Sibling rivalry

There will be a few confessions in this post.

Only child

The happy Grant Clan circa 1972.

The first is that I’m supposed to be a youngest child.   I have an elder brother and sister so technically I can be the butt of all those youngest child jokes.  You know how it goes – irresponsible, favoured, had it much easier bla bla bla.

Except that if you go to the strict psychological definitions of birth order I’m actually an only child.   So that’s the second confession, in attitude and outlook I’m more “lonely only” than a footloose and fancy free younger.  I suppose I could claim to have the best of both worlds.

My brother was 16 and sister 14 on the day my Mum and Dad announced over the Sunday Roast that they were expecting a “late lamb”, apparently to wild guffaws from my brother that they still “did it” and delighted shrieks from my sister.  When I was born my brother was 17, my sister 15 and to her ongoing anguish, she was also beset with a case of the German measles so I was off-limits to her for weeks after my birth.

I was barely walking, only 18 months old when my brother left to go to university in Salisbury (Harare) and not too long after my sister moved out to the nursing residences at the Bulawayo General Hospital to start her nursing training.  They would probably claim they moved out so quickly because even at 18 months I was exhibiting the signs of being insufferable (love you Kevin and Morag if you read this).

And thereafter it was the three musketeers, Dad, Mum and me (excluding the long absences Dad was away in the late 1970s as a chaplain to the bitter Rhodesian civil war).  I stood resplendent in the family kilt at my brother’s wedding, aged six.  A couple of years later my sister walked down the aisle and both siblings had moved to South Africa.  I’m closer in age to all of my nephews and nieces than I am to my siblings (which made me a handy gap between the generations, but that’s a whole other story).

I have no living memory of having my brother and sister around as a child – we speculate that when we three kids surprised my Dad for his 70th birthday it might have been the first time just the five of us had been together under one roof in nearly 30 years.

Morag and me in Jo'Burg in 1976. Strangers often assumed I was Morag's son, a scandalous teenage pregnancy.

Which brings me to my final confession.  I now have three boys and I just don’t get their sibling rivalry.  In fact it drives me wild.  Our youngest is our most placid (which means he’s easy bait for older brothers who reckon he gets off lightly compared to their excesses).

The older two would argue and compete over two flies crawling up a wall.  Even when you put them on the same team in a fated attempt to get them to work together they’ll argue over who is doing more work than the other.  And without the terms of reference of growing up with siblings, I just don’t get it.

I’m the one inclined to get on the high horse, bang the pulpit and lecture them about how lucky they are to have a kid close in age around all the time as a ready playmate.  About how lucky they are to have so many hours, days, years together to bond.  That their shared experiences are such that they should be prepared to die for each other.

And they stare at me with blank bemusement and suggest how lucky I was to not have to deal with [insert name of other sibling].

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence hey?


4 Responses to Sibling rivalry

  1. ragsie56 says:

    Andy…have you forgotten the rivalry between your two nephews!!! Take heart, young brother they will love each other too one day

    In the meantime, if you want to compare notes on sibling rivalry between our sons…mine will beat yours every time….I think!

    I left because I had to, not because I couldn’t handle my younger brother….You were the light of my life!

    • mzilikazi says:

      Heya Morag. I knew you had to move out. I love all the photos around of you doting on me as a kid. I hadn’t forgotten my nephews. But they have the benefit of coming out the other end, there’s no guarantee mine will.

  2. ragsie56 says:

    They will…You have no idea how desperate I felt at times….Watch Fish and Tim if someone goes against one of them……..They will rise up and defend the brotherhood

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