To continue the blog post I began last week, I’ve asked my own siblings about fostering closeness among one another, and let me share with you some valuable experiences and lessons which we believed were instrumental in forming lasting bonds with one another.
1) Have a whole lot of shared experiences – Despite the tough logistics and financial considerations, we did a whole lot of things as we grew up. Whether it be eating in a restaurant or going to the beach or Baguio, a lot of emphasis was placed on being together and doing things together like swimming, mahjong, board games, bowling, billiards, cards. We loved going to Mamonluk, Kimpura, Hongning, Everybody’s in Pampanga and Zamboanga and Pinausukan restaurants.
We were each others’ playmates. So our Mom created a giant playroom attached to a library of floor to ceiling shelves of books. She sourced 2nd hand books and toys from garage sales. We did not need to hang around in someone else’s house. Our house was everybody’s hangout place. We even had disco lights and mirror balls in the late 1970s for the dance parties.
We never travelled as a complete family out of the country since we could not afford it. The farthest we’ve been to were Cebu and Bohol.
2) Creating opportunities to share, support and help one another – My parents set up situations that we would have to look out for each other. Though I may have no distinct memory, I can imagine being passed on as a baby and toddler from one “ate” or “kuya” as each one helped to take care of the smaller children. Since I had the chubbiest cheeks, all I remember was my cheeks being pinched or my mouth being forcibly closed like a fish and being asked to say “Milo” because the “ates” and “kuyas” thought it was too cute to behold.
When my parents would have a chance to bring home imported chocolates like M&Ms or Nestles Crunch, these would be cut and equally divided at first to all 9 and the extra portions would be given to the older ones. I can vividly recall, in some soldier like fashion how we would bring up 9 cups to pass each piece of M & Ms as if you were playing “sungka”. The younger ones would of course devour their share as quick as the sungka ends and wait and hope that the older ones whose share is waiting in the refrigerator would give up their share. If the older ones are in a generous mood or maybe now that I think about it if they were dieting, then another round of “sungka”( dropping one M& M bit at time in the cups of those who were around to avail of the bonus bits) is set.
Our parents also instilled the value of “supporting each other all out”. I remember attending most of the graduations, watching every dramatic play, Kundirana concert, every spiritual retreat “last day” welcome from families, Music and Magic gig/concert or sports events of all my older siblings. It’s like you needed a very good excuse to miss any of these. We just had to be there for each other.
When I was about grade 2 or 3, my older siblings were assigned a vehicle to share and they were in charge of fetching my older sister and me from school . My “ates” loved that. Little did my Dad know that, they were leaving the car parked somewhere and would fetch me with their boyfriends using his car! I felt so “grand” being fetched by different cars and even going to fancy restaurants! I think my Dad didn’t know about those “special arrangements”. If our older sister came with their boyfriends, our older brothers were a bit more daring by just asking their good friends to fetch us if they were caught up ( maybe with their girlfriends!). “Hello, Donna. Sorry your brother asked me to fetch you and your sister.” Ok, it was sort of grand too especially if their super cute friends would fetch us. Hahaha. Of course, that was probably not proper and my Dad would have freaked out had he known, but it somehow taught the older ones to look after the young ones.
3. Timeless Traditions – the most memorable were:
- Family Councils – Every New Year’s Eve, our Dad got us together to just open up to one another regarding strengths and weaknesses. It may seem daunting, but it was done in bold love and in a peaceful manner. Each one gets a chance to be praised and also to be gently enlightened regarding areas of improvement. Some called it our “family bull session” but it didn’t seem negative as the term connotes. I guess, it was our family’s version of setting our New Year’s Resolution. Those yearly discussions, I believe, trained us that in order for us to grow and mature we needed to learn how to give encouragement and accept criticism. We needed to know that LOVE was the bedrock of this kind of engagement.
- Having gifts for one another every Christmas – We didn’t just look forward to our parents’ gifts but also to the ones from our siblings. As early as grade 2, I remember being given a few hundreds to budget and give to my parents, my 8 siblings and the helpers. So all 9 of us were given a set budget to give each other specifically chosen, bought and wrapped gifts for one another. This exercise really helped us consider and know one another more as we searched for gifts.
- Weekend trips to our Farm house in Antipolo, Summer trips to Baguio or Batulao.
4. Physically sharing a room/sharing a car/sharing clothes – We always shared rooms because we couldn’t live in houses with 9 rooms for the children. Usually we had to share. For a long time, the groupings were : 2 youngest girls, 4 boys and the 3 older sisters. Then we eventually paired up with each other with our eldest having her own room when we moved. If it wasn’t a room, it could be car, or shoes or clothes. We had to share period . This “forced” physical closeness fostered a deeper closeness indeed.
5. All of the experiences in numbers 1-4 promoted constant communication among us. My sister Felichi says, “Communication was promoted when Dad led us through the yearly affirming and confrontation on New Year’s Eve. Communication is key in all relationships.”
6. We are ONE – Somewhere around the mid 1980s, one by one my siblings caught the passion to read/study the Bible and get to know Jesus more intimately. We all eventually learned from one another and shared a common faith having Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. From being blood related, we became spiritually bound:) That we believe made the biggest difference and impact as we relate to another as each one started leaving and pursuing their own lives with their families and as we reconnect to continue caring for parents, the businesses that closed and other family matters and keeping the bonds strong among siblings and cousins. Empowered by His Spirit, we can seek to love, confront, correct, apologize, forgive, understand, and to love again.
The last decade or so has been the toughest for us as a family dealing with the realities of aging elderly parents, the role reversal of sorts and the costs of caring for them as we look after own families and endeavors. But there is strength in numbers. We rally and battle together. We have each other as we face the unknown for our parents. But above all, we have our Creator, the author of our lives and our family. The toughest seasons bring out the best (and sometimes)the worst in each other and I am honored to say that I am blessed to share the one life that God has given me with these amazing siblings.
I celebrated my birthday recently and had this on my FB wall:
May our experiences help you foster closeness among your children and may our good Lord always fill your homes with love. Jesus’ Words says in John 17:20-22, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” We collectively and individually seek to witness for our Savior, Jesus Christ. We argue, we disagree and have a lot of misunderstandings but we seek to honor Jesus in our relationships and we seek to go towards love, humility, forgiveness and peace.
So in summary, what will keep siblings close, what will keep our children close? Yes we shared some tips from own our family but intertwined in all of that is LOVE. What will keep our children close? Love will. Love will always find a way………………… because God is love!
1 John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.