Tuesday 13 August 2013

It's complicated

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings - their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

.How many siblings have my kids got? Let's start with my eldest.  He has four from me and four from his dad's subsequent relationship.. If you count Lily. And why wouldn't you count her? Well if you're fourteen and someone asks how many brothers and sisters you have, you might not want to bring up your dead sister right away, or maybe not even the ones that you don't live with....I don't know. But I can guess he doesn't say eight very often. Eight. Hmm. Split families, bereaved families, families with multiple children, how did it all happen?

I'm one of one so this is all new territory to me, brothers and sisters; like an exotic fruit; tantalising, juicy and apparently delicious but just out of reach.Unskilled in fighting, sharing and manilpulating parental favour;

I was dropped into the tumult of sibling jealousy and love that are so exquisitely intermingled they hardly seemed to know which they were or when. 
'I won't throw Lily into the nettles down by the river, she's too beautiful, ' for example. From a  three year old contemplating his newborn sister....

The ferocity of feelings between the kids can unsettle me and send me hurtling to the apex of the whirlwind, shouting, 'No! no!' like a banshee,  or, 'Its fine, it's fine, let's go do some baking', in high pitched, strung out, 
Lets- Placate-Everyone-Right-Now tones.
My partner meanwhile, eldest of five, hasn't even looked up. 'Just leave them, they'll sort it out', he might murmur.
'But they're killing each other!'
'It'll pass!'

When I was a child, everything was sedate, ordered, quiet...ok pretty dull if the truth be known!!! Predictable and unchanging; and I read alot of books.  Mainly about big, noisy rambunctious families charging around doing exotic, alien things like stealing each others toys and fighting over the last slice of cake. It sounded so exciting, so unreachable, so desirable.

So I decided to have my own big noisy rambunctious family. Four, always four. But complicated things like relationship break-ups happen, and before I knew it I had my four kids but by two dads, although the spacing between broods was close enough to make a cohesive family. 

Each permutation of child pairings had a different dynamics. And these dynamics flowed and changed with time. And just as I find the fighting almost unbearable to watch, so I find the moments of tenderness and true affection almost unbelievable too. 'But they really love each other!!'

And then Lily died and everyone has an angel for a sister. No one quite knows how to do without her but they have no choice.
But it doesn't mean their relationship with her has died. All her siblings still love her, even the ones who have never met her on earth. Since little Finch was born three weeks ago, we often say that Lily probably played a part in him deciding to join our family. And although it breaks my heart that  I will never see Finch and Lily together on earth, I know they had a great time together before he was born.....

A white feather always connects the kids to their big sister, floating to the ground in front of them, 'Lily is preening her wings,' they say. 
We talk about her, remember things she said, notice traits in the younger ones which remind us of Lily. And all the children have times when they just sigh and wish she was here again.

Truthfully, Tansy and Leo probably have no real memory of her, they were so young, but the presence of their lost sibling is so powerful and graceful that they can never forget her.
A sister is always a sister, wherever they are.
And five kids are five kids, wherever they are, I didn't plan to have part of my family in heaven, but the relationship between them all will flow and change and grow as they change and grow.
This is their life, and death is part of it, as it is for everyone.
Freddie, Lily, Tansy, Leo and Finch.
Who love each other.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister's new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it's definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It's Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life's twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband's have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that's maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins' sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children's relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen's children didn't start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don't Seek What Isn't There - On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?


  1. What beautiful ways to remember their sister. And I have always wanted a big raucous family, too. I'm not sure how that will happen, but I'm holding out hope!

    1. Thanks Dionna, and good luck, you never know what's around the corner....

  2. What a beautiful post. I'm glad your kids are keeping the memory of Lily alive and that they have so many connections on earth as well. It must be a change to go from a small family to a large one — my grandmother did the same thing, was an only who had five kids of her own. Thank you for your post!

    1. Thanks, nice to know your Grandmother did the same..maybe its quite common!

  3. So lovely! And a perfectly sized family... no matter how it came about!

    1. Thankyou Laura...yes it doesn't really matter how it happened does it?

  4. I completely understand what you mean about not knowing what to respond with when people ask how many siblings you have. In my family, I technically have 6 siblings. 1 full brother, 2 step-brothers, 2 step-sisters, and 1 half-sister that I've never met. I don't think people want that kind of answer when they ask such a simple question though. I learned that pretty quickly growing up. Some of my friends still don't know all the aspects of my blended family and are surprised when they learn new facts about me. All sorts of families are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It can be so complicated can't it, its interesting to hear of your experience as an adult that it's still a challenge to disclose full details of your family!

  5. Truly beautiful post! I have always wanted a big family, too. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thankyou Kellie, ..big families are great!!

  6. How beautiful. I'm sorry for your loss. And yes, what does a child do with the knowledge of an angel sibling? I have a friend who was born after her mother had a stillborn baby, and I think she feels that presence as part of her upbringing, somehow. If asked, she only counts her living siblings, but she holds her departed one in her heart.

    1. Thankyou. YEs its very hard...even for me sometimes too, I think the younger kids find it easier and often mention their sister to their friends.

  7. What a beautiful post. It is wonderful how all your children have a memory of Lily because you are keeping them alive for them. My mother in law had an older sister who died aged two, she felt her father never got over it but nobody ever talked about it which was probably why. She felt she lived her life in her shadow not in a positive way. If only she had been part of your family :)

    1. Thankyou that's really kind. Yes I know several people who have experienced a similar loss in childhood but never had the chance to speak about it. The effects can be really long lasting. Sometimes its hard to deal with the pain of being upset together but it feels like a healing experience...

  8. Such a beautiful and honest portrayal of family life and loss.

    San x

  9. Love you from too far away these days, dear Hen! Give Finch a hug from me and send me an address somehow!

  10. Since my uncle died we have a lot of feathers floating down to us too, completely out of the sky no birds to be seen anywhere. or we find e are sitting or walking somewhere and a feather will be in some special place, right there, for us to find. He had a bird spirit too. It's comforting to feel that connection, and the name Finch so beautiful. I'm truly happy for you to have another soul with you, I'm sure he and Lily know one another very well. She will be with you always xxx

  11. Strange how our childhood scenarios can make us yearn for the opposite of what we grew up with. While you were dreaming of the excitement of a large family with loads of siblings, I with two siblings but also dozens of cousins in an extended family that seemed to spend all it's time together - family gatherings were weekly, nightly and holidays could mean up to 100 people crammed into one house and the problem was always finding tables sturdy and enormous enough to withstand the weight of all that food - Amid the crowds and the din I craved peace and quiet and solitude like nothing else. If you'd have asked me what I wanted, more than anything, it was an end to the noise, the fighting, the endless teasing and being picked on (honestly, I experienced it as torment); I would have said, "I just want to be left alone" . . . which may well be why as an adult I can scarcely get enough of being alone . As a child I didn't know any only children but I knew they existed and I envied the life I imagined them to have.


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