Journaling Through Relationships — Siblings 8

“They say that no matter how old you become, when you are with your siblings, you revert back to childhood.”  Karen White, The Memory of Water


EVERY FAMILY IS UNIQUE. I grew up in a fairly large one, with five active, rowdy brothers. I was the only girl, born smack dab in the middle of the pack. We were spread apart in age though, so that by the time I was old enough to understand the concept of “family” my oldest brother had gone away to college. And I was in high school when my youngest brother was born. Still, surrounded as I was by all that male energy, I longed for a sister — someone like me, someone to share my girl-soul with.

The boys, full of untamed energy, expressed themselves by fighting each other (and me), throwing rocks, and waging battles with sticks. I held my own but, like Jane Austen, often thought: “What strange creatures brothers are!” I spent a lot of time alone, reading, playing pretend games like “house” and “school” (I was always the teacher), climbing trees, roller skating, and exploring the neighboring fields.

As the only girl I held a privileged position in the family: I was the only one who had a bedroom to myself. On the other hand, when my father took my brothers camping or hunting, leaving me behind, I felt left out. And we all wore second-hand clothing — In my case, it was boys’ clothing instead of girls’.

My brothers and I had relationships mostly characterized by competition for attention and confrontation with each other. My next youngest brother and I were the closest in age, only two years apart. Consequently, we played together more than with the others as we grew up. Yet, as adults, we all drifted apart and live very separate lives.

I credit the rough-and-tumble nature of my early interactions with my brothers for both an inner lack of self-confidence (from the incessant and cruel teasing we inflicted on one another) and an outer toughness that has served me well in my academic and professional life.

Journaling about my brothers, our mutual yet different upbringings, and how we interacted as children has helped me to better understand our adult relationships as well as how my relationships with my siblings have affected other areas and relationships in my life.


Journaling Prompts

  • Did you grow up in a large or small family? Where were you in the birth order and how do you think that position affected your perceptions of your siblings?
  • Did gender influence your relationship with your siblings?
  • Would you characterize your relationships with your siblings as close or distant (or a mix)? What are the factors that influenced your closeness with them? And has that distance changed over the years?
  • Which sibling were you closest to when you were a child? Have you maintained that closeness? Why or why not?
  • Which sibling did you have the most difficult relationship with when you were a child? How did the nature of that relationship change as you grew to adulthood?
  • List at least eight characteristics you and your siblings have in common. What do you like and dislike about these characteristics, and why?
  • Do you feel drawn to or repelled by people who resemble your siblings? Why do you think you react the way you do?
  • Do you have friends that remind you of any of your siblings? If so, what qualities do they have in common with your siblings?
  • Write the name of each sibling at the top of a fresh page in your journal. For each one, freewrite for 5 minutes using the following sentence starter: “What I remember most about [Name] when we were children, is . . .”
  • If you could go back in time and change anything about your relationships with your siblings, what would you change?


What’s your sibling story?
And with which of these prompts will you start writing?


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8 thoughts on “Journaling Through Relationships — Siblings

  • Linda Visman

    A great post!
    I am the middle of five kids, with boys the eldest and youngest and 3 girls in the middle. I was a tomboy and my sisters were girly girls so, even though we were much less than two years apart, we were very different.
    I am going to answer these questions you have posed and explore, for the first time really, my relationships with my 4 siblings. Thank you for the prompt. 🙂

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    Thanks, Amber, for sharing your sibling story. I, too, grew up in an all male home and felt a certain amount of privilege in being the only girl. Sometimes, I felt excluded when my father took my brothers fishing and hunting. On top of that, my neighborhood was all male. So, I had to learn to cope in an all-male environment. Doing so made me confident and willing to take risks. On the down side I didn’t understand little girls in school. They always seemed so overly dramatic and unwilling to let things go. Boys would fight but then it was over. With girls, battles lingered below the surface. Even when I matured and entered the workplace, I handled men much better than women. Okay, rambling. But your prompts definitely sparked some thoughts and feelings. Thanks!

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Ah-ha! Sara, I knew we had something more in common than writing (LOL). It’s always been easier for me to understand boys/men than girls/women, which I’ve chalked up to being raised in such a male environment. Even my mother had what people might call male energy — ambitious, analytical, goal-driven, not nurturing. So I can relate to all that you mentioned.

  • Kathy

    Growing up in a large family, it was hard to get the attention of my parents. I was the second child, my only brother being the eldest. My next sister was two years younger than I. We were very close and to this day, we continue to share our trials and triumphs. The youngest sister was six years younger. She was the “baby” and attention centered on her as she became more of a single child. The first three kids had to fend for themselves. I was the studious one, yet adventurous when it came to exploring the neighborhood on my bike. My older brother was very competitive with us and teased us all the time. It was hard to be serious with him, although he was a fascinating young man who studied astronomy, chess and languages (Spanish/French). He was the only college educated of the four of us. He had tenuous relationships with girls and seemed to be his own worse enemy. His diagnosis of type I Diabetes certainly impacted his life. He passed away at 70 years old when hit in a cross walk by a car. I’m still dealing with the closure of his death. Lots to journal about and now I have a non-relationship with my youngest sister who claims I disrespected my parents over the way I disposed of their belongings when they passed away. Sounds like a soap opera when I view my turmoil over the last event. To write it all down and find some closure would be the route to go. I’ve written to the youngest sister, but no response as she said she wants no part of me or my other sister. Sad business when your flesh and blood reject you on such a flimsy reason (at least to me). Sorry for the long tirade. Your article hit a nerve and need to continue writing until I find peace.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Kathy, thank you for sharing your sibling story. Your first line really struck me: “Growing up in a large family, it was hard to get the attention of my parents.” I wonder if that’s true of all of us who grew up in large families: we had to do so much fending for ourselves. You have a lot of loss to process, with the deaths of your parents and brother and loss of connection with your youngest sister. Hopefully, your sister will come around and at least be willing to talk with you. In the meantime, do keep writing. It can help.