“That was nice, Baby Girl,” I said after I saw her putting her brother into an affectionate neck strangle.
“I gave [Little Man] a hug and told him he did a good job,” she said.
It wasn’t that she knew he did a good job; she spent the entirety of the T-ball game sifting through the nearby stream for minnows.
It wasn’t that this was our routine after games: hugs and attaboys.
I think it was that she knew he needed it. Siblings can sense these unspoken needs in a way that is hard to qualify or quantify but which seems as true and clear as a car emerging from the car wash. Perhaps that is what siblings are: people who have come through the same wash cycle, people who’ve been scrubbed by the same soap, buffed by the same brushes, people who entered and exited from the same places. And sometimes they’re not even biological.
My friend Haddy says she loves “to see siblings becoming.” I think this is perfectly put. After just a week at home with my kids on summer vacation, I love to see them becoming so much more than the girl and boy who were knit together in the same pouch. Their identities as singular punks are evolving just as surely as the identity they share as a sibling set: they are whole people and they are part of a whole greater than themselves. They share a horizontal relationship that will be recognized with confirmations, like, “Ah, of course, you are his sister,” and, at times, with incredulity “Oh! He’s your brother?!” that I’m sure will follow them well into their adulthood.
I am grateful to have witnessed their early moments of gelling and the inevitable moments where they beat the tar out of one another. I am overcome sometimes how two people who didn’t get to choose one another for five years continue to choose one another: as playmates, as best frenemies. I think about the disadvantages they have, living so many hundreds of miles removed from any family. How they don’t know many of their grands and aunties and uncles and cousins in anything more than monochrome, in one dimension.
But then I think about the great, immeasurable advantage of just having a sibling with whom to suffer these really weird parents. Even if they have nothing in common, have disparate life goals, have no abiding interest in pursuing a meaningful relationship with one another–siblings have the goods on one another. They understand how each other came to be, far better than their parents could ever fathom. They will know the ticking of each other’s hearts, not just the steady rhythmic beats but the wild, erratic hiccups and dips and the soul-thirst for a hug after a T-ball game, where upon a little brother, aka “Little Bother” asked the snack provider for an extra juicebox. “For my sister.”