December 30, 2016 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on December 29, 2017

Is being a peer versus peerless a binary (or, say, a mutually exclusive) situation? I was thinking about this – or rather, thinking about a desire which popped up and had to do with finally seeing myself as a peer among my sisters. And about how being a peer would carry into my relationships also with friends since I wouldn’t be repeating a “birth order” pattern with them (even when I’m the older one and they’re younger). So, I was thinking about a desire to be a peer, and simultaneously a desire to be peerless in, say, the eyes of my mother, and subsequently peerless in my accomplishments and achievements. (But then again, that mother thing never really did work out too well for me.)

I think wanting to be peerless has typically been the more acute driver, but it’s blunted again and again by the peer-not-a-peer problem which the knot of siblinghood poses. For me this knot entailed surrogate mothers (my much older sisters) who stepped in for the unmothering mother, and made me feel special. But it also is the conundrum of birth order (a concept which itself is not iron-clad, incidentally) where I am forever the youngest – and thus the dependent and less strong one. (But, born so late, with such a gap, I’m also like an “only child”… hence my delusion of peerlessness?) I’m reminded also of my fierce wish for independence. But my wish for independence was also a struggle to untie myself from this knot of positioning, of being “the little one.” This struggle was complicated significantly, its outlines and motivations blurred into a fog of misprision, by our repeated moves. By “we” I mean my parents and me as a more nuclear unit that was already shedding the older daughters. So, the move to I. when I was three-and-a-half meant losing a couple of the sister-mothers, who moved out to marry or go elsewhere. The move to Canada when I was barely eight then meant losing the rest. Of the sisters, only M. emigrated with us, and she in turn left home within a year. She, being the one I displaced as the youngest, was never a sister-mother, of course. But the others were, and it muddied the waters – the sister-mothers had all fallen away by the time I was eight; the mother, too.

Is this true? That in a healthier environment, siblings are peers in the eyes of the parents, even if, individually, each one might (should) feel peerless for her special qualities, too? And that within the sibling order, however, the peer status is constantly undermined (by birth order, say) and up for negotiation depending on context?

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