Friday, April 5, 2013

Mom would say ... #5 Your siblings are your best friends

I hated my little brother. He was adorable, took the attention from a happy twosome (my older brother and me), and had a mind of his own. My parents oohed and aahed over him. Our aunts and uncles cooed over his cuteness. I noticed. And was jealous. We had fierce spats in childhood because we disliked each other. Thankfully, we became friends as adults.

When my third child - a boy who even looked and acted like my "little brother" - came along, I was determined to ward off a similar sibling rivalry. I told our older two: "Wow, you're the big kids now! God gave you a little brother who will be your friend and admire you! He's going to think you are fantastic. Be good to him. It's your job to take care of him."

We fussed over the baby, but never to the exclusion of the other kids. He was "their baby" from the start.

We reinforced the importance and responsibility - and privileges - of being older. Today, the siblings get along and look our for each other. They're in each others' wedding pictures and attend events together. We eat Sunday lunches as a family, with dear daughters-in-love and grandkids around the big table.

There's a story in the Bible about twins whose relationship was rocky. The story of Jacob and Esau includes ambition, greed, inheritance, and divided parental expectations. In Middle East culture, the firstborn son got the lion share of the family goods. With goods came authority. Being the firstborn brought great responsibilities to care for the family, but that son determined how the rest of his family lived.

Esau beat Jacob into the world by just a few minutes. From birth, Jacob grasped Esau's heel and wanted the privileges and rights of his older brother. Here's part of the story - how Jacob legally stole the inheritance:

One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, "I'm starved! Give me some of that red stew."' (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means 'red.')

"All right," Jacob replied, "but trade me your rights as the firstborn son."

"Look, I'm dying of starvation!" said Esau. "What good is my birthright to me now?"

But Jacob said, "First you must swear that your birthright is mine"' So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn. Genesis 25:29–34 NLT

Eventually Esau and Jacob's descendents became foes. They fought for land and power in later generations. The enmity of their forefathers became a wedge between neighbors and cousins.

What kind of a family legacy are you building between siblings? Is your child a heart friend to her brother? A selfish conniver against his sister? A peacemaker? A thorn in the family's side? How will later generations speak of your children? We need to model ways to show love, forgiveness, and inclusion to those around us, including our children.

We'd love your ideas about how you're helping your kids build strong family ties.

Mom would say: Friends come and go. Family is forever!


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