Trial Balloon

Growing Up With Siblings

Posted at 7:03 AM on October 5, 2009 by Radio Heartlander (22 Comments)
Filed under: Family, Guest Bloggers

From the Desk of the Heartlanders
Guest Blogger - Donna

This picture was taken on our farm in 1960. From left to right are Linda, me, Curt, and Debbie. Our lovely mother is behind us. My mom says this is a rare photo because I'm in it. At age three, I went through a spell of camera fright. I used to run and cry at the sight of one, whereas Debbie's unique impulse was to scratch.


My little sister was a kewpie doll cutie. Anytime we had company, they would go on and on about her big blue eyes and want to pick her up and carry her around. By the time I started school, I was pretty sick of it, which was, I suppose, the reason I told a couple classmates one day that she had unexpectedly died in the night. The news spread quickly and before I knew it, I was repeating the tragedy to my alarmed teacher, looking as sad as I could fake it. Although I enjoyed the sympathetic attention, my conscience started bothering me, and the next day I owned up to the fib. I tried unsuccessfully to smooth things over by saying it was a joke.

The sibling I quarreled most with was my older sister. One time in the barn, I called her "Big Butt" and she overreacted and threw an egg at me. Ordinarily her aim was terrible, but this was her "lucky day", as she still likes to say. Not only did the egg hit me, it was rotten besides. Thankfully, the stench wore off by the time I was old enough to date.

As a rule, my brother was mean. He got a kick out of ridiculing us with nicknames. When Linda went through a pudgy stage, he called her "Chubby Checkers". I had an overbite from sucking my thumb (insecure) so he named me "Charlie Horse." He referred to Debbie as "Beautiful" in her early adolescence, when she was gawkily unattractive, even though he knew she couldn't help it. He also dismantled our bicycles and used them to build a go-cart.

Were we unusual? It would ease my mind to know other families have sibling battle stories.

Comments (22)

Good Morning Heartland bloggers! Sorry this was late in getting posted today. Radio Heartland's best and brightest are trying to figure out why. It is Monday, afterall....

Posted by Mike Pengra | October 5, 2009 7:14 AM

I have twin sisters who are much younger than I am. AS kindergardeners I told them that they were triplets at birth, but that my parents killed the 3rd one.I built my story on my mother saying that she felt sorry for folks with triplets-too much work without the support that higher order multiples get.I got in trouble for taunting them, but enjoyed their embrace and re-telling of the story to others.

It's amazing we survived our sibs to arrive here at RH!

Posted by Beth-Ann | October 5, 2009 7:19 AM

his sounds terrible beth ann. i love my brother and sisters and could never imagine such things

Posted by tim | October 5, 2009 7:22 AM

There were a lot of little Lindas in those days - my experience is that most of us are Eisenhower babies. I, too, had an older sister who was less than enthusiastic about my arrival, but as far as I remember, she kept her died-in-the-night fantasies to herself. I don't recall her calling me names or throwing things; she knew the best way to injure me was to simply ignore me.

Glad to see the Trial Balloon ship is back on course....I was beginning to wonder....Happy Monday!

Posted by Linda in St. Paul (West Side) | October 5, 2009 7:23 AM

Wow, I've never been so early before...

Great stories, Donna thanks! I was dethroned when I was 4 and Sue was born. By the time she was 1 she had learned how to get to me (notice I didn't say get my goat!) and while she was in her crib, I lost control and threw a wodden block at her that hit her in the head... She cried, Mom cried, I cried and was sorry; you can imagine. Later I got her back because I was bigger (but we're fast friends now).

Have a great day, Heartlanders!

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | October 5, 2009 7:23 AM

Hi Donna,
Fun story! I am the youngest of 5 and 8 years seperate me from my next sibling... I tormened him no end; always in his stuff or playing in his room. My sisters loved me because I'm special! :-)

No name calling- I would guess Mom didn't allow that... I remember kind of mouthing off once and because she was on the phone her reach with the fly swatter was limited...

Fifteen years separate me from my oldest sister so we barely know each other.


Posted by Ben | October 5, 2009 7:25 AM

Very interesting account telling about those siblings, Donna.

I do have a brother and he was a little or a lot irritating, at times, like Donna's siblings. He was a younger brother who liked to tease me.

The teasing couldn't have been too extreme, because I don't remember exactly what he said. I know he would challenge me to a race, and I wouldn't take him up on it, althought I probably would have beat him.

Posted by Jim | October 5, 2009 7:26 AM

p.s. Mike -- does RH have Lloyd's of Monday insurance? Check with Dale when he gets back!

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | October 5, 2009 7:27 AM

I have an older brother - and though I don't recall name calling per se either, we did have our share of squabbles. I was not allowed to play with his Erector set (which I chose to do anyway when he wasn't home - this meant that I couldn't build anything too elaborate in case I had to deconstruct quickly), and he teased me about my "boyfriend" when it was decided that I should walk to church choir practice with the boy around the corner. I, in turn, listened in on phone conversations and was a general pest when friends were over.

Mostly we got along, though. Maybe the four year difference helped. Maybe it was that fighting any harder than the occasional pinch or swat was not allowed. Regardless, the three foot penguin he won for me at the State Fair is still around (he had to bring it home on the city bus) and he still has the copy of "Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day" I bought for him when he was going through a rough patch (he'll read it to his kids, but it's "his" book).

Posted by Anna | October 5, 2009 7:39 AM

Thanks for sharing your delightful tales, Donna!

My grandmother, who was one of my primary caregivers, had 2 sisters and 4 brothers. One of her sisters died at the age of 1 year. The other one developed TB and lived away from home for a number of years in a sanatorium. My grandmother constantly emphasized the value of sisters and mostly tried to prevent us from mistreating each other, and I endeavored to please my grandma (even as an adult granddaughter). Some things you don't regret. :-)

Posted by elinor | October 5, 2009 7:54 AM

My sister is nine years older and my identical twin brothers are eight years older. So, I had to learn to give it as well as take it at an early age. When I was born, my sister cried and had to be consoled with an Orange Crush because she had ~another~ baby brother when she really wanted a sister. My brothers used to tease me that I was adopted because I didn't look like them. (At age 3-4, that, unfortunately, makes sense.) I was rather oversensitive as a kid, so my sister keeps relaying to everyone she can tell that I cried until I was 5, 9, 13, 22...the age just keeps going up with each person she tells.

Fortunately, we all had and still have a tremendous sense of humor and we know that, despite all the teasing we still do to each other, it's all in fun and we're all a very close knit family.

Then there was the infamous Stratego incident with one of my brothers...I never let him forget that one...

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | October 5, 2009 8:31 AM

oh, Donna - you were evil from the start - ha, ha! thanks for sharing your weird, abnormal family life with us. my brother (6 years younger) and i never fought, never hit each other with shoes, never threatened to call the police when left to ourselves, never stuck out our bellies to embarrass the other one when she was with friends, never took money to "behave" and then continued to misbehave. as small tykes, sharing a bed we never drew lines down the middle of the bed to keep the wiggly bed-wetter (who brought an air-rifle to bed because of the bears on the chimney) on their own side. can't imagine why you kids could not be like the rest of us.
back from the barn - to which i went dreading that i wouldn't get a TB fix today - thanks, Mike!
and thanks, Donna, for such an entertaining topic today.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | October 5, 2009 8:37 AM

and Beth-Ann - you were just as evil as Donna! :-) all of the stories this morning are so much fun.

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | October 5, 2009 8:39 AM

Donna, it seems we love to torment those we love the most. I’ve heard stories from my mom about her older brother, one being the time they were playing ‘crack the whip’ at their country school. Mom was about 4 years younger, and my uncle put her on the end of the ‘whip’. She says she woke up laying on top of some school desks. They laugh about it now though.

I have one younger sister, and I’ll admit not being very nice at times. And now I’m observing the relationship between my two daughters who are 6 years apart. The way they can pick at each other is one of my greatest frustrations when you wish home could be refuge from everything else.

Posted by Mike in Albert Lea | October 5, 2009 8:57 AM

As the 7th child out of 10, there was enough sibling rivalry to please everybody and make my Mom a little crazy.
My favorite escapade involves my next oldest sister, Margie and a wading pool the summer that I was 5yrs old and Margie was almost 7. She was demonstrating how she could 'dunk' her head under water. I said that was no big deal. She said she could breathe underwater. I was definitely impressed with that! She said I could do it if I would just try. I did. As I brought my head out of the water, coughing and spluttering, both mad and embarrassed, I could hear Margie laughing at me with utter delight. Of course Mom had to referee the ensuing battle.
I did my fair share of damage. One spring just before Easter, Mom brought home a lovely lilac dotted-swiss dress for Margie to try on. I was instantly jealous. I am embarrassed to admit that I threw that dress in a bucket and burned it! Mom was so shocked that she was paralyzed. After a few minutes she covered her face with her hands, then turned on her heel and walked away. I was shocked, too. Not that I didn't get a royal spanking, but that there was no joy in having burned Margie's dress. Some kids just have to learn the hard way, yes?

Posted by Teri in Zimmerman | October 5, 2009 9:01 AM

hi, donna, what fun! great tales of siblinghood--

we definitely had squabbles in our family---but with four of us, we tended to have shifting alliances that meant even if you were fighting with one or two others, you still had one sib who would play with you--

we are very close in age--mother had all of us within five years--now that was a crazy idea! so that is sometimes a gift now, when we are all in our forties or (soon) all in our fifties.

i remember the time when my "little" brother had grown as tall as me and stronger, and when i objected to his switching the channel on a show i was watching, simply reached out and knocked me down--late elementary school or early junior high--i was shocked at his easy use of force...

i remember we all got a kick out of our youngest sister, who loved as a toddler to pretend she was a dog. so we called her nancy-doggie and made her sit, fetch, roll over, chase a ball, etc....but we all had fun doing it, including her.

Posted by Kay H in Utah | October 5, 2009 9:10 AM

I love that story, mom! Poor Linda. Did she ever get revenge? I remember only letting our little brother play Barbie Fashion Show with us under the condition that we picked out the outfit for him. Of course we gave him that super-tight leotard that was impossible to get Barbie into, and so his strut down the catwalk was met with much scorn and derision. I think we made him cry. And that's about it for rivalry between him and I; with my sister, all I have is a ten-year blur of tears, yelling and outright violence. Glad we made it through that stage!

Posted by Lora | October 5, 2009 9:11 AM

I did do some things to my brother which I mostly have choosen not to remember. One thing I did that I do remember I will not talk about because I have never told my brother what I did.

I don't know why my brother wanted to race with me as a boy. He couldn't beat me at that time, but he is now a very good runner as an older person who often wins road races in his age class and has run in two Boston Marathons.

Posted by Jim | October 5, 2009 9:12 AM

p.s. the cycling of shifting alliances continues to this day--as we cope in our very different ways with the loss of our dad, the alzheimer's of our mother, the changes in relationships and the foibles of children/nieces/nephews, etc....

there are periods when one or more of us is completely out of touch with the others---

yet i'm confident that in a crunch, each of us would be there for the others.

however, i don't think any of us made up the death of another sib.....!!! despite at times perhaps wishing it.

Posted by Kay H in Utah | October 5, 2009 9:15 AM

Greetings! This is too fun of a topic to let slide by. Being from a family of 6 girls and one boy, we had plenty of love, fights and rivalry. Probably the most egregious was done to my youngest sister, Chris.

Of course, she got away with everything because my parents weren't shocked by anything anymore and were getting tired of parenting (wonderful as they were). My maiden name is Ahl -- and her handwritten birth certificate, the letter "l" is really short, so it looks like an "e".

One time as young adults, she was being smart and mouthy at a public gathering, and one of my older sisters said loudly, "You sure act smart for being adopted." Stopped Chris in her tracks and mouths gaped all around. A family friend even discreetly asked later to be sure. Of course, Chris is one of us, but when we want to put her in her place, the "you're adopted" -- Ahe not Ahl taunt comes out. Each of us has our vulnerable story or name.

Posted by Joanne in Big Lake | October 5, 2009 10:45 AM

I’m the oldest of eight (three girls, five boys), so you really don’t want to get me started on telling sibling stories, because I know a lot of them. We are thirteen-and-a-half years apart, and while we all lead our separate lives, we have a wonderful time when we get together. We are close to each other individually in different ways, but there is a very strong network of bonds which intertwine our lives.

We were a very rough-and-tumble and competitive group, though! I bopped my next-youngest sister on her head with my fist while she was in the basinet, and I was thirty before we actually finished a game of Risk in a normal fashion (instead of someone ending it by sweeping the game off of the table in a fit of temper).

If you ask my mother, though, we were very, very good children and really never fought much at all! She seems otherwise lucid, so we let it slide.

Posted by Kris in Minneapolis | October 5, 2009 3:18 PM

That was me rubbing my butt. I don't remember it, but I must of thought it was appropriate, as I loved having my picture taken. Growing up and dealing with the middle child syndrome, I could never find a way of getting enough attention, till now. Thanks Donna. I have waited 54 years, to reach to realize that I was outstanding after all!

Love you,

Posted by deb | October 12, 2009 8:21 PM

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