If you’ve read our Welcome page (or Numbers 27), then you know that the real Zelophehad didn’t have a son. This makes my existence, as a guy, a crime against nature, or at least a crime against a good story. But being the only boy in the family of seven kids isn’t too bad a story either.
As a kid, I have to admit that I often felt kind of shafted not having a brother. I’m second-oldest, so I had my hopes of getting a younger brother dashed five times. My sisters played with me, though, at least some of the time. They now tell me that as kids they often sneaked off to avoid playing with me too, though, as I was too violent with my toys and stuffed animals.
I was jealous because my friends mostly had brothers. I remember that I saw them wrestle and fight and play with their brothers in a way that I never experienced, much as I was included in things as a friend. Even now, I look at my two boys and how they interact, and recognize that what they have in each other is something truly foreign to me.
As a teenager, I began to appreciate my sisters more. This came about first when my youngest sister, Amalthea, got old enough to be out of a crib and so moved out of my room. Prior to that, I had always shared a room with whoever was the baby. After that, I was for a long time the only kid in the family to have my own room. More generally, just because I stood out if nothing else, if anyone in the family was spoiled, it was me.
But those aren’t the only reasons I appreciated my sisters. It was as a teenager, particularly with Eve, Lynnette, and Kiskilili, that I discovered what fascinating conversation partners they were. I remember having lots of silly discussions with them, like the time when I argued with Eve that Josef Stalin should have been repeatedly killed and brought back to life once for each person he had killed. But over time, we moved to discussing more serious things too. We often played Trivial Pursuit together, frequently late into the night, and used the questions or random thoughts as jumping-off points for discussion.
Now, as an adult, I feel so blessed to have grown up in a family with many sisters. I may never have learned to wrestle with a brother, but my sisters taught me to talk like I never could have learned from brothers. My wife tells me that she appreciates how I talk (and particularly) listen, and I think that this is directly attributable to my learning rapport talk1 from my sisters. I’ve read (I think in Wifework) that women do the vast majority of the work in keeping up with relatives. This is certainly true with my sisters and me. I so appreciate the work that my sisters have done to keep us all in touch. I’m a typical slacker man when it comes to calling anyone, but I’m fortunate that they are willing to call me.
Several of my sisters and I now live scattered across the United States. But as Melyngoch will shortly be entering the MTC, we are all getting together before she goes. I cannot express how much I am looking forward to seeing all my sisters at once. I plan to skip sleep for four days just to be sure we can get enough talking and game-playing in.
I would be interested to hear how other people feel their experience with siblings has shaped them as adults.
1The phrase “rapport talk” was coined by the linguist Deborah Tannen. Rapport talk is connection-building talk that women more often engage in. She contrasts it with “report talk”, more publicly-oriented talk intended to convey information that men more often engage in. You can read Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand, a wonderful book that clarifies lots of common gender differences in talking style, for a more complete discussion of the terms.