Learning to Value Differences Among Siblings


It’s little wonder that The Three Musketeers has always been one of my favorite books.  It’s not just the adventure and intrigue that makes me love the story so much, it is the characters themselves.  Porthos, Athos, and Aramis remind me of the relationships that my two sisters and I have.  Over the years, many of our friends have given us the group moniker “the three musketeers.” Like the famous French trio, we have the most conflicting personalities. But our differences make us value each other more and have strengthened our friendship.

We were all driven to succeed at whatever we tried, but none of us went about it in the same way.  Tracy is the oldest and in no way fits the typical birth order personality for firstborns.  She is the Porthos of the group—the comic relief, the carefree spirit, and idealist.  Then there’s Amanda, our Athos.  Life is typically not funny to her; she calculates everything, and is an absolute realist.  I am the caboose, and, yes, I am the Aramis of the gang.  I support Tracy’s comedy, explain Amanda’s calculations, and balance both of their perspectives.

We had a lot of fun as kids.  We were the three musketeers, out to conquer the world.  Perhaps the clearest description of our relationship can be told in a short story.  One summer day, Amanda came home, slapped a newspaper on the kitchen table, and pointed to an ad she had circled in red.

“I got us a job,” she announced.

“Were we looking for one?”  Tracy asked as she dug her spoon into the ice cream container.

“Do I have to stand up in front of people?” I worried as I unconsciously began backing into a corner.

“Yes, and yes,” Amanda replied emphatically.  She took the spoon out of Tracy’s mouth and led me forward by the arm.

She had responded to a coffee shop ad for live musicians to perform for customers.   She told them that she had a band and to expect us that evening.  I will never forget the looks on Tracy’s face.  Tracy had just finished her 6-week guitar-for-beginners course, and she still didn’t know the names of her string.  I had been playing the violin for about 1 year, and was petrified of an audience.  But Amanda was quite skilled at both violin and penny whistle. She was confident that, under her leadership, she could put together a Celtic band in the next couple hours. 

And so she did. Neither Tracy nor I would have ever tried such a thing on our own.  But today, we are all so happy Amanda pushed us into it.  What began as a coffee shop gig turned into a business for us.  We went on to produce a CD and were booked solid for weddings.

Our rehearsal sessions were sometimes tense.  Amanda would blast Tracy for forgetting how to count quarter notes.  Tracy would abruptly twang an unnerving guitar string in the middle of “Oh Danny Boy,” just to be funny. And I would laugh at Tracy and get Tylenol for Amanda. It was obvious we were three very different people. But somehow, we made beautiful music together. The band would have fallen apart without the boss, the comedian, and the mediator.

We’ve all grown up since then, but we haven’t grown apart. Tracy is a nurse, Amanda is an Army captain, and I am currently working as a nanny. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles separate us, but I talk to at least one of my sisters almost every day.  When we get together, we can still tune up the instruments and play “Oh Danny Boy.” We have each other’s backs.  We know each other better than we know ourselves.

Though we don’t always appreciate each other’s differences in the moment, we do know that it’s our variety that makes us stronger together.  And like the Three Musketeers, we will always be “all for one and one for all.” Sibling love is a very special kind of love.  If you think you and your sibling have nothing in common, you may be right.  But those contrasting interests, opposite personalities, and conflicting perspectives may be the very thing that you need most from each other.

Love your siblings for who they are. Chances are, your best friend is the one who has been growing up right next to you.

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