The connections that we have to ourselves and others have become the subject of discussions during this pandemic in ways they hadn’t been in previous years. There is more emphasis on helping one another and reaching out for support since we are all experiencing the same uncertainty. For many people, the first place they think to reach out to is their family, since that is the longest and sometimes strongest relationship they have. A strong and healthy relationship to family and the various members that make up the unit is not the case for everyone. However, familial relationships are the base for all of our interactions, positive or not.
In the fourth episode of the Michelle Obama podcast
, her older brother, Craig Robinson, joined in her discussion about their experiences growing up, the lessons their parents taught them, and the impact their relationships as siblings have on their lives.
Identical twins don’t share the same experiences, let alone siblings with age and gender differences. They are raised by the same people and grow up in the same house and community, but the inherent differences that make people unique give siblings different experiences growing up. Where Robinson was more adventurous from an early age, Obama was more careful and preferred to play in an environment that she had more control over, though she did eventually venture outside to play.
But like a good big brother, he never let his sister feel as if she was unwelcome or unwanted in the outdoor sports he played. There was not a competition between them or any fight to be the preferred child. They could play the same sport without fear of feeling like they had to be better than the other. This celebration and support of similar and differing interests is key to fostering healthy relationships between siblings. They shouldn’t be made to feel like they have to outperform or outshine their siblings, or tear the other down if they are more successful.
While not everyone has a happy and healthy childhood and home life, having that good and solid does make a difference later on in life. Obama reflects on the fact that her parents' and brother’s support was never in question for her. She believed in her voice and strengths because she had that backing from the people she loved and trusted the most. This kind of trust between siblings is created and nurtured by the belief that you will be there for one another. Time and distance will not and should not matter when it comes to helping out your loved ones, and that is a lesson that has stuck with Obama and Robinson their whole lives.
Obama passes on the wisdom her father taught her, telling her listeners, “In order to build meaningful relationships with people, you have to show up for them. Relationships, be they sibling, parent-child, or friend, don't happen through osmosis, they happen because they make a decision to be very deliberate about connecting with people.”
This kind of connection is what carries all of us through the best and worst of times.
You can have a good relationship with your sibling where you don’t really fight and you see each other often enough, but if they aren’t there to celebrate your successes or offer help in different circumstances, then you can never really be sure that they will show up for you. A good relationship requires more than just getting along or drifting together. It takes effort, commitment, and love for a relationship to be truly strong.
Obama and Robinson have never doubted their bond or its strength. Robinson notes that during the first presidential campaign and time in office, he never wondered about the credibility of the slander that was thrown around. He believed wholeheartedly that his sister was doing the work that she loved and she worked with the intention of making the world a better place when she was done. That kind of unwavering support and faith is something that we all need and hope to find some day. It’s the kind of faith that pushes you through the struggles and the obstacles because you know that there is at least one person out there who believes in you,even if you don’t right now.
This type of bond stays with you throughout your life in terms of how you will share the duties and responsibilities parents eventually pass to their children. Who keeps an eye out for who and who will show up when called. Those duties don’t belong to one sibling throughout their adulthood, but are shared depending on need. As you grow older you come to understand that at some point you and any brothers and sisters will be the caregivers for your parents. This understanding feels heavy and huge, but it can also come with a feeling of togetherness since you will have family there to help.
In the same way siblings banded together against the world -- and sometimes against their parents -- they can, should, and will band together again to take care of the family unit. Siblings are your first allies and accomplices, and despite time and growing older, they will be throughout your life.
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