Saturday, May 14, 2011

siblings=best friends? (kinda long!)

you'd think it'd be all ballerinas and cupcakes growing up between two sisters wouldn't you? i mean, if you had three daughters in a row, wouldn't you think you'd done pretty well at providing the perfect familial playmates for each other?
i adore my sisters now, but the truth is, growing up i wasn't close with either of my sisters. our friend groups came first and there were very clear rules against crossing between friend groups. it's not that we didn't want to be friends....we just didn't know how. (or maybe that it was OK to be friends)

when i was snooping in on the homeschooling community in 2009 to see if it would be a good "fit" for us, the thing that struck me the most was the relationships i saw between siblings. the siblings were friends! regardless of age! there seemed to be a wonderful absence of peer segregation. 10 year old boys would happily welcome a 6 year old boy into their activity. 18 year old girls would scoot over for their friend's little sister to sit with them! it was something i had never seen before and was so profoundly counter-cultural that it truly, deeply affected me.  so much so that this has become one of our deepest convictions for homeschooling.

and you want to know what is really exciting? is that now our kids are getting older, i can see their relationship extending beyond just someone to play lego or barbies with, into true friendships. the sad thing is, is that we have this false assumption that the more time siblings spend together, the more likely they are to strangle each other!! and therefore we need to have their friends over often, or pawn them out to their friends' homes often.
here is what i have found to be true: the more time my children spend together, the closer they become. the more time they spend apart (with friends) the more irritable they become to each other. i find that fascinating - and quite revealing - don't you?

i am not saying that homeschooling is the only way to get your kids to be friends. of course not! i know some beautiful non-homeschooling families whose children are deeply connected. but i do think it requires intentional parenting - including directing them towards each other as a first choice of playmate - and rejecting the cultural emphasis on peer segregation.

one of the ways i intentionally direct our children into friendship with each other is, very simply, brainwashing! ha!! :) i regularly tell them they are best friends. if they have treated each other badly i will ask them, "is this how best friends treat each other? is this how mummy treats [insert name of friend]?" (raising adults, not children remember? ;) )
we also have a rule (is that the right word?) where we aren't allowed to treat another person outside of the family with more kindness and respect than we treat each other. let me explain,...imagine this: i'm raging at the kids and suddenly the phone rings and it's the septic tank cleaner (often, in my case) and i'm all sweet-as-pie polite, then i get off the phone and continue my tirade at the kids? see how i treated a perfect stranger with more kindness and respect than my own children who i profess to love more than anything in the world? except i actually just showed them that i have more respect and affection for the septic tank guy...didn't i? and so, in the same way, we have this as a family rule (i'm still not convinced that's the right word. help?). it usually applies when they have a friend over and there is an imbalance in the kindness and respect being dished out!! ;)

woah, this has ended up kinda long but i have been really grateful lately for our large-ish family and that our children's best friends also happen to be their siblings.
and just wanted to share that it IS possible for your children to be best friends before they're in their mid-20s :)



  1. This is great! A short while ago you were contemplating adding another child in the mix - I think you are one of the greatest parents i've heard of. You are so discerning, I couldn't think of a better Mum to another child. Anyone would be blessed to enter your family.

  2. thanks dee, that has given me something to think about.

  3. Thanks Dee, really interesting :)

  4. Awesome post dee! Yay I instantly feel less guilty for not having other kids over to play all the time! Frankly I don't have the energy haha and hub and I have always said Our kids have each other to play with when they are complaining of boredom.
    Our two youngest are definitely best friends. So much so that we have been kinda hanging out for our baby to start school, knowing then her bigger sister will feel more comfortable there.
    We also make our kids share bedrooms (even though we have a spare and they keep each other awake) we think this keeps our boys especially closer together as they have extreme opposite personalities.
    I grew up in a family of 5 girls and I was the eldest by a big age gap so never felt Like my sisters were "friends". We all get on well now but I'm still closer to people outside of my family than to them which is kinda sad.
    This is such an awesome family value you guys are installing and you have inspired me to be more INTENTIONAL about it :)

  5. Very inspiring. I agree that it is nice if siblings are friends and that it does take some work on the behalf of parents.
    I also like your family rule (think you should call it a motto).

  6. I love this post. It is so true and just what I need to hear at the moment. My three fight quite a bit at the moment which makes me sad. They can play together really nicely and I see glimpses of them looking after each other (eg. looking after the youngest on the school bus or making sure she's ok at school).
    Your post has really struck a chord with me. I would love to homeschool our kids and in the next few months circumstances might make this necessary. But the constant bickering is what puts me off.
    Im going to put into action exactly what you said..about noone outside the family getting more respect than we give each other. thanks for that.
    ANd I too dont do the having friends over all the time...I have enough to do...although often it serves to remind me how well behaved my kids are!!!

  7. I just love what you have written here Dee! Our kids get on well but also have their moments. There is hope!! (I write while the two girls are screaming at each other in the background!).

  8. I thought this was a really wise post. Lots of great ideas for me to think on. Especially the importance of giving respect to each other in the family. Thanks for sharing xx

  9. I don't know why or how, but my sisters were by best friends growing brothers were a little older, and were not so close back then...but my sisters and I were often referred to as a "litter of kittens" - because we spent so much time together. It wasn't until I was a little older that I understood not everyone had this. I hope your kids feel that way later! They are still my best friends, and I have the fondest memories of my childhood. I can never remember feeling bored - I'd been given perfect playmates!

  10. Loving your work, dee! Totally food for thought and I appreciate those words of wisdom as I wait for the dinner tme crazy to begin! Jen xx

  11. Dee, I love the connections you are drawing here! It makes me look forward to raising my own little herd even more.

    I agree, the more time the siblings spend together the more likely they will become friends. My sister and I are extremely close and we always have been. We started in a private school but ended up homeschooling (and I loved it!). It's a shame that a lot of siblings aren't friends. My sister was always my best friend, seems a shame to miss out on that.

    Talia Christine

  12. I was raised with 7 siblings and we love each other dearly. We learned to.

    We suffered through poverty, racism, moving countries constantly and even a parents divorce at an early age. This caused us to be there for eachother, us against the world, literally. I think its beautiful how you value the connection between siblings, something of rarety here in britain. I think one of the most important things is, time. Once they spent a great deal together (childhood) growing up, they will love one another. :) Hope your children will become as wonderful as you are.



it means so much that you've taken the time to comment~ x