Monday, June 14, 2010

Siblings as Best Friends: An Unheard of Concept Today?

One thing I've noticed about people who comment negatively on the Duggars is that they seem to equate the Duggar children getting along well with each other and enjoying other's company as being "isolated" from outside friends. For some reason the idea that children can be friends with each other is some kind of alien concept--it must mean they have no other people to be friends with and they are, somehow settling for being friends with their siblings because they have no other choice. This fascinates me.

I have one sister who is 10 years older than me. She left for college when I was 8--then went straight to graduate school--twice. I never got the chance to really know her until we were both adults and by then, it was too late for real "bonding." We settle for an uncomfortable friendship when we're in the same room together, but otherwise it's doubtful that we remember each other exists. Aside from the obvious age difference--not many 17 year olds actually want to hang out with a 7 year old--I think part of it also comes from how my parents tried to respect her after I was adopted. They went out of their way to remind her that she wouldn't be REQUIRED to babysit or care for me in their place. While at the time this was probably good for her peace of mind, I think at the same time it had it's disadvantages--we aren't at all close and I also think it may have fueled some of her resentment, seeing me being cared for by her parents and she wasn't invited or asked to assist. It's just a theory as I've never been brave enough to ask her why we're both so uncomfortable around each other.

The fact is that the Duggar children have friends outside their home. We've seen a few of them on screen, but it's my honest belief that the Duggars are attempting to give their children some aspect of privacy in a world where they are all well-known. By choosing to keep the show focused on their family, they've allowed their children to have some small pieces of "private" life. There have been random references to different friends by different Duggar kids during the run of the show, but you have to really pay attention to notice--so in that sense people can claim that the Duggar kids don't have friends because we rarely if ever "see" it.

I also think it may go back to the theory that people are annoyed because their kids don't get along with each other as well as the Duggar kids do, therefore it's time to pounce--If I failed, everyone must fail, right? Unfortunately it's very hard to admit as parents when we goof--I myself get very defensive when my parenting is questioned, but I know it comes from a place of fear that they are right, not confidence.

When the Duggars started to see that the children were going to keep on coming, as it were, I have a feeling that the home-schooling idea became not just a way to express their faith, but also a means of self-preservation. Michelle has said more than once that when Josh was small and she began to research home-schooling, one of the things she noticed right away from the home-schooling familes she met was that the kids all seemed to get along well with each other and that they seemed to be becoming friends with each other. I have no doubt that seeing that possibility was a huge comfort for them. Who wants a house full of 19 kids that can't get along with each other? Just 2 kids who never seem to get along will bring an entire house down, emotionally.

I have seen the older kids and the younger kids get along and enjoy being together. It isn't out of duty either. You can tell that they are happy together--there isn't a forced quality there. Not all of them can be that good of actors. I don't think it's brainwashing either. We know the kids cry and express their emotions, even if it's been said they aren't allowed to. My sister and I fake it and anyone with an eye can see it, some things you just can't fake: genuine affection is one of them.


  1. There is nothing wrong with being best friends with your siblings. I also see nothing wrong with NOT being best friends with your siblings. Just as long as you get along, love each other, and have a healthy relationship.

    I agree that the Duggar kids appear close and I believe they will always look out for each other.:) MaryBeth, you said you are not close with your sister. I suspect Josh is not all that close to the younger kids. I'm sure he loves them all to pieces...but he is out of the house and a dad.

    My youngest sister is closer to me because I helped raise her. My oldest sister was married and living out of state while she was growing up. So there is always a person who you can relate to.

  2. I agree - that it is more than ok to have a sibling a best or close friend. I think age has a lot to do with it - but not everything. Our boys are 8 years apart - and it is fun to see the "friendship" forming even while the youngest is still a baby. Of course I think it's more than ok for kids of all ages to help with household chores including caring for younger siblings.

    I also think family "friendships" or "togetherness" needs to be fostered. It won't happen if everyone is running around to different separate events/activities. Family "activities" be it a field trip, game night, camping, or whatever need to happen on a regular basis.

  3. My sister, who is 8 years older than me and spent the first 8 years of MY life trying to wipe me off the planet, (loooooong story)and I to this DAY get along fairly well as long as we don't have to live together. We can visit just fine, even plan things or spend a week or 2 on vacation together... But longer than that and we start sniping at each other.. My 2 younger brothers spent their childhoods fighting with each other (2 year age difference) and to this day will NEVER be able to live with each other and vacations lasting longer than 3 days have them yelling at each other at the top of their lungs.

    I think it has more to do with the way you are raised and expected to act with each other and personalities than anything else.

    I can get along with all of them but I had a very very unique position in the family. By the time I was 8 years old I was the oldest living in the house but at the same time I was also a middle child... (therapists have a field day with me LOL) so I have traits of both. I am the peacemaker and the boss and rule maker. I was the mothers helper, and mothers little demon all rolled into one... ;)

  4. Wow Cyn! You got to experience the sibling world from both sides. I LOVE my younger sisters to pieces...but we would NEVER make it as friends. To me LOVE and LIKE are two different things. I LOVE my whole family...but it's a few I just don't LIKE. Am I making sense...?

  5. I read this post and immediately thought of my mother who was number 3 of 9. She and her 6 sisters were close as children and as adults - especially the first 3 girls all born within 4 years.

    The times were very different in the 1930s and 1940s when my mother grew up in farm country and attend a 2 room school. Her class had one other child, who was a boy. So her sisters were her best friends. They were close by economy (living in a small space and sharing a room) and also by being on the farm doing chores together.

    So, like the Duggars, the family was almost always together and was engaging the a multitude of shared activities. This just doesn't seem to be the "norm" these days and I'm sure that is part of the reason people react to the Duggar siblings being friends as being odd.