The Joy of Siblinghood


A less than favorable first impression: a photo of my older sister and I just a few days after our first meeting.

Without my sister, I undoubtedly would not be the person I am today. 

I, strangely enough, mean this in both a very metaphorical and quite literal sense. It was only after years of my sister’s imploring that my parents acquiesced to her desire to have a younger sibling. My older sister, Anne, is largely the entire reason I was even born, and as such, she holds the honor of claiming to be wholly responsible for my existence. 

The bond between siblings is an incredibly fascinating one. Siblings possess a unique ability – at a singular moment, they will be fighting over possession of the TV remote, or because one stole the other’s clothes, but in the very next second, they can act like best friends again. 

As a society, we tend to overemphasize the negative aspects of siblinghood. That is not to say there are none; while my sister and I have too far an age gap to have a real sense of sibling rivalry, Anne and I have had our fair share of arguments, and if I had a nickel for every time a teacher inadvertently called me my sister’s name, I would be extraordinarily wealthy.

These downsides, however, are incomparable to the numerous advantages of having a sibling. 

Beth Carlson, who teaches both Spanish and English at Air Academy, recalls her childhood relationship with her sister fondly. 

“Sometimes they [siblings] are annoying! As kids, sometimes you want space, and they won’t leave you alone, or you want to hang out, but they want space. There are a lot of conflicts with siblings that stem from sharing things – clothes, toys, time with parents, etcetera,” noted Carlson. “But to me, the benefits far outweigh the downsides.” 

In fact, research suggests that younger siblings teach their older counterparts empathy and that having a sibling while growing up can help a child resist allergies, obesity, and depression, according to Fatherly and BBC respectively. 

Having a sibling is akin to having a built-in best friend. Often, we may feel unwillingly stuck with our siblings, but that same “stuckness” results in lifelong companionship that we often take for granted. 

“You always have someone to hang out with,” responded junior Reagan Nohrenberg when asked about the upsides of having a sibling. 

“Having a sibling can mean having a lifetime long best friend!” said Carlson. “As kids, it’s someone to play with and have fun with and share the trouble with. As an adult, it’s someone to talk to, to be friends with, and to think about how to care for your parents as they get older.” 

“[There’s] someone near your age to talk to other than friends,” junior Peter Braza agreed.

Depending on someone’s relationship with their sibling, an older brother or sister will offtimes also act as a knight in shining armor. 

“Someone is there to protect and stand up for you,” said Shalini Kudinoor, a junior at Discovery Canyon High School, in regard to her older brother Arjun Kudinoor. 

“For my sister and I, I was always invested in her – super protective, played “baby games” with her, babysat her – and then as she got older, invited her to do things with my friends and I,” recalled Carlson. 

Then and now: Anne and I during a visit to San Francisco in July of 2018. Thankfully, as we have matured, our relationship has too, and ultimately changed for the better.

Additionally, substantial changes in sibling relationships occur with age and growth. As we both grew up, my relationship with my sister evolved drastically. 

“We have a large age gap (eight years!) but as we’ve gotten older, we’ve definitely gotten closer as well,” said Anne Zou, my older sister, and a 2015 Air Academy graduate. “Of course, we’re still in very different places in life, but we’re on similar wavelengths now.” 

It is a sentiment echoed by many, such as sophomore Ratna Unnikrishnan, who has a four-year gap with her older sister, Nidhi. 

“After we were more mature, we grew closer together,” Unnikrishnan explained. 

Carlson also emphasized the impact of a large age gap early on in life, in her own relationship with her younger sister and the relationship between her sons. 

“My sister and I were almost 6 years apart in age and my boys are nearly 5 years apart.  That age gap makes a big difference when you’re little,” expressed Carlson. “We were always close, but as adults, we are even better friends. We stopped fighting about stupid things (although we can still know how to push each other’s buttons faster than anyone else) and started doing life together. She’s “second mom” to my kids – she partners with me to help my kids grow into hopefully good humans. She’s the person who can make me laugh the most.” 

“Having a sibling is like having a lifelong companion,” concluded Zou. “At the end of the day, who’s going to always be by your side?” 

There are so many upsides that come with siblinghood, and ultimately – while others may come and go – it is a sibling relationship that lasts a lifetime. 

But if the price of that lovely relationship is being called “Anne” every so often…

It is well worth it. 

National Siblings Day will take place on Saturday, April 10, 2021!