The Strangers We Grew Up With…

Recently, I was having dinner with my parents and a sibling.  During the conversation, it became painfully clear to me that we had nothing in common.  This wasn’t the big revelation though.  We’ve drifted apart long ago and are not close though we’re certainly cordial.  For years, our small talk have been awkward and impersonal. What struck me was the realization that I can’t make this person laugh at anything I say.  The most response I get for any jokes / funny comments is a soft, forced smile or a tepid laugh.  In contrast, I’ve been getting to know a co-worker and she bursts out laughing at a lot of my comments, and I can also make my co-workers laugh on a regular basis. 

It’s strange when someone you grew up with and know all your life becomes just another person, more like a complete stranger I was forced to sit next to at a friend’s dinner party.

I realize that the wistful tone of this post might result in advice on rebuilding this relationship.  I have no interest in doing so as this sibling annoys me on a regular basis and I’m more than happy to keep my distance.

17 responses to “The Strangers We Grew Up With…

  1. “That’s disappointing” seems like such an inadequate thing to say, but it does sound like you know what you want from this relationship. But it is disappointing–at the very least–to realize that you aren’t going to have the relationship you want. I’m sorry.

    • Actually, I think disappointing is the right word. I’m not sad or unhappy about it because I think it’s common. It’s very nice to be close to siblings but it seems like you really have a 50/50 chance of hitting it off as individuals. I truly enjoy being around people who I like because of who they are, and not simply because of blood relations or an in-law situation.

  2. Well that reminds me of the saying “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family” We are all different and in friendship groups, of course, we pick like minded people who we love to be around. Family is different! In a perfect world we all love each other dearly, love spending time together and bond happily over precious moments. In the real world, we are different, we can clash, we have different senses of humor and will choose different paths for ourselves….but we are family. We don’t have to be best friends but I do believe we, as family, should try to be there for each other. My family is not perfect in any way, we are so different, live all over the country, don’t keep in constant contact, have had estrangements but when it comes to the crunch we are there for each other. My father, who I did not grow up living with, suddenly became ill and sadly passed away, we were all there…all differences melted away, past issues became irrelevant and we realised that we had one common bond…we are family.
    I also think of my children, they were hugely different from each other from birth and as teens are almost opposite, but I hope and wish that they will always be there for each other, especially in times of need. I also hope that when they are older and when we gather for a family dinner that they are not secretly rolling there eyes and wishing they could get out of being with us. By all means spend 95% of the time with friends that you love and have fun with but for the 5%of the time that you have to spend with family…isn’t it better to try to make the most of it. Some people don’t have the luxury of having family members alive or around to love or to annoy them and they would give anything to just spend 1 hour with them…….Food for thought??

    • Yes, I like the idea that we should be there for family, and I will always be there for my parents. I just feel like that sometimes it’s more natural to be there for friends than certain family members. I just don’t feel that this particular sibling would be there for me.

  3. So when you talk about strangers you grew up with you are really only talking about one sibling? Hopefully that sibling may surprise you? I was so proud of my brother when my dad died as they had not spoken in years, after a massive argument, but he was there with us at my Dad’s bedside, hospital waiting room, funeral etc. If your sibling was at the family lunch, than that is a start???

    • I guess mainly this sibling but also SIL, BIL and a few others. It’s not a “bad” relationship per se, but more of nothing in common. But in all cases, we see each other at every family gathering and make small talk easily. I think that when it comes to family tragedies like a parent’s passing, s/he will be there but we won’t lean on each other. I’m not saying that s/he won’t be there for my parents.

    • Oh, I actually find in-law relations more difficult as it’s not blood nor real friendship and if you don’t have anything in common and not even bonded by blood relation, it’s all small talk.

  4. I feel like I have nothing in common with my sister except a love for food and musicals (and a love for my children). Outside of those topics we really don’t have much to say to each other. So we mostly talk about food. But when people who know one of us meet the other one they comment on our similarities, so there’s something there I don’t see. My husband says we’re both similar and different.

    As we’re older we are much more polite to each other than we used to be. I kind of like that separation.

  5. This shows me a HUGE cultural difference between American culture and the Indian culture of my parents. I’m also not close with my brother and it disturbs my parents to no end, to the point that they’re always trying to make us be better “friends” and reminding me how important it is, etc. Whereas everyone here in the comments is more “it is what it is” and realizing that it’s personality, etc. (Which is how I lean.) Fascinating.

    • I think Chinese culture is also definitely more about family (by blood or marriage) than Americans in general. We seem to have tons of family obligations and always have to take extended family into consideration. It’s not that my parents wouldn’t want us to be closer but I think knowing how different we are, they’re just happy we’re cordial and friendly when forced together!

  6. Yes I guess it is every parents hope that their children can at least be “nice” to each other as they turn into adults. I am from Australia and as a culture, we definitely don’t have that strong Asian family bond/tie tradition. Over the years I think families have changed massively. In my mums days you usually all lived quite close to family, in the same town, and saw/relied on each other alot more. Nowadays many of us live nowhere near our faimlies, many young families have both parents working and we seem to get busier and busier. I have no family near me and we are so busy that a quick phone call every now and then is all we can manage. It is so rare for us all to be in the one place together and when it does happen, I cherish those moments immensley.

  7. Family. Egads. I finally decided this year to give up trying to create closer bonds with two of my siblings. It has to be a two-way street to work. The beauty of living far away and being childless is that I don’t have any sense of “obligation” to deal with them frequently. I’m curious as to how you are going to navigate this with your kids? I do my best to maintain close ties with my nieces and nephews. I would assume your sibling would want to do the same, even if she is too lame to appreciate your jokes. 😉

  8. CF–Good to get your comments again. I also do my best to maintain close ties with nieces and nephews, but I admit my / our relationship with the parents have an influence on the degree of closeness.

  9. I share your disappointment that, for all intents and purposes, I don’t really have a sibling anymore. Mine spent most of his life being a manipulative leech and latching onto unhealthy relationships so that we had both nothing in common and many reasons to fight. It broke my mom’s heart, I think, that we simply couldn’t have a relationship. Even though her siblings were almost uniformly terrible to her, she still wanted a relationship with them *because* they were her siblings and because it’s culturally expected that family always comes first.
    It’s a shame but if there’s no basis for the relationship, it’s just not going to work and I think that not accepting that because it’s a cultural expectation is the pits.
    I used to wonder about the kids thing as well but, like you, my relationship (or lack of one) with the parents tends to dictate how close I am with cousins/nieces/nephews and conversely, I don’t think my sibling will be any kind of a good influence on my kids so I don’t want him around them (you know, my non existent kids!).

    • With kids, it does seem “weird’ that mine are not close to their cousins but I also think it’s strange that some people expect that closeness automatically. It is disappointing when I think about it, but I try not to let cultural expectations weigh me down.

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