Tag Archives: siblings

Cheeky Kisses

I have had both many siblings and none. To be clear, I had three step siblings, three half siblings and married into 5. I was however, raised as an only child – usually wishing for some company and always wishing I fit in with all those part-sibs. When I got married it felt like I’d won the lottery but joining that pre-made family did not turn out to be a simple process nor did the marriage last.


Now years later, I have a wonderful relationship with a wonderful man who has two sisters. Meeting them for the first time was nerve-wracking. When I was a child I wanted so much to connect with my father’s three other kids. Before seeing them I would think hard about how I looked and what I wore. I would worry about how I acted and wondered if I was thin enough for them? Surprisingly now, as a normally confident and happy adult I found myself wondering the same things about meeting my boyfriend’s sisters.


He is Swiss, I am decidedly American. Europeans have an odd relationship with Americans. They want to visit our cities and beaches. They want to see our enormous national landscape and to shop in our stores. However, they cringe at our politics, manners, too ready smiles, white socks and sneakers. They think we are cool and… decidedly uncool. When I met his sisters I wanted to fall on the cool side of that spectrum. Clothing-wise I knew I would be fine (I own no tube socks.) I had spent enough time around him to be clear on manners. My politics are in line with theirs. But there was one thing left that worried me.


Greeting people here at home is effortless. Handshakes and smiles around. A one-cheeked kiss with close friends or in big cities. Who thinks much about it? However, I knew in Europe they had a complicated cultural thing about cheek kissing. European women always look so stylish (with perfectly tied scarves) as they warmly greet each other with cheek kisses. No hesitation (right side or left, two or three, noise or no?) and they certainly don’t end up lip-locked. How’s an American gal meant to keep up?


I even went so far as to Google “cheek kissing in Europe” to find no less than 525,000 entries. Turns out there’s even a Wikipedia page explaining the custom. My research, though, did not really guide me. The number of kisses depends on where you are – not just which country but within each country! Some areas start left, some right. Some make contact and some make noise.


I gave up trying to perfect the local custom. I gave up trying to be sure I fit in and just decided to be terribly American and… smile. The cool part? They did too. They smiled and kissed and laughed at my ineptness. Now, a few years later, he says I am “family” and they make me feel like it is true. They laugh and tease me every time we greet. And I am still not sure, if in the German part of Switzerland, it is two kisses or three.


A Sister and the Dog Fur

My kids were wild the other night. Absolutely wild. All the hoopla ended up with the usually calm, easy-going middle child in tears. Her brothers were having fun together  while she was studying for finals but, apparently the fun had gotten out of control. I headed into her room to see quite a mess (it involved a lot of newly brushed out dog fur and her bed… I’ll let your imagination take it from there.) But, more impressive than the disarray was the look of remorse and concern on the boys’ faces. They saw their fun had crossed a line.
This level of sibling conflict is rare around here. Somehow I have raised three kids who like each other. Most of the time. In the office parents often ask me for help with sibling issues. While there is endless advice one could give about not playing favorites and listening well, the first answer I give is always the same and often sufficient.
Way back when my first was 3 and about to have a sister I panicked thinking that life might never be the same again. The new baby would be an intruder into her brother’s world. He would feel cheated, lonely without my undivided attention. He might resent her. About that time, I read some advice for how to avoid sibling rivalry that seems to have worked:
Brainwash ’em.
Tell them from day one how lucky they are to have each other. Tell the big brother that his sis is so lucky to have him in her world. Tell her the flip side. Remind them often, that they will be in each other’s lives forever – through everything life throws at them.
Even dog fur.