I enjoy hearing stories about sibling relationship and dynamics, since I am the only child for my mother. Growing up, I had tons of cousins around so I never really felt lonely. I did however, have a lot of time by myself where I never had to share anything or be picked on about anything. There were periods where I had my mom and dad all to myself. I consider myself to be a well rounded individual and a reasonable sharer of things. The only thing I may not share is fruit and chicken legs. Everything else is up for grabs!
According to an article I read by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. on birth order and destiny and Leaman, Kevin, The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. Revell, 2009, only children are usually very self-satisfied. Per these authors, this level of satisfaction is due to the fact that they never have to share their parents. Susan Krauss Whitbourne’s article from Psychology Today covers two key points— actual birth order and perceived birth order, as well as how this shapes a person’s life. It talks about beliefs, values and judgements we have as parents, and how we impose those on our children.
As a parent I have a very big role to play in how I’m shaping my children’s lives because I’m imparting my knowledge, wisdom, and judgements on these tiny humans. This particular article makes me think about what I’m doing and why. I tend to agree with what is said, because though I’m the only one for my mother, I am a parent of siblings. Based on the article and the book mentioned above, in most sibling households there is a fight for a place in the family, which plays out in various ways. **As a side note, in America and many other parts of the world, families are not comprised of parents and children only, but often many families may live together or in close proximity. Various members of that family share the child rearing responsibilities which could lead to many of the behaviors mentioned above even before a specific child has a sibling. This is because they are competing for attention with other relatives.** Having a sibling changes your entire experience within the family structure and introduces you to things such as jealousy, competition, love, sacrifice, unyielding bond of friendship and continued support throughout life.
Economics and culture greatly influence family dynamics and structure. With one child you are able to give more of everything. With subsequent children that “more” decreases and then you have to get creative. Children learn very quickly how to survive because they have no choice when another sibling is added. If they want more love from their parents, they may paint their sibling in a slightly more negative light. If they want more attention, they may act in whatever manner grants that attention. If they are unhappy with how their appearance differs from that of their sibling, they may tear down that sibling’s confidence in order to build themselves up.
Sometimes parents may not realize the degree of hurt or damage that’s being done to one or more siblings during the attention seeking process. An example of someone who experienced some negative and far reaching afflictions by her siblings is Camille’s mother, (see interview below) whose complexes regarding her own hair was passed down to Camille.
Camille: “I’ve always had a complex about my hair. I wasn’t raised with a family that celebrated natural hair or even self appreciation. My grandmother, from Haiti, had 8 daughters. She was African, Taino, and French. My mother is described by her family as the “ugliest” of the group of sisters- because of her coarser hair texture, shorter hair length and darker skin color. Her family even went as far as to tell her that she was not their fathers child. My grandmother never made her feel bad or ugly, only her sisters and extended family. My mother had and still has a hard time with the way she looks. This complex passed down to my sister and I.”
“Being first generation Haitian-American, growing up in the 80’s in New York was hard.”
“Being Haitian-American was hard; always different- and made to feel like an outsider-within extended family and peers. Mom and Dad were busy trying to make a way so discussing beauty or self confidence or black beauty wasn’t a priority. Had to figure that out on my own.”
“Growing up I only wanted sons. Never wanted daughters because I didn’t want them to have hair like mine; short.”
“As a teen I was never taught how to take care of hair for myself. I relied on professionals and when that got expensive, I just resorted to wearing ” wigs” or getting my hair braided- leaving the braids in my hair longer than intended because they were so expensive and time consuming to put in and remove. I wore a lot of braided styles that damaged my natural hair. And I didn’t have the time or patience to carefully remove them. I would just cut the old braids out and pop a wig or hair piece on my head to get on with life.”
“I have three daughters. All with physical differences because of the above blueprint. I go out of my way to make sure they are confident. Their dad and I don’t allow them to compare each other negatively. We teach them to celebrate each others features. They love each other’s skin tone and hair. If one of them is feeling bad about their looks, we band together to pick them up!”
“So far so good.”
“Girls can be mean. No matter what they look like. So much of my energy is directed towards protecting my daughters from hurtful comparisons; even within the natural hair community.”
“I also work hard to make sure that they are not being mean to other girls.”
“This comes at a cost. For my girls to be strong and and confident, I have to take a backseat. I don’t think about incidents in my past; but they shape how I am raising my daughter’s image of beauty.”
“My focus, money, time and energy goes towards making sure my girls are “okay” with who they are and the way God made them. I don’t want them to be like me, my mom or my aunts etc; wearing wigs, weaves etc. to feel pretty. So I give them the best I can give by making sure they are exposed to the positive images in society. I talk to them; they talk to me. We talk about race, complexions, hair types, YouTube “beauty guru’s, how boys see girls. I listen to them and delicately direct them to a positive opinion on beauty. Most of what I do is so that each daughter reaches the best version of themselves as they approach adulthood-its a LOT OF WORK because I want to get the most of my opportunity to influence them- build boundaries around them before the world gets access.”
“That being said, I honestly don’t have time for me, my hair specifically. Maybe one day :)”
Now mother to three daughters, Camille makes sure all three girls know they are very beautiful and unique in their own special way. The impact that her mother’s childhood experience had on her and her sister makes her work extra hard to ensure her daughters don’t go through the same thing with each other.
We can’t change our parent’s experiences but we can learn from them. We can also make sure we learn to love ourselves for who we are so we can pass that self-love, appreciation and kindness on to our children and others.
Featured are Camille’s daughter’s, Simone, Ashley, and Seth (Tula).
1. What you love most about your natural hair? I love the versatility and the many styles I can do with my natural hair.
2. What’s your go to style? My go to style is a big puff at the top of my head.
3. Favorite Compliments: My favorite compliment would be when someone say my hair is really pretty or beautiful.
4. Least favorite compliments/things you wish people would just never say: I don’t enjoy people asking to touch my hair or asking me why its not nappy. I have thin coarse hair and I do styles that make it fuller.
5. If you were a natural hair super hero what would your name be? If I were a natural hair superhero my name would be Healthy Z because I take vitamins for my skin and nails and I only use oils and aloe vera juice and spring water on my hair.
Hi My name is Ashley Berrien. I’m 12 years old. I am a student and my goal is to be a coder/programmer.
1. What you love most about your natural hair? What I love most about my hair is the curl pattern and the texture. It can change colors too.
2. What’s your go to style? My favorite go to style is a wash and go.
3. Favorite compliments: My favorite compliment is when people tell me that I can never actually have a bad hair day because my hair stays in place.
4. Least favorite compliments/things you wish people would just never say: No one really says bad things about my hair to my face. My classmates think that I touch it too much. But I do that when I’m thinking or day dreaming.
5. If you were a natural hair super hero what would your name be? My name would be Curly Girl!
My name is Seth and my nick name is Tula. I am 12 years old and my birthday is January 30, 2004. I am a student. My goal is to be a OBGYN- I think.
1. What you love most about your natural hair? I love how many styles I can do with my hair.
2. What’s your go to style? I have two. 1st is a Roman Braid. 2nd is a Braid out.
3. Favorite compliments? Your hair is so thick. I wish I had your hair.
4. Least favorite compliments/things you wish people would just never say. No one says bad things. I just don’t like people touching it out of the blue because I don’t know if they have clean hands.
5. If you were a natural hair super hero what would your name be? That’s hard! My mom helped me pick: Tula Twist!
*Article updated 1/12/17. Subject matter remains the same.