Parents and Sibling Relationships

Parents and Sibling Relationships
Carmen is a twenty-two year old college student who is doing her best to navigate her way in the real world. She left home at age eighteen for college after an ongoing volatile relationship with her single mother. The one saving grace for her during all those emotional years was her younger brother Josh. Even after moving out, Carmen did not have any contact with her mother for more than a year and a half, however the siblings kept in close contact. Carmen was always eager to give advice to her brother to help him develop a good relationship with their mother. The best thing that could have happened for the entire family was that their mother never interfered.

The opposite is true for Jodi* and her brother Kyle*. Jodi was also the older sister with an unstable relationship with her mother. Although Jodi had both parents, the most explosive incidents were with her mother. She also left home at eighteen but felt close to her brother and was always concerned with his well being. However, unlike Carmen’s mother, Jodi’s mother continuously interfered in the sibling’s relationship. She felt that until Jodi made complete amends with her, she would only have limited contact her brother. When Jodi called home and spoke with her brother she often found him distant and unresponsive. Later she realized he was instructed to act that way and did so because he wanted to please their mother. The mother let her personal anger and need for control be at the center of her parenting for both children.

While both mothers have been accused of being controlling, it’s true that neither daughter wanted to be controlled. However, Carmen’s mother was able to admit that her way wasn’t the only way as she watched Carmen from a distance. Her daughter was able to take care of herself. While every decision Carmen made was not necessarily the best decision, she was able to acknowledge her mistakes and rebound all the wiser.

Jodi also proved that she could take care of herself, but that wasn’t enough for her mother. She wanted Jodi to ask for her forgiveness, come back home and then follow her parental advice; otherwise she would be treated as an outsider. Jodi never believed she should have to grovel for her parent’s love and approval. Their relationship was strained at best, as was the relationship between Jodi and brother.

The current status for each family is different:

When Carmen told her brother she was in a minor accident, her brother wanted to see her and make sure she was okay. She lived two hours away and her mother drove him to her home. That was the first time the three of them had been together in almost three years. Thanks to the connection Carmen kept with her brother, she and her mother are now speaking again and working on their relationship. It can be said that both of them matured a bit and can now appreciate each other’s point of view. Thanks to Carmen and her advice, her brother communicates with their mother better than she ever did

Jodi has been married, divorced and has had a baby, however none of these life changing events have made her parents have a change of heart towards her. While Jodi admits she was a headstrong, emotional teenager, she would not be classified as an “out of control teen.” Jodi has kept in contact with her parents but is always treated with indifference. She is hurt that her parents have not even acknowledged their grandchild.

At this point they are at a standoff as Jodi is tired of feeling rejected but will not ask for forgiveness for making her own life choices. She is both sad and angered about the dissolution of her relationship with her brother. There are a lot of hurt feelings and it’s safe to say, both parties are allowing their stubbornness to ruin any thoughts of reconciliation. It’s been ten years.

So what lesson can parents learn from these two families? Perhaps one that is easier said than done:

When you become a parent, it’s not about you anymore.

One mother decided to parent one child at a time while the other let her personal feelings overlap into the relationship of her children. One mother figured out “letting go” was a sign of success while the other was determined to view it as a sign of surrender. As a result one child happily holds on to the fragile relationship with her mother like a priceless porcelain doll. The other sadly, no longer even tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered relationships with the members of her family.

Hopefully, they will all have a happy ending and I wish them all the best.

The stages of childhood: babies, children, teenagers.
The stages of parenthood; hold them up, hold their hands, hold your breath

*Name changed for publication

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