Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh Brother Is This A Good Book!

A must-read for anyone blessed with or burdened by a sibling, Mom Still Likes You Best explores the sometimes heartbreaking but always meaningful ties between brothers and sisters.

There’s a myth that good sibling relations do not include conflict, annoyance, resentment, or mixed feelings. Jane Isay argues that this is a destructive belief, one that makes people doubt the strength of their connection to those they grew up with. Siblings may love and hate, fight and forgive, but they never forget their early bonds.

Based on scores of interviews with people of all ages, Mom Still Likes You Best features real-life stories that show how differences caused by family feuds, marriages, distance, or ancient history can be overcome in adulthood. The result is a clear-eyed but compassionate portrait of brothers and sisters in love and war—and a celebration of the possibilities that even the most complicated sibling relationships can offer.

In her own words:
"'The greatest gift a parent can give a child,' one woman’s mother told her, “is a brother or sister.” If you find yourself nodding in agreement but also having reservations, you’re not alone.  Most people have experienced mixed feelings about their siblings over the years. Many of us have asked ourselves:
What kind of gift are siblings, if we fight with them and if they hurt our feelings?
How could we come from the same family and have such different values?
Who needs a brother or sister who isn’t there for Mom and Dad when they are old and need our help?

Ambivalence is at the heart of our sibling relationships. These positive and negative feelings are natural, and unavoidable. When we were kids and our parents were not around, we behaved like children to each other, which means we weren’t always nice. As adults, many of us recall those childhood experiences; they often become our iconic memories, and they can make us feel good or bad. I have learned that it is possible to reframe the childhood moments we cannot forgive or forget. We can begin to see our brothers and sisters through an adult perspective, if we so choose. Brothers and sisters who are close have already done this—they don’t idealize their siblings, and they can accept and laugh at the very behavior that drives other people crazy. It’s also possible to rebuild most broken relationships—if you want to. It takes a thread of love and lots of effort and determination, but over time you will be amazed at the results.

So if your relationship with brothers and sisters is complicated, welcome to the world. Once you relax into the reality of mixed emotions, you’ll stop suffering so much from the past and stop feeling so guilty about whatever you might have done. Maybe you can enjoy more of the positive, laugh at some of the negative, and make peace with the fact that human experience is something in between
So what is the gift of siblings? It’s the life-long quest for compromise, acceptance, and humor."

Listen to the NPR interview with the author.

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