Jul
07
2006

The Blessing of Siblings

TIME magazine has made a significant splash with an article about sibling influence. While I chuckle at the title, “The New Science of Siblings” (as if this is something “new”), the article validates much about what Wendy and I have believed for a long time. We have been guilty as parents of thinking that our influence on our children is the most significant influence in a child’s life. However, a host of studies are showing that a more influential dynamic in a child’s life is his or her siblings. The article is subtitled, “Your parents raised you; your spouse lives with you; but it’s your brothers and sisters who really shaped you.”

From the time they are born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspiriators, our role models and cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They teach us how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Our spouses arrive compartively late in our lives; our parents eventually leave us. Our siblings may be the only people we’ll ever know who truly qualify as partners for life. “Siblings,” says family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis, “are with us for the whole journey.

Parents have “planned” their family size based on how many kids they can handle. This isn’t necessarily faulty determiner, but how many parents fail to consider the healthy dynamics of siblings? TIME confesses that “the first thing that strikes contemporary researchers when they study siblings is the sheer quantity of time the kids spend in one another’s presence and the power that has to teach them social skills.” Parents who have strong–or weak–sibling connections can testify to the “power” of sibling relationships. There is a very natural wonder that happens between brothers and sisters. Research centers are…

“…looking at ways brothers and sisters steer one another into–or away from–risky behavior; how they form a protective buffer against family upheaval; how they educate one another about the opposite sex; how all siblings compete for family recognition and come to terms–or blows–over such impossibly charged issues as parental favoritism.”

Wendy and I can testify to this in our own lives. I grew up with three sisters, and they are the closest of friends now. My relationship with them is nothing like their relationship with each other (hey, they’re sisters, and I’m the only boy), but I can’t brush off the intense influence my sisters had on my life. Becky, Katy and Heidi have had likely more to do with the shaping of me than my friends and perhaps even my parents.

Wendy comes from an alcoholic family whose mother (praise God) has found sobriety in the past two years. Wendy was raised with five siblings, a large family by today’s standards. Reflecting on her childhood, she agrees that it was the strong sibling bonds of the six kids that kept them resilient to the pressures of their difficult life. We just recently took a trip to Wisconsin and Minnesota to visit family, and the most memorable of visits was visits with Wendy’s sisters Heather, Paula and Debbi, and our visit to Wendy’s brother, Tod, who is caretaking their mother.

The Jeub siblings are incredible. We miss our oldest daughters, Alicia and Alissa, as they are adults on their own. The 11 who are presently at home–wow, they do sometimes drive mom and dad crazy. The article touches on this, “As much as all the fighting can set parents’ hair on end, there’s a lot of learning going on too, specifically about how conflicts, once begun, can be settled.” The article concludes, “Siblings, by any measure, are one of nature’s better brainstorms, and all the new studies on how they make us who we are is one of science’s.”

I’d say there is more than just “learning” going on. I’d also say that there is more than just “nature” involved in the blessing of siblings. God labels children as “blessings,” and I hope this website influences its parent readers to accept this as true. However, the TIME article opens another angle to our understanding–and backs it up with scientific proof–of the “blessings.” Not only are they blessings to the parents, but to each other.

Read this article.

Grandma enjoying a meal with the Jeub kids in Burlington, Wis.

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.