Well, let’s start with Sigmund Freud. You’ve probably heard of the guy. The father of psychoanalysis. The theorist on how early childhood impacts behavior later in life. The id, ego, and super ego. And so it goes.
But what about siblings? Freud was his mother’s firstborn. His father had two children from a previous marriage. About a year and a half after Freud was born, his mother gave birth to a second son, Julius. Freud remembers being extremely jealous of Julius, which probably contributed to his theories about sibling rivalry.
He completely ignored the relationship between sisters.
The importance of sibling love and how siblings can help each other develop self-esteem and distance from their parents wasn’t part of Freud’s repertoire.
And up until rather recently, the sibling connection wasn’t part of most researchers’ repertoire, either. The belief has been that things go wrong either because one generation has passed “crazy things” down to the next or because parents aren’t doing what they should to raise their children well. On the other hand, things that go well are also because “good things” were passed from one generation to the next or because parents did a good job raising their children.
Stephen Bank put it this way: “Siblings are viewed as minor actors on the stage of human development. If there were an opera, they would be there in the chorus, not as key players.”
No Federal Siblings’ Day
We celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, even Grandparents’ Day. But Siblings’ Day is a holiday recognized by only some states but not others. And it is not a federal holiday.
Question is: did you even know there was a Siblings’ Day? The date?
Answer for most: no and no.
Here are some quick facts:
Still, most of us don’t honor our siblings on Siblings’ Day. We don’t give them a gift. Take them out for dinner . . . any of the things we often do for our parents and grandparents.
Yet through the centuries, brothers and sisters have been an important subject of books, movies, even TV shows.
Let’s start with the Bible. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. Jacob and Esau were at odds from the time they were in the womb and into adulthood. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. On and on . . .
But, as well, sibling love and respect is a subject throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
John 4:20 – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Luke 14:26 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”
Matthew 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
Matthew 5:24 – “Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
And literature? Siblings populate books from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women to Hansel and Gretel, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Films? The list is full of titles, such as: Hannah and Her Sisters, directed by Woody Allen; the ever-popular Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; Your Sister’s Sister; a relatively current favorite, Twins; and some oldie but goodies including I’ll Never Go Home Anymore and Legends of the Fall.
Some of these fictional sibling relationships are loving and rock solid; others are contentious. But the point is that authors, screenwriters, playwrights, and directors have been interested in brothers and sisters from time immemorial.
And the words brother, sister, brotherhood, and sisterhood are used all the time.
We say a close friend is “like a sister” or “like a brother.” In religious organizations, fraternal orders, and the military, the titles “brother” and “sister” are used to describe solidarity and equality. When we sing “America the Beautiful,” we “crown our good in brotherhood.” And when feminists rally, they chant, “Sisterhood is powerful.”
Up until recently, the connection between siblings and the many ways they shape our lives may have been a footnote with researchers, sociologists, and therapists. Yet when it comes to acknowledging and exploring the sibling connection, creative people of all stripes have explored this lifelong bond and portrayed an emotional, complicated, lifelong relationship.
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