362. Sibling

I’d like to add a verb to the English language: “sible.” There already is “sibling,” which can easily be used as the present participial form of the verb and still be used as a noun when necessary. “Parent,” after all, became a verb during my lifetime, so there’s a precedent. And I’m not seriously worried that adding just one more word will open a floodgate – that we’ll end up “aunting,” “uncling,” and “cousinning” each other. But people have been sibling each other since Cain sibled Abel, and I really think the concept deserves a verb of its own.
If you think about what siblings are and will be to each other, you realize that we’ve overlooked a lot. How often do you think of your five year old son as a potential uncle to your two year old daughter’s potential children? Or your seven year old daughter as your four year old son’s potential wife’s sister-in- law? But siblings really do have profound effects on each other, and usually stay friends or at least acquaintances.
The words “brother” and “sister” are ubiquitous; they show up in religion and in law, usually referring to people who aren’t related to each other. Colleges have fraternities and sororities (from the Latin “frater” and “soror” – “brother” and “sister”). And of course (to rephrase an unnecessarily gender-specific statement), all people are siblings.
There are some important differences between sibling and parenting. First of all, parenting happens after decisions have been made by those who parent. Ideally, it’s been a well-conceived (no pun intended), totally conscious decision. But sibling is done after someone else has made a decision; the person doing the sibling did not have any ultimate power over the decision to start doing it. That doesn’t mean it has to be bad; I know brothers and sisters who love each other dearly. But the decision to sible was not theirs.
Another difference is that even though “parent” is a relatively new verb, it’s a well-established concept. Books have been written about it. “Mother” and “father,” as verbs, never meant what “parent” means; to “mother” someone is to nurture – often more than necessarily. And to “father” someone is just to make it possible for the person to be conceived. All fathers father; only the good ones parent.
It’s not unusual to hear, during an argument between siblings, “You’re not my mother,” or “You’re not my father.” The implication is that mothers and fathers are supposed to be obeyed. While motherhood and fatherhood are no guarantees of that, siblinghood (perhaps another new word) can be a license to ignore. If there’s a significant age, size, or assertiveness difference between siblings, ignoring can be difficult, but it’s still more of an option than it is with parents.
As you and your children sible, you may still wonder exactly what the rules of the game are. I don’t claim to have suddenly become an authority on sibling. In fact, I don’t even know whether I sible well; I’ve only recently started sending birthday cards to my siblings. But I hope I’ve at least helped you begin to know what you’re doing. You’re sibling.

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