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Atoke’s Monday Morning Banter: Siblings ‘R’ Us

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The most intense and emotionally wracking fights I’ve had in my existence have been with my brother. After two years of not speaking, I wondered whether the argument of who should have returned the cassettes to Video Net was really worth it.
The thing with siblings is that they have this uncanny ability to make you so mad that you’ll feel the blood flow to your face. In that instance, the furthest thing from your mind is the fact that you share one of the most vital life elements with them – blood. However, it is this shared parentage that makes the sibling bond one of the strongest in the world.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of baby sitting my friend’s children. Aged 6 and 2, this brother and sister had the most remarkable love for each other. They had a hug and kiss routine every time I dropped Kay in school. Without fail, he would stoop low into the buggy and kiss Rae on the forehead before heading towards his class. At the bed time call, he’d ask if he could read Rae a story. It was most the poignant expression of love I’d seen in a long time.

Growing up makes you jaded. The interference of adults don’t exactly make it easier. Somehow you lose all the free-minded innocence of childhood. Life, generally, conspires to steal the joy of simplicity from you. It starts from parents who, in a bid to carry every soldier along, decide to pit siblings against one another.
“Does your brother, Michael have two heads? How come he can ‘wind’ the generator and you can’t?”
“Do you not see how your sister lays her bed right after she wakes up? Why can’t you be like her?”
“Your brother bought Daddy a Thomas Pink shirt. You’re coming with Cedarwood State.”

Before long, resentment slips in and there’s the tiny part of you that just hates that human that is the representation of every inadequacy that is highlighted in you. Somehow, a seed is planted against your sibling – who should ideally be the closest person to you.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where siblings plot and conspire against each other for inheritance. We live in a world where one sibling feels the need to show that he is better off than the other? Oh your child goes to school in France? Well mine just got admitted into Juilliard. There are only two Africans in the entire school.

Sometimes, it gets so bad that siblings are estranged to the extent that they resort to diabolical means to eliminate each other.

“Your sister is supposed to be your best friend!” I squealed, in response to a story The Nengz was telling me about two sisters who were deeply estranged.
“No. You have to understand that it’s okay to not like your sibling… the way you won’t like some people – because of their character.” She responded with a deadpan expression on her face.

She went on  to explain that siblings should not necessarily get special treatment, especially if you genuinely do not like them and how they act. They are people, and you can’t like everyone you meet. However, while I understand that, somewhere in the corner of my heart, I can’t imagine being estranged from either of my siblings.

They are the ones I share all my earliest memories with. If I think of something as ridiculous as when I used to suck my tongue, my brother would remind me of the pillow that was the support prop. When I hear a Boney M song, I can be sure that my sister will remind me of the turntable in our house and how we took turns to choose who plays what LP or not. And perhaps the most important reason why I would bend over backwards to hold on to my relationship with my siblings, is the memory that sometime in March 2010, we stood together, hands in a tight grip, clad in blue, pouring sand on a box that contained one of us.

When death hits you unannounced the way it did us, everything else comes into perspective. You forget that one person is “Daddy’s pet” and has a penchant for snitching. It becomes immaterial that somebody’s girlfriend was rude to you when you walked into the house. In that life defining moment – hearing the thud of sand on wood – you realize that nothing… absolutely nothing is guaranteed in life.

Instead of getting angry at them the way I used to, I quickly address the issue and remember that if all crashes, these people are my original best friends. We have ensured that our relationship is structured in a way that at no point in time are we leaving a gap for dissension and strife. And in all things, there is always a room for mediation. Because human beings are prone to fail and hurt you anyway. It doesn’t matter that they are children of your parents. They’re still humans.

Atoke CheeriosWhat’s important is realizing that there’s a reason why you have siblings. It may differ from family to family, but I’d hazard a guess and say it is so that, at all times, somebody has your back. And when the family grows to include a spouse, please extend the love you have for your sibling to their spouse. It is heartbreaking to see that sometimes, when there’s an existing toxic relationship between siblings, the spouse coming into the family is inadvertently walking into a war zone. How do you navigate through the murky waters of dissent that has lasted for 30 years or more? Other times, this negativity trickles down to the next generation. You find aunties maltreating their nieces, because they can’t seem to let go of the bitterness of how their sibling maltreated them two decades ago.

Relationships are hard work and nothing gets handed to you on a platter. Not even the fact that someone is your sister guarantees that you’re going to have the easiest relationship, it takes quite a bit of work. I remember when my sister and I promised to speak to each other every Saturday morning. Without fail, in spite of the 10- year age difference, we would speak for hours on the phone, laughing about the most mundane things. We worked on ensuring that we took our relationship from Sisters to Friends.

Nothing good comes easy. Call your siblings today. And if you’re on a 2-year fight (Yes, I’ve been on one of those) just pick up your phone, swallow your pride and ego…and call.

Because…sand, wood, silence.

Have a beautiful week ahead. October’s in the horizon and it’s going to be a great month.. I can feel it in my bones. Oh, before I sign off, let’s talk about the hangout I’ve been trying to set up. It turns out we can’t seem to get Google Hangout to work, so I’m trying out the option of If you want to be a part of the 30-minute chat for writers where we talk about writing… please get GoToMeeting. I’ll put the link for the date in the next couple of weeks.

Peace, love & cabbage strips.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Handmademedia

You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.