Siblings mold us, one way or the other

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 17, 2006

Something many of you know so well will always be a mystery to me &8212; to me and at least, oh, 20 million-plus other folks in America.

Brothers and sisters, I don&8217;t have them. Never thought I needed them. Didn&8217;t want them.

As a child, everything in the house was mine, including all the attention.

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Most of the time I could get my mom to play board games with me, so I didn&8217;t really need the extra people along for the ride. I figured they&8217;d just get in the way.

When the parents got tired of my pestering, there were friends or the dog in the backyard. I&8217;m kind of a loner anyway.

People who asked me if I wanted brothers and sisters usually got a quick &8220;no&8221; in reply. But as Time magazine screamed at me when it unfurled from my mailbox last week, siblings are everything.

&8220;How your siblings make you who you are,&8221; is the cover headline. Inside, &8220;The new science of siblings,&8221; spends eight pages explaining how scientists now think the driving force in human-molding isn&8217;t parents, spouses or heredity, but those pesky brothers and sisters.

Doesn&8217;t really seem like new information. Moms and dads have probably known this for ages. But the article says it&8217;s the step beyond simply studying birth order and assigning matching stereotypes to oldest, middle and baby that makes this study different.

Let&8217;s ignore the fact that I read through the first three pages thinking, &8220;if siblings make you who you are, then what are you if you have no siblings,&8221; and make this about the majority of you out there &8212; the ones with siblings.

From what I can tell, no one really appreciates their brothers and sisters until adulthood. But by then, they&8217;ve already molded you. You probably really are a reflection of the good and bad things about them, and as different as you may be, you still have a lot in common.

It&8217;s a forever bond.

To me, it&8217;s strange &8212; adult sisters who share everything, including detailed thoughts, brothers &8212; grown men &8212; who roughhouse to the point of a broken rib. That&8217;s an unknown world.

I read to page four of the Time magazine story waiting for some reference to the rest of us. Finally, there it was &8212; &8220;Only doesn&8217;t mean lonely.&8221;

Whew. I was starting to wonder if I should be venturing out of the house without antidepressants.

In fact, these newfangled scientists are saying there&8217;s more hope for us &8220;singletons&8221; (that&8217;s apparently the new way to refer to us) than anyone used to think.

Turns out we aren&8217;t automatically selfish, withdrawn or socially inept.

Though, we still carry enough traits to be quickly recognizable as onlys. I sure do. Most observant people can nail me with the title on day 2.

So, not only do siblings make you who you are, but the lack thereof does its fair share of personality-crafting too.

The number of only children is on the rise &8212; according to several Web sites, that is. And touts itself and its matching publication as helping that growing population &8220;make the journey smoother.&8221;

Seems a bit extreme for me, but maybe I&8217;m just not lonely enough yet.

But, if you asked me now, I wouldn&8217;t be so quick to reject the idea of a big brother or a little sister. I guess it&8217;s a trade-off. Most of you probably didn&8217;t want the siblings around at times when you were a kid, but you had them. Now, most adults &8212; I think &8212; are glad the siblings exist.

I had my fun, got all the toys, all the attention, now it&8217;s your turn to enjoy what you have.

I&8217;ll just wait my turn again. Y&8217;all have fun splitting the inheritance.

Julie Finley

is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or