My sibling journey, my parent journey

WelcomeHomeGrowing up with siblings was an important piece of my life. I remember knowing how to get my older brother in trouble, how to make sure that my grandmother would comfort me when I pretended the others were mean. I also remember those responsibilities as the middle child– help the little ones, get their shoes, help them get their lunch and make sure they get to school safe. Having siblings or being an only child, being oldest, youngest or in the middle influences us. Our childhood journey affects us as we grow.

I often think of this as a parent now. I see how my own children have their individual journeys as they grow up. Each one is different — the oldest, the middle and the baby. It feels a bit more complicated when you enter the world with some special needs in your life, maybe even more when you are the one that is right in the middle. I remember the dynamics for me as a child, as a teen and then as an adult with my relationships with my four siblings. You start seeing the “role” you played, you understand who they see you as and notice which ones you are close to. And you also notice the one that you are not close to. We call this the family journey in the world but we can also see it as the sibling journey or the parent journey. Or even the “identified young person’s” path.

It hit home for me when my oldest was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital. My other son looked at me and said, “Mom, I hate the windows that they have on the doors, and I really hate the sound of those keys locking the door when we say goodbye.” He also would look at me when we went into the supermarket, or local pharmacy and would say, “Mom, remember the code word is Ocean- if my siblings are acting out and I want to take space I will use it in a sentence. Okay?”. Other people call these our coping strategies. For my family it was the survival and reality of our journey.

My sister and I did the same thing growing up. We had a code if she needed me to be by her side. She knew that she could call anytime and in my early college years, I would come home and pick her up. It was the “message” to get that break from your own sibling journey. I remember using something similar with my grandparents when I needed that one-on-one time. The give and take and the family relationships were as important and often just as crucial as food.

Barry López explains that, “Everything is held together with stories. That is all that is holding us together, stories and compassion.” In Crow and Weasel, he writes:

The stories people tell
have a way of taking care of them.
If stories come to you, care for them.
And learn to give them away
where they are needed.
Sometimes a person needs a story
more than food to stay alive.
That is why we put stories
in each other’s memory.
This is how people care for themselves.

Barry López, Crow and Weasel

He understands that listening to others’ stories is crucial for survival. Sometimes I tell my story to others, and sometimes they hear it just by knowing me and my children. As an adult, I have often needed certain things in my life as a parent: a parent network that understands the chapters of my life, the local pharmacist that gets the cue that we need to get out soon, the grocery store clerk who would open up an extra lane so we can pass through, or even the gas station that would allow me to use the bench for time out. As a child and sibling I loved to make sure that I could have time just getting away, being a leader at the bus stop to make sure we all got along, and knowing that on Friday mom would make that Italian homemade pizza.

All these things are part of my story and part of my journey. We all have our journey. To listen is the most important part and to understand feels really good.

Meri Viano is our guest blogger.  She is the parent of two sons and a daughter who continue to inspire her blog posts.

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2 thoughts on “My sibling journey, my parent journey

  1. Meri,
    You make a great point of how our place in the family structure is so intrical to our journey. There are many times when we forget what we already know instinctively and find ourselves struggling. The Lord has given us great strength and with the help of our network we are all even stronger. Thank you for being part of my network! Great to read your blog. Kathy

  2. Meri, thank you for sharing your journey. It rings true for me that our experiences as children & siblings greatly influences how we embrace the parenting journey. Thanks, Sue

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