"Do you know who is going to be most sad when Yaasha marries someday?"
When my mother asked this of my father, I sat up straighter in the back seat of the car and tried to pretend that I wasn't listening with all my might.
"Who?" Daddy asked. Yes, who? My mind echoed.
"Asher. Those two are always doing something together, and he seems to really enjoy the time she spends with him, and to listen when she talks to him."
A wiggle of pure delight danced in my chest. My brother Asher is almost 11 years my junior. So while I'm in my mid-20s, he's in his mid-teens. That age gap is often a huge hurdle for siblings. For my brother and I, it's just another reason to spend more time getting to know each other.
Learn to Love Your Siblings.
When I was younger, spending time with my siblings was not a priority. My next-oldest sister and I excluded the younger siblings as often as possible, whining to Mom and Dad when the "little girls" refused to leave us alone.
Dad was adamant. "Your friends will come and go throughout your lifetime. But your family--they're with you for life. Like it or not, they are part of you in a way no one else can be. If you don't build those relationships, you will regret it."
At the time, his advice rankled me. But as I grew older, our family became more separate as we worked jobs, went on to college, and (in some cases) formed romantic attachments. Time with each other became more rare and more precious. On a day-trip last summer to see some friends, my sister and I whispered to each other, "Can you believe it! We're actually all together! When was the last time this happened? This is awesome!"
Fight for the Relationship.
Your siblings are your best friends. They understand you like your friends can never understand you, because they know the atmosphere, history, and priorities of the family that an outsider could never fully experience.
I know you may respond, "Well, aren't you lucky! You just naturally love your siblings."
Not so. We fought, every day, for years and now for decades, to build these relationships. (We fought against each other too, but that was part of the process.) Do you think beautiful relationships develop by accident or by mere dumb luck?
A Message to Older Siblings
If you are an older sibling, your younger siblings watch you constantly. I am the oldest, so I don't know first-hand the impact of an older sibling, but I've been humbled to watch how my younger siblings respond to the time I invest in them, and to the example I set for them. Whatever attitude I portray, good or bad, tends to amplify in them. I am literally shaping their lives through our relationship.
A Message to Younger SIblings
If you are a younger sibling, remember: Your older sibling depends on you more than you know. For myself, my younger siblings' approval or disapproval influences me enormously. Their perspectives help me to learn and grow. If you are a younger sibling, don't assume that your older sibling "has it all together." She may never admit it, but she craves--and needs--your involvement in her life.
Invest in your siblings. Make the first move to resolve conflict. Be intentional about spending time with them. Take the time to really listen to them. Above all, pray for them often, and for wisdom in how to be the best sibling possible.
What will happen if you do this?
Well, I used to view my brother as just an annoying, cocky, intrusive little boy. Since I've made a point to bond with him, I've discovered something wonderful. I don't just love him because I have to.
I actually, really, truly like him.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.