home with me.


  5. I have three brothers and three sisters. And for the most part we get along. Sometimes my friends are as close as my sisters. The effort and kindness are especially for maintaining this close- ness


  6. I have two older siblings. My sister is 10 years older than I am and my brother 7 years older. I am the baby and I have always enjoyed that status. I love both of them and thank God for their place in my life. To this day they have always looked out for me, protected me and loved me through thick and thin. Frances, Jimmy and I have remained close in spite of our age difference. This was instilled by our mom, Anna, who, I can safely say, was the epitome of love. It saddens me when I hear of family members squabbling with each other, especially after the parents have passed. . This is a relationship that was created by God and needs to be cherished and nurtured.


    • Your relationship with your older brother and sister does, indeed, speak well of your mother, who must have encouraged you to be close. Sometimes with an age span such as yours, this is not the case. Thanks for writing Kathleen, I always enjoy your comments on ShirlandYou’s subjects. Have a blessed New Year.


  7. God really does have a sense of humor. He puts us in families that we would never choose as friends…and then expects us to get along. I’ve always been quite lucky with my family relationships…probably because we learned early how very precious life is. We hugged each other and said “I love you” everyday. I was raised with four brothers for my first 9 1/2 yrs. They wanted me with them always…cub scouts…boy scouts…the barber…when they went on dates…even took me to the movies and amusement parks. Eileen was born and she was worshiped and adored…literally.


    • Well, Karen, you are right on again. And, again you make your family sound so special. You are fortunate to be raised in one such as this. Thanks for writing and a healthy, happy New Year is wished for you.


  8. Having four sisters and three brothers was a challenge. We not have always agreed, but we always stuck up for one another and still do today. There are two sisters and a brother still in this world.after all these years we are still very close.


  9. Finally had an opportunity to look at some of your archives. Families: I’m so glad ours is close! I tell Amy that she spoiled Brent when they were in school. My attitude was “there’s a cafeteria, eat there.” Amy and Brent would look at the menu, then Amy would pack lunches for them. This year we all had a great time in Texas over Christmas!
    I think something that was good for our family was that when we got married, we all absorbed the in-law families into our own. We would celebrate holidays all together, so no one had to choose where to go. It worked for us.


    • Thanks for writing, Linda. I appreciate the fact that your family is close and am sure that you work at it. They say a mother’s love and desire to keep her family united is a big factor in this happening.


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