siblngs

When You Have a Sibling Who is Different From You

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Real Life Stories

I’ve never met sisters who are so different,” my mother says at least twice a week.

She says it incredulously, but she’s been coming to terms with this since my sister and I were just babies, as the differences between my twin and I were clear right from the get-go. She was a great eater and learned to talk very early, while I couldn’t have been less interested in food, or speaking in actual English.

Siblings, even twins, can have contrasting personalities — one can be confident and engaging, while another may tend to be reserved and a little bit guarded until he or she gets to know someone. One sister can be stubborn and loves to have the last word during any disagreement, while the other sister may abhor conflict and like to make jokes to lighten up uncomfortable situations. One brother could get nervous making doctor’s appointments, and another brother can talk to any stranger without hesitation. Siblings could have clashing interests in movies, television programs, and music.

But, why shouldn’t this be the case? Where is it written that people from the same gene pool must be clones of one another? Sure, siblings may have virtually the same experiences growing up, but that doesn’t mean they internalize things in the same exact way. And they don’t have to.

It would be boring to have to do everything in the same manner and never have an independent thought between two people, siblings or not. Siblings’ distinct identities can compliment one another. No one knows how to push buttons like a sibling, but perhaps, few people know better when we’re in need of advice, or a swift kick to get us into gear again.

Siblings can also use their different strengths to be influences on each other. Very often, they can talk about just anything, but also have outlets that allow for some space from one another. You don’t have to enjoy the same things or agree on everything to love and look up to one another!

Let’s hear it for the siblings who are nothing alike. The ones who struggle sometimes to understand one another, but always come back to love and support each other. The ones who disagree on everything except the fact that no one will ever love you (or get on your nerves) quite like a sibling. Here’s to the ones who put up with listening to that awful country music station on a trip in the car or are forced to watch your favorite “dumb” movie over and over and over.

To my sister, I appreciate your quick wit and your steadfastness. I love that you are my sister to bother and annoy, and I know we have learned a lot from each other. Here’s to many more fights over the TV remote and where we should go to dinner. But most importantly, here’s to many more days being each other’s best friends and confidants… even if we don’t always show it.

“All my friends are married and having babies, and I’m just wondering how to get rid of this hangover.”

Author: Nicole Chininis, The Dating Game

I sometimes wonder how anybody my age can actually feel like they have their lives together.

I’m at an age where it seems like a good 75% of my friends are married and having babies. Last year, I went to four weddings, six the year before, and that’s not to mention all the baby showers that have also taken place. My weekends have consisted of going to bridal and baby showers, but yet I feel like I am nowhere near that phase in my life.

I have to admit, as much as I feel happy for my friends on finding the loves of their lives or making me an “auntie” again, it can sometimes be extremely tough. Like, enter into a depression and want to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s tough, or drink a bottle of wine to myself tough. For a long time, I would think to myself, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I find what they have? Why in the world is this hangover so much worse than the one I had last weekend? Why don’t I feel like I have my life together when everyone around me does?”

And dating while said things are going on around you? In the world of Tinder, ghosting and the inevitable heartbreak, it’s easy to feel like things will never work out for you. You go on another terrible blind date, while your friend gets engaged. Hello, Bottle of Wine. Nice to see you again.

However, here’s what I’ve come to realize: I have no control, but also all the control over my life right now.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Jeez, Nicole, are you sure you haven’t been drinking too many of those said bottles of wine before writing this? How does that make sense?” Let me explain.

There are certain things in life that you do not have control over. You don’t know when you’re going to meet the love of your life or how you’re going to meet them, but you pray that you eventually do. You don’t know when you’ll have kids, but you pick out baby names you like nonetheless. You never know what unexpected things might come up in your life that give your life plans an unexpected twist, but you deal with them as they come.

The great thing is, that no matter how much you feel like you can’t control, there are some things that you can control. You can control how much you put yourself out there, because even though what seems like your billionth date was just a bust, maybe the next one will make it all worth it. You can control things that you do to make yourself happy — like going dancing until 3a.m., getting coffee from your favorite café, vegging on the couch and binge watching Netflix without anyone disturbing you. You can even do things that your married friends with babies can’t do, like picking up and travel to wherever you want to go on a whim, or staying out late without anyone to answer to.

It certainly isn’t easy. I have struggled and have felt lost. But I think ultimately it’s okay to feel like you don’t have your life together, because I’m pretty sure no one ever really feels like they do. Just keep on doing your thang, people. It’s the only thing that we can actually control.

Grandparents Have Much to Teach Their Millennial Grandchildren

Author: Kerrin Frappier, Real Life Stories

I love my grandparents, and I know how lucky I am to still have them in my life. To learn from them, to love them and to spend time with them.

Unfortunately, not all millennials recognize the importance of visiting their grandparents, more than just on holidays. And it’s time to try to change that. There is so much to learn, and so much to love, when it comes to spending time with your grandparents.

Yes, your grandparents will always be blunt. They’re old enough to remember “the old days” and have lived through enough tragedy and triumph to be able to tell the difference between a catastrophe and a minor setback. They have raised children, doted on grandchildren (and potentially great grandchildren), embarked on adventures in their personal and professional lives and now they are in their precious twilight years. Many may have immigrated to this country for a better life — for their children, and for you.

If you are lucky enough to have a grandparent (or surrogate grandparent) to spend time with, then you are lucky enough to benefit from their years of wisdom. If you haven’t already taken advantage of this, it’s time to.

Learn about your family history
Can’t remember which one of your family members was a nurse or a card shark? Can’t remember your parents’ anniversary or a great (but embarrassing) story to share with your friends about your sibling? You can bet that your grandparents know it all! They usually have detailed memories about those members of your family you only see at weddings and funerals which comes in real handy when you come face to face with them again. Lord knows how many school projects they’ve helped us with (family trees, oral history, a remarkable person in our family… you know the ones). They’re sure to have many old photos for you to look back at, and maybe even laugh at how ridiculous your parents looked as teenagers. Plus, if they themselves are immigrants, make sure you learn their inspiring (and maybe even difficult) story of leaving one country for another.

They were part of many world events
The things we learned about in a textbook, many of our grandparents actually experienced. Yes, most millennials will be able to tell you where they were when the first plane hit the Twin Towers on September 11. But, our grandparents may remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. They may be able to remember the outbreak and aftermath of the second World War, the Vietnam War and for some, The Great Depression. They have known hardship and loss and it is has made them grateful for the things they have and the things they value most.

They’re great cooks
Okay, this doesn’t apply to all, but perhaps you are one of the lucky ones whose grandparents cook and cook well! Many families have secret family recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. Now it can be your turn to get your hands on it — just ask grandma. Cooking or baking these recipes together is such a fantastic way for you to not only keep the traditions of your family, but to strengthen your relationship as well. We all know that food makes every holiday special and we how we look forward to the traditions that make our stomachs and hearts feel full. Through their cooking, our grandparents have prepared you for the real world — where you have to cook for yourself and enjoy the little (and delicious) things in life.

They’re great examples of patience
As our grandparents are now older, they can teach us a thing or two about slowing down and enjoying life. They have a lot more free time to do leisurely activities — AKA all activities that require much patience! In our fast-paced millennial mindset, it is easy to forget to slow down and enjoy ourselves. Our grandparents have seen what can wait until tomorrow and are more than happy to set aside time to spend with their families, putting their hobbies on hold for some quality time.

 

At the risk of sounding morose, here is a heartbreaking reality: you never know how much time you have left with anyone. We would do well to cherish the moments of speaking loudly, explaining the internet and forcing them to take selfies with us… even those quiet times where we simply sit in each other’s company. It is the quality of our interactions that matters,they will become memories when we can no longer be together.

Here’s to the grandparents who still have that zest for life, a passion for family and a sense of humor about the aging process — may we all be lucky enough to get there someday!

When You’re a “Replacement Child”

Author: Mary Grace Donaldson, Real Life Stories

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “survivor’s guilt” before.

It’s often associated with war veterans who lost friends who became family while in combat — Vietnam, the Korean War, the Gulf War and the Iraq War are all recent examples.

Or maybe you’ve heard it talked about it with stories surrounding September 11. Workers who made it out of the buildings, but had coworkers who didn’t. Passengers who were supposed to get on the plane that morning but, for one reason or another, didn’t make their flight.

Or maybe you’ve heard it on a true crime show, in which surviving family members of someone who was murdered talk about how it “should have been me.”

The kind of survivor’s guilt that I experience is not of that magnitude, and I in no way want to minimize the pain of what veterans, 9/11 survivors and family members of murder victims deal with on a daily basis. The kind of survivor’s guilt I live with on a daily basis relates to someone I’ve never even met.

My parents lost a baby before I was born.

While I never did get to meet my older brother and have lived my entire existence as an only child, there are parts of knowing that he did exist that creep into my head almost every day, making me feel, well, guilty… and things that people who don’t understand say that are unintentionally hurtful.

The technical term for a child who lives following a deceased child — whether that deceased child was a baby or grew into childhood years — is Replacement Child. I’m truly one of the lucky ones as my parents never made me feel as though I were a “replacement” for my brother. At the same time, I often felt as though there were big shoes to fill just by virtue of his existence and subsequent death.

So, what can you say? Or, what shouldn’t you say?

Don’t ask me why someone I’ve never met has had such a profound affect on my life
My brother existed. He existed long enough for my parents to have him baptized in the hospital, and long enough to have one of the nurses take pictures. He paved the way for me to live the life I am currently living.

Don’t minimize his meaning
My brother had a life. He breathed air and his heart pumped red blood, even if it was only for moments.

Understand that I “what if” a lot
What would life have been like for me if my brother had lived? What type of person would I be? Would I have gone to the same schools? Had the same friends? What would my relationship with my parents have been like?

Understand that this isn’t something I open with
While I’m writing about this complicated part of my life — a part that could be perceived as sad, dramatic and confusing — I generally don’t want to talk about it because it’s complicated.

But if I do talk about it…
there’s a good chance that metaphorical light bulb will go off in your head about some unexplained part of my behavior à la “oh, that’s why she does that.” Yup. It all makes sense now why I don’t like it when you talk badly about your siblings, doesn’t it? But please know that I don’t blame you for venting, as I would do when I was younger. How could you possibly know if I don’t tell you?

How does it feel?

Sometimes it feels like you’re not worthy
I often wonder why my brother had to die and I got to live. It’s not fair. What did I do to deserve life? As a religious, church-going person, my belief is that God had a reason. But even as a person of faith, it’s admittedly easy to lose sight of that belief.

I am often left wondering if he’s proud of me
If I’m going with the belief that God had a reason for taking my brother before I even had the chance to meet him, I hope that he knows how much I appreciate life and won’t take it for granted.

I hope that one day we’ll meet
Again, my faith tells me that if I do all of the right things, we will. And I hope that if life after death is anything like life during life, we’ll at least be able to talk and I can get some answers.

 

Having feelings of survivor’s guilt, as well as wondering what your life would have been like if things were different, is something that stays with you for life — as much of it is venturing into the realms of the unknown.

But, I’m also here to tell you that if you come from a “Replacement Child” home, you are worthy. The only one who continues the idea that I’m not worthy in my own head is me, and no one else. And I’m trying to remove those thoughts from my head every single day.

You are loved. You are special in your own right. And if you are a person of faith as I am, it’s possible that you believe you have someone always watching over you.


For more information about infant loss, please visit www.hopeafterloss.org.

When Your Little Brother is Your Hero

Author: Michelle Ioannou, Real Life Stories

I should classify by saying that by “little brother” he is only three years my younger. But he will always be my little brother, just like he’ll always be my hero. My brother suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy — a progressive disease that weakens his muscle (all of the muscles, heart and lungs included) until, well, yeah.

My brother fights for his life every single day.

And you know what else? He never lets his disease get him down. I have never seen my brother cry over his disease, or even get fed up about it. He’s accepted that this is his life… but that it doesn’t have to define him. You know what does define him? His love of sports, especially the Mets and Jets.

Honestly? I think I’ve broken down over my brother’s disease more than he has. He doesn’t let it get to him — and that can put your entire life into perspective. Whenever I let things bother me, such as a boy not liking me back or ending a friendship, I take a step back. I think to myself, how silly this can seem that I’m complaining about this when my brother doesn’t complain about his disease at all. There is so much more to life, and so many other things to be grateful for.

I am so grateful for my brother. For his daily inspiration, and for his strength.

Despite all the obstacles he’s facing personally, his empathy for others is still awe inspiring. Last year, we were watching The Theory of Everything together, and in the movie they show Stephen Hawking’s diagnosis and battle with ALS, which is a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Instead of getting upset seeing similarities on the screen, do you know what he turned to me and said? “There’s people who have it so much worse than I do. I’m lucky.”

My heart melted. My handicapped brother, who can’t even lift his arm up to blow his nose by himself, is putting his own hardships aside, focusing on how fortunate he is, and sending his love and empathy to others. If that’s not amazing or awe-inspiring, I really don’t know what is.

My brother went to a Greek-American day school for ten years just like I did. For high school, he went to The Henry Viscardi School, an amazing school for physically handicapped students… where he ended up graduating salutatorian. He went on to get his Associate’s Degree, making dean’s list every semester. My brother achieved all this while his body was working against him, and making him weaker and weaker. He accomplished all this despite losing his father at 15 years old. And most importantly, he did all this with a smile on his face.

And on top of all of this? He’s my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. If I come home upset, he’s the first person there to cheer me up. If I’m going through a rough patch, he’s the one there to give me advice, and offer up some witty humor to get me laughing. Whenever I achieve something, no matter how big or how small, he’s the first one congratulating me. He’s the one calming me down when I’m anxious before a flight — the boy who can barely travel goes out of his way to make sure I’m okay. If all of this isn’t love, I really don’t know what is.

If we could all have the outlook on life that my brother has, the world would be a happier place. Despite all the bad in his life, that’s not what he focuses on. He focuses on the things in his life that bring him joy. He focuses on the fact that he has a roof over his head, food to eat, and a loving family that cares for him above and beyond.

We can all learn a little something from my little brother.


For more information about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, visit Parent Project MD or the Muscular Dystrophy Association.