How Life Can Differ Between Siblings

There’s a 4-year gap between my elder sister and myself.  You wouldn’t think that would make a major difference between how she views the world and between how I view it.  However, parents can make huge changes that mean during the same effective years in mental development that will make a huge difference between siblings, even close ones.

Yet, even in something as basic as financial outlooks can be seriously changed between siblings if their parents make a significant change during both the middle childhood (approximately ages 6-12) and adolescence (approximately ages 13-21).  This is because, during these two stages of childhood, children are learning specific skills and habits that will be used in adulthood.

For example, in middle childhood, we learn money habits.  We learn what is the familial norm and how we should be expected to be responsible choices for the level of fiscal security we may or may not have. During adolescence, we learn how to apply these skills to real finances and many of us (at least those of us in the lower middle class or those living in the lower class or poverty level) learn what it takes to have a real-life job.

In our case, my sister went through her middle childhood before my father felt the call to ministry (the link goes to a Baptist view of it, but it offers a general overview of what it means to be called as a Christian minister). Before he felt that call, the combined income of both of my parents put them squarely in the middle of the road of middle class.  Technically, by current valuation of the dollar (2016 versus 1978 – the year he quit his job to become a minister), it would be a little on the side of the better off middle classes.

In 1978, my sister was turning 14, while I was turning 10.

By the information above, the “norms” my sister learned were radically different to the ones I learned. After my father felt the call to the ministry, the family’s fiscal situation took a nose dive.

  1. 1

    From 1978 until my father graduated the seminary (and therefore received his first parish) in 1985, we lived in Section 8 housing.  Before 1978, they owned a home.

  2. 2

    Like many other poor people, we received goverment cheese (similar to Velveeta, but of even worse quality) and peanut butter. I don’t know for a fact whether or not we received food stamps or any other form of General Assistence, but as an adult looking back over it I can’t quite see how they were able to financially keep things going without it. Given the economies I used — based on the “norms” I grew up with — I have at least an idea of how they might have succeeded.

  3. 3

    Grandmother Rose lived through the Great Depression, and I know that between her and my mother’s childhood as a poor kid in Arkansas, I was certainly taught how to make a penny stretch impossibly far. In fact, my ex-husband eventually believed I could “do miracles with money” ignoring the fact that every time I pulled money out of my ass it came from bills or meant I couldn’t afford a new piece of clothing or came from some other place we couldn’t actually afford it.

  4. 4

    I would say that approximately half of my clothing growing up came from my mother and grandmother sewing clothing. The other half? More often than not from Goodwill (until we could no longer find clothing in my size). Shoes had to be new, but more often than not came from places like Payless.

As much as a parent might think they are able to hide financial difficulties from their children, hoping they can still give a child the best childhood possible, we children aren’t as oblivious as parents hope.

Recently, my sister actually ended up making the connection between why I personally viewed my family (and myself by adult life) as having been just barely above poverty level, whicl she grew up thinking we were firmly in the middle class.

The only way we are similar is in viewing our parents as Intelligentsia — more from IQ levels than necessarily as how they worked. Technically, even during our poorest years, they did tend to do more white collar work which would imply being on the lower rung of the intelligentsia.

As we discussed it, I realized how deeply the pain of living in poverty has become embedded in me. The pain is not all from my childhood and adolescence, some comes from my adult life as well. But that deep-seated pain is one of the reasons I feel that I need to advocate for the poor (as much as with my other issues of advocacy). As with the others, it comes from an understanding that I have a personality and sense of justice that supports being a strongly vocal advocate. Not everyone can be a voice — not everyone has the strength of will to ignore people who want injustices to be “kept quiet,” with promises that “something will be done, just trust us.”

That promise has been given to many sub-cultural groups in the United States even all the way back to when our country born. Native Americans were told to “trust our government”. Women were told to trust their men to have “women’s best interests in mind”. African Americans have continued to be told “equal rights are here for you!” unless of course they are millionaires. Latinos are still considered in many ways only useful as “migrant workers” or “domestic help” also unless of course they are millionaires.

I’m a white woman. That means quite bluntly that I have a responsibility to speak up, to speak out. To point out the injustices. To use the privelege I do have in order to fight for those who do not. I do not speak FOR those living with these injustices, because I haven’t lived their situtions. But I do take the words THEY speak, attributing those words to them, and speak them in places they cannot reach.

I know the world is not fair. That’s not what I am fighting for (and a blog post will come soon discussing fairness versus justice). But, we claim here in the USA that we have the most equitable judicial system in the world. If that were true, someone like Brock Turner would still be in jail for his crimes, while many non-white political prisoners would be free and exonerated.

My speaking out, my advocacy makes my sister uncomfortable. However, I understand why she is uncomfortable. Speaking out often makes people uncomfortable. And it is not always because somewhere they might feel defensive assuming that those that speak out want them to feel guilty. Think about this, people. What we who speak out are doing is to put a subject on the table to find a solution. Stop playing the defensive game, and step up to actually make our country the equitable place that we have all been promised it would be.

Categories: Feminism, Mental Retraining, Political Opinion | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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