While I’ve probably mentioned my older sibling with some frequence (he is the source of a significant portion of my childhood trauma, after all), I don’t think I’ve mentioned my two of my younger siblings nearly as much. A fact I’d like to rectify as I reflect on a funny moment from a few years ago that I was reminded of yesterday evening while talking with some friends. Given that we’re all from the same difficult family situation, we’ve all got a great deal of individual baggage. A lot of it is similar, but the last few years make it pretty clear that we all reacted to and were harmed by our shared childhood in our own unique ways. As we’ve all done what we each needed to gain distance and perspective, we drifted apart a bit. In the past few years, as I started to work through stuff after our grandfather passed away and opened up about stuff I had previously protected them from and kept hidden, we’ve slowly reconnected and grown closer than ever.
Which feels odd to say and think about given that we grew up together. We recently played some Jackbox games with a couple friends from our mostly-defunct Dungeons and Dragons group and discovered that the three of us all come up with almost exactly the same jokes for the prompts we shared. It would be easier to count the number of times the jokes weren’t exactly the same (with a couple minor differences in wording) when two of the three of us went head-to-head. Growing up with the same influences, being fed the same media, and being directed toward the same ideas of what makes a “good” life means that the only real differences in how we grew up come down to whether we were a “son” or a “daughter” to our parents. We all had piano lessons, we all played soccer, we all were more-or-less forced to participate in the same types of church activities, and the only real difference was my two young siblings were pushed into dance or ballet and I was pushed toward sports and then mostly forgotten.
I honestly don’t have a lot of good models for healthy sibling relationships in my life. All of the friends I had as a child either moved away quickly or were part of the rather reactionary/ultra-conservative Christian or Catholic homeschooling groups my family joined, so they had a lot of the same toxic traits that my own had. When I made friends in high school, most of my friends were only children or had one or two siblings and were pretty far apart in age. Not a lot of families have four kids in seven years, after all. Which means we’ve all had to figure out how to navigate our relationships as adults, brought together by the loss of a grandparent and then kept together by doing our best to collectively work through the traumas of our shared childhood.
Consider the fact that if any one of says the words “if you like,” the other two of us cut in with “talk to tomoatoes” before we all join in singing the VeggieTales theme song and then immediately return to whatever conversation was happening. It can be jarring to go from trying to figure out how to relax and celebrate the holidays as the smaller family unit we’ve built out of the rubble of our larger family to realizing that we each know the words to “Escape From The City” from Sonic Adventure 2 Battle and can sing the entire song without music or mistakes. It’s so strange to realize we had the same childhood in the middle of carefully working to recognize that we all experienced it differently in ways that have irrevocably formed us into the remarkably different but incredibly similar people we are now.
I mean, I have one or two people who I can talk to about what it means to work tirelessly at being the end of cycles of abuse and neglect, and those are the same people that I’d talk to about favorite video games or how the surprising quality of storytelling in VeggieTales is a major influence in the way I approach parody and the adaption of stories. Sibling relationships are just absolutely wild, let me tell you, and I am willing to bet that this is true of a lot of siblings as well. Generally speaking, anyway. I genuinely hope there aren’t many other siblings out there that grew up in a situation like me and mine did. No one deserves to grow up like that.
Still, as I worked through my traumas and try to heal not into the person I was before them (I don’t think there is a person from before them given how young they started) but into the person I want to be today, it is nice to know I’ve got a few people still in my life that I can compare notes with. We’ve literally got a Discord just for that purpose and a special channel for the potentially traumatic bits, something we all agreed was a perfect way to stay organized.