Sibling Rivalry, Part Two: Teaming Up

We’re on the second of three weeks to think about the siblings (or close cousins) in our lives. Last week, I asked you to focus on your oldest brother or sister and your memories of childhood with your sibling(s). Today, write about your next oldest sibling. If you’re an only child, choose a cousin or a buddy from school. I’ve only got one sibling (my younger sister), so I’ll continue writing about her.

If you come from a big family and have multiple siblings, be sure to look back at our previous post for some ideas to jog your memories of childhood for this week’s sibling. In the same way, take your sibling about whom you wrote last week and apply the questions below to them and their memories.

Zeb and Sarah in Minnesota, July 1989

This week’s topical prompt is your school years (grade school, high school, college). Most likely, you and your sibling attended the same schools, at least through high school. If you are close in age, you may have even walked the same halls with your brother or sister. Did your teachers ever compare you to your sibling? Was it a favorable comparison?

My sister Sarah and I attended the same schools through college, from private grade school and parochial high school to the University of Delaware (free tuition as a result of Dad working there). We even enrolled in the same degree program in college, although I think we had different advisors.

A large part of the high school experience for me was the various activities I was involved in: music, academic clubs, and student publications. Sarah participated in some of the same activities as I did, though with slight differences – we both were in the marching band but played different instruments (me tuba, her French horn) and we were both on the staff of the school’s literary magazine.

Did you and your sibling share common interests during your school years? Were you involved in the same service organizations or sports teams? Did you enjoy having a sibling in the same clubs, or were they a nuisance? Were you ever involved in an activity you didn’t enjoy just because your sibling was there first?

Same place, eight years later, the summer before I entered college

The middle and high school years are the time when our personalities start to be formed as distinct from our parents. Did this time of personal discovery ever cause friction between you and your sibling? Did your parents ever give your sibling special privileges (due to age, maturity, etc.) that you made you jealous of them?

Were there secrets that you and your sibling kept from the rest of your family? Did your sibling introduce you to any “rebellious” practices (first smoke, first drink, sneaking in after curfew, etc.)?

For some people, going to college is the first opportunity they have to establish their own identity. The list of reasons (conscious or unspoken) for attending college is worthy of a topic by itself, but for now think about college and your siblings.

As I mentioned earlier, my sister and I both graduated from the same degree program at the university in our hometown. I was more involved in extra-curricular activities (marching band, a capella, and work-study) than she was, but on the other hand, she went on more dates and enjoyed a larger circle of friends than I had.

Did you and your sibling attend the same college, and was it close to home or far away? Did the two of you pursue similar majors, or was one a poet and the other a chemical engineer? Was college a time for you and your sibling to grow closer together or did it serve as a catalyst to separate you further?

My college commencement, January 2002

As always, feel free to share your own memories below. Even a brief reminiscence written out can help jumpstart your family narrative.

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