Apparently April the 10th is Siblings day. It’s an American thing, but not an actual thing yet, but it would like to be a thing. It was started by a lady called Claudia Evart in 1997 to commemorate her brother and sister who died and is becoming more and more popular every year, there are e-cards available. Soon there will be real cards…

To the siblingly challenged like Rosie and I it is all a bit of a mystery. We look in from the outside at brothers and sisters and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Growing up as only children we believe ourselves more self reliant and contained. We look at the strange dynamics of having siblings and being siblings with some bemusement. This bemusement has increased since we created siblings of our own. We have a son and a daughter who are 8 and 6, are in the same class at school and spend a great deal of time together. They are endlessly fascinating to us.


We really don’t get the sibling thing.

We watch them interact. We observe the bickering, the sullen exchanges, the ridicule and joy at the others misfortune. There are monumental and sudden outbursts of vitriol and violence that to our only child eyes would be the start of a lifetime of recrimination and revenge. The sort of  behaviour that would induce a lifetime long huff of epic proportions in us is forgotten in seconds… We are baffled.


This is alien to us. How can someone who has just had their toy smashed, drawing ripped up, last sweet taken, end of their TV programme given away or dastardly plan revealed to a parent, lose the plot volcanically one second then agree to, and join in with whole heartedly, a game their nemesis suggests seconds later? We would be devastated and crushed, there would be no going back from any of the above; vendettas would be sworn to, names would never be mentioned ever again. The perpetrator would be dead to us. Our little sibling pair will happily divide and conquer one minute and gang up the next without batting an eye or…

I had to interrupt my writing to go deal with our daughter crying, she had been losing a wrestling bought with her big brother so had resorted to tears. Her brother was furious as he saw as cheating and told her so in no uncertain terms. She retorted with the claim that girls are better because boys eat poo and like it. I tried to calm matters by suggesting they both get dressed (it’s the holidays, it’s reasonable for them to be still in pyjamas at 10 in the morning, isn’t it?) as we have a parcel to collect from the post office that has Lego for him and a DVD for her. They scamper off enthusiastically suggesting clothes that each should wear and generally being excited together. I watch them go thinking “what the Hell…?”


They will quite happily tell on each other at the drop of a hat for the most minor infringement as if it’s something that should be brought to the attention of the war crimes trials in The Hague and almost at the same time work in an almost telepathic unison to befuddle, bamboozle and belittle a parent.

Sometimes, while we are in our office there is an explosion of sound and fury from the living room so loud that we immediately go to Defcon One. Barely pausing to grab our UN peacekeeper blue helmets and flak jackets we dash to deal with what is almost certainly a war. We are then confronted with two small children giggling gently and watching TV. Disputes can flare up and calm down that quickly.

They despise each other and at the same time need the other to be there if they are outside their comfort zone They mock what each other says or thinks but when asked what they want to drink will copy what the other has chosen because they trust his or her opinion implicitly. They wish nothing but ill upon each other but will go to amazing lengths to make sure that the other is okay.


All these dichotomies confuse the living daylights out of us who come from one-is-enough families. We had no-one to share with, no-one to complain about, no-one to blame for what we actually did, no one to annoy without repercussions, no-one who understood instinctively what we meant, no-one who we could beat up just for the fun of it and would accept it, more or less.

I think actually when we thought of ourselves as self contained and self reliant we were actually a bit lonely. I wonder how we would have turned out if we had had siblings?

Andrew Woodhouse

Images Rosie and Andrew Woodhouse at Landscapes365 and Love Skye Photography