Friday, July 07, 2006

My take on sibling influence (or lack thereof)

I finally got back around to dissecting the comments made in that Time magazine article I mentioned the other day.

It's a decent, mainstream magazine piece. Naturally, I was attracted to the analysis around elements of my own personality. I've always attributed much of my inability to relate to others to growing up as an "only child"... because my brother came along almost ten years later.

I know I struggle with certain social skills. I notice it often. I feel like an outsider with my friends because of it. At times, I probably come off as self-centered because that's what I knew growing up. It's why I've ALWAYS sworn to myself that, barring a medical reason, I must have at least two kids who are no more than four years apart in age. I want them to develop good interpersonal skills and have a strong bond with each other.

1) Childhood fighting

Yeah, so it would obviously be unfair for a 12-year-old to pick a fight with a toddler. The baby doesn't understand that you are upset they scratched your favorite record or that it's not okay to coat your things with gum. I learned to just accept that he could do whatever he wanted or that I had to hide things I didn't want him touching.

Therefore, I never developed the skills to cope with conflict. I shy away from confrontation or anything that feels remotely like it. Because I avoid it, that translates into not having developed the means to properly resolve issues. I never reacted well to kids that teased me. I was unprepared to deal with kids who treated me badly. I know I tend to bottle up things that bother me until it emerges as some passive-aggressive comment or incident.

2) Playing favorites

Because my brother and I are so far apart in age, it's not clear who is the favorite. He is the youngest, and he is the *boy*. Since we are Chinese, I accept the fact that he is favored for traditional reasons. My grandmother certainly gave her two grandsons with the family name marginally better inheritance. What can anyone say?

On the other hand, I've always been a bit more responsible, more outgoing, and driven. Without any obvious encouragement from my parents, I involved myself in clubs with leadership positions, I volunteered, I was an editor for the yearbook. It was never a contest for attention with my brother.

Maybe that's why I don't play the game well when it comes to the office. It's not clear to me to use people to my advantage. I don't care for the politics and positioning at the office. I am used to working alone, so I miss out sometimes on the socializing. The bonds among the male executive is very obviously because of their ability to joke and jab with each other. I feel left out sometimes when people go to lunch together because I wasn't invited... but maybe it's my own fault. I never learned those intangible skills. It doesn't occur to me to stop by people's cubes and say "hello" for no reason. (And some of it is glass ceiling issues, damn it, that can't be helped.)

3) Gender modeling

The article talks about how having a sibling of the opposite gender can accentuate gender-linked stereotypes. Well, that would explain quite a bit of why I've never felt like I could strongly identifying with either women or men. There was no one growing up to mirror or oppose. I remember always wishing I had a twin sister growing up. I needed a playmate. It's not natural for me to play with another gal's hair or do makeovers. I hung out with both boys and girls as a child. I would never call myself girly (though I've started to buy more skirts the past couple of years).

"By having a sibling who is one way, you strive to be different."

Okay... so... is this why I call myself a jack of all trades?

4) How bonds grow stronger

The first paragraph of this section mentioned some key things I constantly need to remember.

- "siblings become more emotionally skilled" (I have a hard time expressing myself and understanding my own feelings. Everything is too analytical at times.)

- "it's important to listen to others" (I can't tell you how much I interrupt people because I'm busy trying to say something before I forget rather than finish listening to what they have to say.)

- "people who disagree are not terrible" (I get annoyed and defensive sometimes at people who want to disagree with me. I feel like people are attacking me or complaining when they might just be trying to help.)

- "people get over their anger" (I'm *always* worried about what other people think of me. Sometimes it probably keeps me from doing what I want to do. You can't please everyone... I need to keep that in mind.)

There was a small little excerpt about only children or "singletons." Basically, it said that these children eventually catch up. Sometimes, it can take a little longer or require a certain life event to spark the learning. It was a very polite way of trying to include everyone and provide assurance that we'll all be okay. Trite but true (hoepfully).

1 comment:

Anna May Won't said...

great self-analysis, pandax. i think growing up with a brother just 3 years younger, i've learned to regard arguments with men as no big deal. as kids, and even now sometimes, we'd fight, and then cool off and act like nothing was wrong.

like my friend s. - who has 4 sisters - and i will have a tift, and maybe one of us will be annoyed for a little while, but then we just get on. there's no acknowledging of what happened nor any apologies. whether or not that's healthy, who knows. the tifts are usually over small things.

but i have a harder time with conflicts with my women friends. having an argument with a girlfriend is a much bigger deal and involves apologies and big talks. this might be because there were no small fights with my mother, just big ones with grudges and silent treatments.

i also think i'm more indulgent with men. i usually let my brother have his way, whether it was watching a TV show or the last piece of cake. and also i get fiercely protective about the guys i know, like when my brother and i were kids and would get teased, i'd get really upset if i saw that my bro was upset. i feel like my women friends can take care of themselves.

so there's *my* self-analysis. ;)