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Sibling relationships: A work of heart

Jake: “I always like being on top, but losing can be fun.”

Theo: “I never let Jake win.”

These responses by the twins Jake and Theo adorn the portraits that were part of photographer Madeleine Waller’s exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in London. The twins were among the many siblings who participated in Waller’s art display in 2017. The responses of the participants could be considered the quintessence of all sibling relationships. The photographer captured more such amusing comments and responses of siblings from across ethnicities. The artwork and humour in each portrait took the visitors on a nostalgic journey into their childhood.

Wallace captured the bittersweet bond of siblings by asking them about their brothers and sisters and their role in this love-hate relationship. The responses did the rest to make the exhibition a memorable experience for the visitors.

Talking about her brother, 15-year-old Limamou, another participant of the art display said, “A sibling is like a salad. Sometimes you like it, sometimes you hate it, but it’s always good for you.” Another teenager wished, “I hope I can always fit into her clothes,” whereas a pre-teen, Jasper replied, “I’m the boss because I like telling Ruby what to do.” Everyone who has a sibling can relate to these thoughts. Every picture in the exhibit looks like a vivid reflection from the past, when a sibling was the best friend as well as a sworn enemy.

A sibling relationship is like a very long movie with drama, fighting, love, some more drama, more fighting, but a happy ending with lots of fond memories to cherish. Without brothers and sisters, the journey from adolescence to adulthood, could be termed colourless. Siblings are, simultaneously, partners in crime and a moral compass, a shrink and a Sherpa—they are everything one could ever ask for as a friend. Through this feature, Soulveda pays tribute to the eternal bitter-sweet bond of siblings, the age of innocence and its shared memories. Let’s explore why siblings are the best companions, the rivalries notwithstanding.

Playmates and partners-in-crime

Growing up, the sibling was always the one who knew our secrets. That’s what made them our best friend, who never broke the code. They were our partners-in-crime, and also, our playmates who never tired of running around carefree, whether it was after school or past bedtime—life with a sibling was like a playground. Making castles out of pillows, swords out of broomsticks, capes out of sheets, telephones out of tin cans—every piece of junk was a toy.

younger siblings

Studies have found that younger siblings tend to be more extroverted than older siblings in large families.

Always had each other’s back

No matter who we are up against, siblings always have each other’s back. They give the assurance that one is not alone in this big, bad world.

The funny thing is, outside the walls of the house, they are like protective parents, while back home they turn hunters, hunting each other down. Even as time passes and these shenanigans are a thing of past, they still remain our eternal protectors.

Best advisors, when it matters

Having a sibling who has walked the path of puberty before you, comes as a blessing in disguise. A sudden change in the body, newfound interest in the special someone, crushes, and heartbreaks can overwhelm any teenager. With a sibling’s sage advice in the middle of the night, who would need a shrink?

Indulgent teachers and coaches

Learning is fun when the older sister and brother teach Mathematics and explain the rules of football. After all, they know their siblings inside out, better than the teachers and parents—the strengths, weaknesses, things that even we might not know about ourselves. They pass on what they learn from their own mistakes, experiences, and perspectives. That’s what makes them the best teachers and coaches.

The ruler and the ruled

It is no newsflash that childhood can be quite a battlefield—the older siblings ordering the younger ones around. Who could blame them? After all, it is no mean task to watch the parents mete out a royal treatment to the younger siblings—their demands met, and a free pass granted for every blunder. How can the older ones be left behind? ‘Who’s the boss?’, they whisper to the younger counterparts. And the younger ones obediently comply. Yet, this unique power play has enough room for selfless love in the generous ‘little’ hearts.

Always take the fall

Who would take the fall for us if not the self-sacrificing sibling? Childhood was marked with memories of blame-sharing (as opposed to the blame-shifting of adulthood) at every instance of something breaking, be it a vase, a windowpane or a rule.

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.” – Carol Saline

Every holiday was an adventure

In childhood, even a school trip to the museum was an adventure. Imagine the excitement of going to a whole new place with your own little brood! Exploring new experiences, eating until we couldn’t possibly take another whiff of food, giggling for no reason in the dead of the night—the silliest of moments spent with our siblings become the most memorable of memories.

The teachers of childhood, lessons for life

If growing up with sisters taught us to respect women, an older brother acting like a bully taught us how to stand up for ourselves. Sibling relationships demonstrate the truth of sharing, forgiving, and above all, the significance of family and the unbreakable ties.

Sculptors who mould fine people out of each other  

Growing up with siblings is always a bittersweet journey. While on the one hand, there was unconditional love, unflinching support, and fierce, almost parent-like protectiveness, on the other, there was the meanness that can come only out of a sibling. Either way, the love-hate equation shaped us into who we are today.

Had it not been for the tantrums, pranks, fights, friendship, care, and love of siblings, childhood would not have been the greatest adventure that it always turns out to be.

Edited by Shalini K Sharma

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