April 23, 2024

Special Guests Dale and Carrie Rubury: When your Sibling is the “Monster” Child

Today’s is a special episode focusing on sibling dynamics. We take a break from our typical therapy sessions to talk to Leslie’s 34-year-old twins, Dale and Carrie.

Together they share in an open and honest conversation the challenges of being themselves and being in relationship with each other. Dale had intense emotions and challenging behaviors as a kid, and doesn’t understand how Carrie didn’t hate her, or at the very least resent her. Carrie was easy going and flexible, and she grew up wondering if there was something wrong with her. In this dialogue we look at how complex sibling relationships can be. What happens when one sibling has higher needs than the other? How do parents balance the needs of each child when helping one can actually hurt the other? Hear what Dale and Carrie reveal about the evolution of their relationship not just as siblings, but as twins, from childhood to adulthood.

About our guests: 

Dale Rubury is excited to be back on Is My Child A Monster? as she was a producer and special guest in Season 1. After graduating from college with a degree in Zoology, Dale moved to warmer climates to pursue a career with animals. She worked at the largest primate sanctuary in North America for 7 years before moving on to a different career path. For the past few years, she has been in the world of construction where she was building yurts and working for Habitat for Humanity. Dale is currently enrolled in a graduate program to become a Physical Therapy Assistant. Dale is proud to say that she has a healthy relationship with her anxiety.

Carrie’s passion for exploring humanity, in all its messiness and wonder, has driven her career. Her career has led her across the globe, working in Latin America and Africa, and across various industries, from public relations and restaurants to leadership development and healthcare. Carrie continued to follow her curiosity about how people change and grow into graduate school to earn her MSW. Carrie is currently working as a clinical social worker in a community practice in upstate New York. She lives with her husband and dog, Lou. Outside of work, she is likely cooking with friends or adventuring in some wilderness.

Credits: Is My Child a Monster is produced by Alletta Cooper, Dale Rubury, and Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Theme music is by L-Ray Music. Public relations is handled by Tink Media. Graphics and Website Design by Brien O’Reilly. by Eric Rubury. A special thanks to everyone who contributes their wisdom and support to make this possible.

Time Stamps

  • 1:53 The metaphor of a mobile: a family systems perspective where all family members impact each other
  • 10:17 For the low needs child you can explain that “It’s hard being [the sibling with anxiety], and it’s hard being you”
  • 12:26 Holding the dialectic dilemma: “I love her and am also angry at her”
  • 16:30 The empathy issue for children – when a child is young and struggling, they may not be able to understand the other person’s perspective
  • 17:47 Give the problem back to the child who is being mean
    •  It’s Dale’s problem, not Carrie’s
    • Give compassion to the child who is struggling in the moment
    • Connect to the child who is the “victim”
  • 19:03 What happens when a child looks “perfect” in public
  • 23:40 Be careful not to make things worse for the child who is highly sensitive or high needs. Shaming that child will make things worse
  • 25:04 It’s worth the wait for the apology when it comes in a genuine way (check out our apology episode)
  • 27:55 UNDERSTANDING the child is key – you are not the monster, you are Dale
  • 30:18 Treat each child with respect in order to make them feel unique and significant
  • 35:30 Humor: don’t make light of the situation, but humor can bring light to the situation
  • 36:24 Carrie’s advice for parents:
  • 36:30 Repeat things over and over and have faith that it will sink it
  • 36:58 Remember to hold both sides of the dialectic: the hard parts and the connected, loving parts

Resources: 

Leslie-ism: All children need to feel like unique individuals and also need to feel like they belong.

TRANSCRIPT OF SHOW:

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

0:03  Carrie:  It was one of the greatest gifts you ever gave me, because I think it helped me understand what was happening a little bit differently…versus, like, Dale hates me, or this is all my fault. It helped me get to also stay so close to her.

0:21  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  This is Is My Child A Monster?, a parenting therapy podcast where you get to listen in, as real parents and caregivers share their trials and tribulations in therapy sessions recorded live. I’m your host, Leslie Cohen-Rubury. I am a parent and a therapist with 38 years of experience helping families navigate this question. And no, your child is not a monster. 

Today, my 34-year-old twin daughters, Dale and Carrie, join me to talk about their relationship. My girls have always been so different from each other. Carrie was a pretty easygoing kid. And Dale had a lot of big emotions. And growing up, that contrast played a big part in their relationship. So many parents come to me wondering, “Will my children get along as adults?” Parents want their children to grow up to be best friends. And that puts a lot of pressure on an already complex dynamic. 

Sibling relationships are complex. So, as parents, where do you begin? Often, parents have an “identified patient” in the family. That’s typically the child who has intense emotions, behavioral challenges, and takes up a lot of energy. And as a therapist, I have a family systems perspective, which means: everyone affects everyone. Think of a mobile with different parts hanging down. If you touch one part of the mobile, all the other parts are impacted. So it’s important to hear from every member of the family. 

Our family was no different. Dale’s way of being in this world had a tremendous impact, especially on her twin sister, Carrie. So I invited my twins to talk about what that was like for both of them, growing up and now, in adulthood. The beginning of today’s conversation focuses a lot on Dale’s physical and emotional outbursts. And I want to be clear, it wasn’t all the time. 

Okay, now, as a reminder, this show is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for therapeutic intervention. So let’s begin. 

Leslie:  Hi, Carrie. Hi, Dale. 

Carrie:  Hi, Mom. 

Dale:  Hey, mom. 

Leslie:  Okay, this is exciting. Before we jump in, I’m going to let you, Dale, start and just introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing and who you are.

3:02  Dale:  Yeah, of course. I am the original monster child. I was definitely the difficult child in our family. A little bit about myself. I live in Texas and have lived here for 10 years, about. I recently went back to school for a physical therapist assistant degree. And yeah, in my free time, I usually just cook, which is a passion that we all share—food and cooking, yep. Carrie, as the non-monster child, you want to introduce yourself?

3:38  Carrie:  Yeah, I’m Carrie. I’m the younger twin, so, technically, the youngest in the family. I live in New York. I’ve lived here for over 10 years with a small intermission in California. I also recently went back to school and got my MSW and currently do clinical social work, following in my mom’s footsteps. Before that, I was doing program development and program management in various different fields. Also love food. Also love to cook. Yeah, I think that’s me.

4:13  Leslie:  And we all love to laugh.

4:16  Dale:  This is true. Humor in everything. 

Carrie:  Yeah.

4:20  Leslie:  We do, we do. So, people come to me in therapy, or in the podcast, and they often describe a child with intense emotions and challenging behaviors. And they often say, in the passing, “Oh, yeah, we have another child. She’s easygoing. She’s not a problem, no worries.” And I say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. There is some concern. Your child—who’s living with the other child—there’s a dynamic there going on. And I so clearly watched it between you two. So I think it would be so helpful to our listeners to share, from your point of view, from the two of you talking together: what was it like growing up together? Carrie, what was it like, growing up with Dale? And Dale, what was your awareness of your sister?

5:09  Dale:  Well, I can start, because it’s kind of easy. When I was younger, I know that I had very little concept of what it was like for my siblings, specifically, Carrie, growing up with me. I was struggling so much back then, with anxiety and the different ways that it was manifesting and my sensitivities that I felt like I was in my own world. So, to be honest, it wasn’t until recently that I realized…kind of that impact. But so, Carrie, I’m sure you can really speak more to the experience. Yeah, well, what was that like for you?

5:54  Carrie:  I remember, like, being young, and being really scared for you. When we were really little, I remember being worried about you—you seemed out of control, you seemed in so much pain. I think it felt scary. And then as we got older—I was thinking about more in high school and when we got older—it became…it was very, like, frustrating. I mean, I think the other piece of it is we were always really close. And so, as much as it was scary and as much as it was hard, you were also my best friend. We went through school, Side By Side through high school. 

And so I think that made…I mean, we are still incredibly close. And I think that made it so much easier to get through and be with you, because there was this whole other side to our relationship where you felt like…you were my best friend. And it was really hard because it also felt like my best friend was the person who sometimes hated me the most or was the most angry with me. 

7:05  Leslie:  I was going to say, can you talk about what it was like? Because, Dale, your anxiety presented through anger. And Carrie was the closest person to you, so Carrie got a lot of your anger. Any examples that either of you can remember?

7:24  Carrie:  I remember once…this is like a really specific example, but I remember it so clearly. You once turned to me and just punched me. And you were, like, “I just feel so angry.” And it wasn’t like anything was happening. But I just remember being, “I didn’t know what else to do.”

7:39  Dale:  Do you remember what age that was? 

7:41  Carrie:  It was old enough where we shouldn’t have, like…we knew it wasn’t okay to be hitting. I want to say we weren’t teenagers. But we were…

Dale:  Eleven, twelve?

Carrie:  Yeah, something around there. Or nine or ten—it was like old enough to be, like, I thought you didn’t hit me that much anymore. And I remember you being, “I don’t know what else to do.” And you just punched me in the arm. 

8:04  Dale:  I would, for the record, like to apologize for that.

[Laughter]

8:08  Carrie:  It has been put into the documents and it’s been noted. Yeah, I’ll go through the processing.

8:14  Dale:  So, Carrie, in those moments where you took the brunt of whatever intense emotion I was feeling, whether it was anxiety—usually it was pretty much always anxiety but manifesting as anger to you—in that moment, where I turn and punch you: is it confusion? Were you used to it, in a kind of messed up way? Did you want to hit me back? I remember Travis and I have a much more dynamic of: if I showed him anger he would kind of fight back or he would tease me and then my anger would come out. So it felt like, kind of much more of a…almost even dynamic. But with you and I, I know, looking back at it was definitely much more one-sided. Is that how it felt to you?

9:05  Carrie:  I think so. I don’t remember a lot of urges to hit, I don’t remember having that feeling. And I don’t remember us fighting like that. Mom, do you? 

9:17  Leslie:  No. I think, Dale, you’re describing it well, when you say it was one-sided, because, Carrie, you were gentle and I would witness Dale yelling at you. And it just felt like you were very vulnerable. So I knew, as the parent, you were feeling abuse, you were feeling being yelled at, and it wasn’t fair. So I remember very clearly feeling very committed to helping you understand that this was Dale trying her best. She was having difficulty. It was her anxiety. It’s not your problem. Do you remember me saying that to you? This is Dale’s problem, not your problem. I tried to do it with compassion.

10:04  Carrie:  Yeah, I remember that a lot. You would also always tell me it’s harder being Dale. You’d be, like, “I know that was so hard,” or whatever I was dealing with. And you’d always be like, “It’s hard being Dale, Dale is having a really hard time right now.” And I think it was one of the greatest gifts you ever gave me because I think it helped me understand what was happening a little bit differently…versus like, Dale hates me or this is all my fault, or I deserve to be hit if I colored outside the lines or something. But I think I also…understanding what was going on for Dale, it helped me get to also stay so close to her. 

10:45  Leslie:  I was just going to ask you: how did that feel, in the moment, when she was yelling at you? You didn’t really understand that, “Is it my fault?” So how did that feel?

10:56  Carrie:  It definitely felt like my fault. I definitely felt like, “I’ve done something wrong,” wanting to try to do something different. I think it also felt scary and overwhelming. Her anger was so big. It felt very overwhelming sometimes. And so I think that’s another thing I remember feeling, is just the bigness of it. And then I would feel anger after. Afterwards, I would then feel the anger of like, “I was right.” There was this feeling of, “She hit me,” and there was just this feeling of like, I felt that one-sidedness and that anger of wanting…I don’t know what I wanted, but I wanted some sort of…yeah, the validation of that one-sidedness. I don’t know.

11:44  Leslie:  When I told you that it was Dale having a hard time, did it feel like an excuse? Did it feel that I was still on your side and understood you? Or did it always feel like I was taking Dale’s side? How did that feel? How did I do?

[Laughter] 

12:02  Carrie:  Well, you’ll get the report in the coming years, don’t worry, it’s processing. No, I think there were definitely times it was frustrating. There are definitely times that I remember craving, I wanted you to say “You’re right, Dale’s out of control,” that she shouldn’t have done that. I wanted that kind of extreme validation of  righteousness, almost. But I think, again, the best gift you gave me was being able to hold both sides of my relationship with Dale, because I think it allowed us to stay so close through times when it was really hard or when there was more tension. And I wouldn’t give up that relationship for anything. 

And so being able to practice, even when I didn’t want to—understanding Dale and making sense of it in a way that wasn’t, she’s bad or having all this judgment—I think helped me over time to both understand her, have frustrations with her and love her so deeply. And, I think, appreciate her and her sensitivities for the beautiful parts of it. I think Dale’s sensitivity is one of the best parts of her and I’ve learned so much from it and I wouldn’t want her to be any other way. And so I got both sides of it even if one was hard. And so I think the way you helped name it wasn’t the most satisfying, in the moment; but was so important for helping us stay so connected over our life.

13:30  Leslie:  Beautifully said. Okay, let’s go back again for one second. Dale, when Carrie talks about the difficult part—the out of control, the feeling like the monster—I’m curious how that feels when you hear that from Carrie. 

13:44  Dale:  It’s definitely a mix of emotions. I remember, I think it was…I mean, we didn’t really have a lot of these open conversations in this sense, like, talking about Carrie’s experience growing up with me until maybe—I don’t know, Carrie, correct me if I’m wrong—about five years ago. Like, relatively recently. And I remember the impact then very clearly and it’s still similar each time I hear it, which is…I don’t know, there’s a bit of shame, there’s a bit of anger towards myself that I treated her so horribly. Almost kind of like this, this outcry of, “Why was I allowed to treat her so poorly? Why didn’t somebody, I don’t know, do something more, something…

14:51  Carrie:  [Laughter] It sounds like I was just getting beaten in the corner—which is not the case. 

14:56  Dale:  I know. But my anxiety came at you pretty hard and pretty intensely. And it was something. For as empathetic as I am and how often I think of other people’s feelings, I think there was a big part of me that didn’t ever consider the extent of my impact on you growing up until we had some of those conversations in the last couple of years. And, yeah, I mean, the biggest thing is just disbelief that you wanted to stay close to me, to be honest. As a young kid, you could have easily been like, “I don’t want to hang out with her, I want to go do anything else.” And yet, we had similar groups of friends, that we did almost everything together. And it baffles me to this day, why? I’m grateful for it, but I don’t get why you still want to be so close to me. Yeah…

16:05  Leslie:  That’s really interesting, because I want to jump in—I had two thoughts. One is the piece about empathy. So, often, parents who come to me with a difficult child and having the child who’s so called the monster child—that child, they say has no empathy. And just like you just said, you have so much empathy, Dale. But what happens is when you’re hurting…when you’re hurting, think about a dog that’s hurting. They’ll bite their owner, they will protect themselves. Because when someone is hurting, it’s evolutionary to protect yourself. So the fact that you couldn’t really see Carrie’s perspective, when you were that young, just makes sense. 

And we as parents, we need to know you’re not not empathetic—you actually are extremely empathetic. And in this moment, your challenges, your anxiety, your own internal discomfort is keeping you from seeing the other perspective. But that’s not all the time, that’s when you’re in emotion mind. That’s when you were in those states, when you were so riled up because you couldn’t see what was going on. So I just want to let you know that it’s quite common that you look like you don’t have empathy. And it’s really important for parents to know that there’s a ton of empathy. 

As a matter of fact, you both had so much empathy, I was pulling my hair out. It’s like, “Oh, my goodness, you’re worried about each other.” So there was one example I want to share, which I used to do a lot. We’d be in the car and Dale, you might say something that was mean to Carrie. And I would say something like, “Dale, it sounds like you’re having a hard time, sounds like school might have been hard for you.” And I would validate you, Dale. So that, Carrie, I’m modeling for you. This is not about you. This is not about you, but I didn’t have to say it. I just would say, “Hey, Dale, did you have a hard time at school today? Because I think it sounds like you’re having a hard time. You know, right now or maybe at school?” Do you see what I did? And do you remember me doing that stuff?

18:16  Carrie:  I remember it.

18:18  Leslie:  Was it helpful?

18:20  Carrie:  It was one of those moments where, in the moment, it didn’t feel very satisfying. Because of course, I wanted you to be like, “How dare you? Don’t say that to Carrie?” I wanted the validation of, “That wasn’t nice,”, whatever it was. And I think you sometimes did do that.

18:39  Leslie:  Did I sometimes follow it up and check on you later, “Carrie, you doing, okay?” Did I do some of that? 

18:45  Carrie:  I remember a lot of that. I remember a lot of talking to you afterwards, and you would come check in on me or sit with me. And that’s a lot of times when you would be very validating in the sense of like, “It’s so hard to be Dale. And it’s really hard to be you.” You would say it’s really hard to get that. Yeah.

Leslie:  Yeah, that makes sense. 

19:02  Dale:  Speaking of validation, Carrie, I know that growing up, especially probably in high school a lot with our friends. They all called me yet easygoing, laid back. 

Carrie:  …oh my god…

Dale:  When people described me, they would describe me, and I didn’t even feel like that was right. But of course, I’m going to be, like, “Totally, I’m the most laid back, chill person.” [Laughter] And that could not be farther from the truth, as you and the rest of the family very well know. 

So, did that make that kind of lack of validation almost like ten times worse? Because you got a side of me that only our immediate family saw; everyone else thought I was an angel child.

19:59  Carrie:  Oh my god, that was one of the most frustrating dynamics, because everyone would be, like, “Dale’s so easygoing, she’s so laid back.” And for those of you who don’t know Dale, she’s incredibly charismatic. She is so funny. She’s just effervescent  as a person.

[Laughter]

20:19  Dale:  Thank you, thank you so much, keep it coming.

20:23  Carrie:  And so, she comes off as…you come off as laid back and easygoing and funny, which is all true. But nobody saw the side where you would…I remember in high school, we’d be making plans, and we shared a cell phone, I’d be texting friends being like, “Oh, we’re meeting up with so and so later.” And you’d be like, “What time?” And I’d be like, “I don’t know, later.” And for me, that works. “Later” works. I felt, like, fine information. And for you, it was really hard not to have all the details. So you’d be like, “Well, what time? We need to know what time. Where are we going? Who’s driving?” —all the details? And you would ask me to get it. 

So instead of you being the face of those questions, and needing that information, I would become the face of it. And I did it, where then I would text the friends and be like, “What time are we meeting?”…asking all these details. And so I think sometimes, I came off as more uptight. But I really felt I was like the face of your anxiety sometimes. 

Dale:  That’s fair.

Carrie:  …which was frustrating because it felt both like a betrayal to myself of, “I don’t care what time we meet.” But it felt hard. Because people said, “Oh, Dale, so laid back.” Being the farthest from the truth felt like a betrayal to you. But staying silent and being like, “Yeah, she is so laid back,” felt like a betrayal to me. So I think I felt, oftentimes, in this dilemma of I don’t know what to do in those situations where it feels like no matter what I say, I’m betraying someone.

21:54  Dale:  Yeah, that makes sense. And what’s interesting is, I remember even occasionally correcting them kind of in a joking way, of course, but being like, “Oh, if you only knew,” or whatever, and no one would really believe it anyways…

Carrie:  Never. [Laughter]

Dale:  Never. Nobody really knew the extent of it. What was interesting is even—because I thought it was mostly like those high school friends and and, you know—but we, since starting the podcast, and people hearing me talk on previous episodes, or Mom describing me, we’ve had childhood friends come to me and go, “Dale, I had no idea this was going on.” Because even as a young kid, I kept the tantrums of just wreaking havoc because my left shoe was tighter than my right, I guess, secret enough that only really you guys knew. 

And it wasn’t even an intentional thing. I guess I just knew how to control it socially. But yeah, I can’t imagine that. That would be incredibly invalidating and frustrating. Because you couldn’t even get that camaraderie or have those friends kind of validate your experience or even you couldn’t even vent to them about it, because they probably would barely take it seriously.

23:22  Carrie:  Yeah, that definitely felt hard to feel, I don’t know, I don’t have anyone to get to complain to or vent to. And it was always surprising that people who were so, so, so close to us wouldn’t know. 

23:36  Leslie:  It was very challenging. And I think for parents, they…Carrie, you mentioned something earlier, like, “Why don’t I just put Dale in her place? Why don’t I just stop her.” And a lot of parents want to. They think, “I am not going to let my child get away with this.” So what happens is, I think the hard thing is—and Carrie, you had to witness this without necessarily understanding it—is I had to make sure I didn’t make things worse for Dale. Because as it is, she already—as you said so yourself, Dale—you felt a lot of shame. And I worked very hard not to shame you. 

But you knew you were different in the family. You knew that when we took a car ride, you took up a lot of oxygen in the room because you weren’t happy and car rides were difficult. And at the same time, if I made it worse for you, it would make it worse for all of us. So Carrie, you actually didn’t get me doing that. But that’s why, as you said, I would come in the room and try to support you where I could. And then friends…it was not easy. You know, like strike one, strike two, strike three. Dale wouldn’t admit she did anything wrong for the first 22 years of her life. 

24:55  Carrie:  I know. But, siblings: if you’re the easy sibling, when you get that when you’re, like, 24 it’s the best feeling in the world. Just wait for it. Sweet, sweet vindication. 

Dale:  It’s worth the wait?

Carrie:  Worth the wait, yeah, yeah, yeah.

25:08  Dale:  I remember your reaction to me around that age starting to apologize and take, I’d say, quicker accountability for my kind of outbursts, my anxiety outbursts. And I remember, and each time it happened afterwards, the shock on your face, the relief on your face, just the validation. I could see it so clearly, that I think it actually, it helped me kind of be like, “Okay, not only has she clearly been lacking these kinds of apologies from me, but I need to do this, I need to do this a lot more.” 

And it made it easier for you to receive them so openly. And not with resentment or it’s-about-time kind of feeling or any of that. And I’m actually curious. Why didn’t you build up resentment over the years? Twenty-plus years is a long time to be patient. Why? And it’s not like it flipped a switch and I was great overnight. How did you stay patient with that and not build up resentment? 

26:17  Carrie:  Because I loved you. Because I was able…we were so close. And we’re talking a lot about the hard parts of our relationship. But there were so many other parts to our relationship where we went through milestones together and we…you make me laugh harder than anyone else. And there’s so much else there, that it just was…part of being your sister was, “Okay, this is the hard part. And these are the easy parts and this is a joyful part.” 

And I think understanding it and…again,I think the thing that I keep coming back to is, “It’s harder being Dale,” or “It’s Dale’s problem, not yours,” was this way of helping me understand what was going on for you.

27:04  Leslie:  I really want you to say that again. Because that’s the key. I mean, is my child a monster? What’s the answer? 

Dale:  No. 

Leslie:  No, your child is not a monster.

Dale:  Carrie, say it with us. 

[Laughter]

27:19  Dale:  Say it with us…she withheld.

27:21  Carrie:  My child is not a monster.

Dale:  There you go. 

Carrie:  I don’t have a child. Your child is not a monster. 

27:28  Leslie:  Okay, thank you. My child is not a monster. Is my child a monster? No, but they may be misunderstood. And I think, as you say, you had the ability, my help, to understand that Dale was struggling. It’s the way Dale is, biologically. This is who she is. This is, you’re not broken, Dale, you’re still this sensitive, anxious person. But when you understand yourself and when Carrie and the rest of us in the family can understand you, then you’re not a monster—you’re Dale.

[Music: Quiet Summer Evening by Roman Kostiuk]

28:16  Carrie:  I think the other piece that I was thinking about when I didn’t get the immediate validation of, “You’re right, Dale shouldn’t have hit you,” adding the shame. What I did feel very validated in was my strength of…I was more flexible. I was the brave one; Dale was really scared to go to…we had a barn that we kept canned food in. So, sometimes cooking dinner, you’d be like, “Can you go to the barn and get chickpeas.” And I would very, very often be the one to go to the barn.

28:46  Leslie:  You can use the word. You can use the word, always.

[Laughter]

28:50  Dale:  For clarification, this was at nighttime, a very terrifying time where you couldn’t see anything. And there were noises and visions. And it was terrifying. So to be clear, I would get the chickpeas during the day, but never at night…

29:03  Carrie:  …when it became a deathtrap. So, I had to be the one to go in the nightly dinnertime, you know, when someone would be cooking would be when we would have to go get food. And I had this badge of…I felt really proud of the fact that I was really brave. I would be the one who would go outside at night and do things. And I was scared, but I was, in a way, forced to do these exposures where I built up. Whereas, “Okay, I can go outside at night.” 

I remember you never liked to ask people for help, at a restaurant or something. So I would always have to ask the question, or talk to strangers. And so I think you’d always celebrate those parts of me, like, “You’re so flexible or you’re so brave.” And that felt very validating like, “Oh yeah, this is my strength. I can do this. I can be the one to do these things that are harder for Dale.” And so that felt very validating, where it didn’t feel…where I got to be celebrated for  my strengths.

30:05  Leslie:  Carrie, I’m so glad you said that about your strengths and that you walked away with that. I really love the fact that you felt your strengths, that it was important to me to treat each of you respectfully, who you were. My analogy is that the instruments in an orchestra need to be treated differently. So you were the flexible one, the one that was brave, the one that was easygoing, the one that was making us all laugh. 

There were things that were about you that you got to shine, you got to feel your individuality. And that was very, very important to me, because each child needs to feel unique. And each child needs to feel a sense of belonging—those are two very important needs that all children have. So the fact that that was going on for you warms my heart, because you are this amazing person who did have to deal with these really hard things. Did I validate that enough? 

Carrie:  So validating. [Laughter]

Leslie:  Oh, I hope so sweetie, because it wasn’t easy being either one of you. And there was unfairness in the household. You got more chores than Dale did. Dale couldn’t handle the number of chores. So I cut back on my expectations. Did you feel proud of the fact that you did more and helped out more; or did that bother you, or both?

31:36  Carrie:  Probably both. I remember sometimes it being frustrating when…I remember you wouldn’t clear the table or something, Dale; after dinner was always a very hard time for everyone. And I remember being annoyed with that. But we have an older brother and he did so much. And so it never felt like…I think that’s the other piece: it didn’t feel like it was me and you and it was split 50/50. It felt like there was this division of labor. And he’s older, so he was able to do different things than us at certain ages. 

But there were certainly times when I would be asked to go to the barn and I didn’t want to. Yeah, it was interesting. Because I feel like with fairness, Dale, you were really big on fairness. If we cut a cookie in half, it had to be perfectly fair. 

Dale:  Yep. 

Carrie:  And it was very hard because what felt fair to me would feel different for you. We had different versions of fairness. And so that felt more hard. Where it felt like Dale had the standard of fairness that I was constantly falling short of or wasn’t able to…I missed some benchmark. And so it felt more…this fairness of Dale was tracking this fairness that I just had no idea what the metrics were. When I think about fairness growing up, it felt like Dale was the fairness police and I didn’t know the rules half the time. It

33:03  Dale:  It kind of sounds like you were in a lose-lose situation. Does that feel a little accurate? Like, you couldn’t, you probably felt like you couldn’t win with me like, there was there was such a high level of…to deal with my anxieties or my particulars or my sensitivities was so big. And that bar was so high that nobody could reach it. And I think as my twin, I think you were held to it in a different way than even our brother was. And so when we were driving together, and you drove a little differently than I would, and I got anxious about a safety thing, or something very, very minor, and I would lose it at you. It’s like I had this level of perfection and standard that you just couldn’t meet. So yeah, that’s what I mean. 

34:04  Carrie:  And that I couldn’t comprehend. I feel like there were things that you would be like…you would see the world so differently than me that it was so hard to be what…it just that felt really hard. And yes, it often felt like a lose-lose where I was trying my best and constantly feeling like it wasn’t good enough.

34:23  Leslie:  So here’s the bottom line. It wasn’t all the time. It was some of the time. It was hard. It was loving. It was challenging. It was joyous. And I think we all got through it with some laughter. You all have great senses of humor. Dad has a great sense of humor. So there was a mixture of a lot of different emotions in our family, a lot of different experiences. Some definitely challenging, where you feel scarred, where you had to recover, where you have to heal. And others which made you feel good and helped you grow with confidence and everything. 

But one thing that we did do is we had a lot of humor. Carrie, you’re funny, Dale, you’re funny. I mean, we did laugh. Dad would throw funny lines. Do you remember the humor as a way of softening some of the challenges?

Carrie:  Yeah.

35:21  Dale:  Yeah, I think we’ve often used humor in our family, even on on serious topics. Not as a way to make light of them, but as a way to just almost bring light to them. So that we could still address them, still know there’s an issue, but still be able to keep the closeness and break the tension, almost. And come back to a commonality of humor, really.

35:55  Leslie:  Humor and human-ness. That we’re all human, we all have our issues. And, and to try to be able to hold both; which, Carrie, you said so beautifully, where you were able to hold both. So now my question for both of you is: do you have any advice for our listening parents and families and caregivers who are listening to this, about siblings and how challenging that is?

36:25  Carrie:  I would say, I mean, I know you’ve said this before, but repeating things over and over again, even when they don’t work in the moment, they will come back to you at a time when you’re not expecting them. And just having that repetition and not needing the immediate gratification of the reaction you wish it would get. Because thirty-plus years later, I get to be like, “Oh, that actually was really helpful to get to practice for thirty years.” 

And then I think the other piece of advice is, there are the hard pieces. And I think it’s important to pay attention to them and give space for them. But I think it’s also important to remember the connection and all the other pieces. I think the fact that we had such a strong connection, and there were so many other pieces to our relationship, besides the hard parts. If the goal is to have a close relationship with your sibling, foster that, work towards that goal, and not just, “I’m minimizing the pain.” Work towards how you increase that connection. And so I think that was always really important. Having a lot of experiences and both Dale and I, and also you and Dad, would help foster the connection and not just minimize the painful, trying to have the least amount of pain. It was: how do we have the most amount of connection? 

37:48  Leslie:  Love it. Thank you.

37:50  Dale:  I don’t have much to add, Carrie—I think you said it perfectly. And I mean, the proof is the fact that we are incredibly close, had been our entire lives, but especially now. And we’re able to reflect back on our experiences. And Carrie, like you’ve said, hold both the good and the bad. And with the bad not just sweeping it under the table, but having conversations about it. Understanding—especially for me—understanding, because I think you had a better understanding of my experience. I didn’t have much of an understanding of your experience until much later in life. And so I think for me, really facing that, even though it was hard, was really important, and I think brought us even closer. And so just that what you said does work. And patience is key, but it can lead to closeness over a lifetime. 

38:52  Carrie:  Can I say one more thing that I was thinking about? I was also thinking about trusting your kids to know what works for them. I feel like there were times in our life when I needed more space from Dale or I needed my own activity or I wanted to do the same activity. Trusting the relationship can ebb and flow and there can be moments of more closeness and more separation. 

This is ironic coming from someone who needs to remind themselves to have faith that things are going to change in the future. But the faith and knowing that the relationship will change and your kid may know what’s best for them, in that moment. And it may not be what’s the best forever. But I think having the space to get to be like, “I want to do the same thing as Dale,” or, “I want to do something different,” was really helpful in allowing me to feel like my own individual and not just Dale’s sister and not just the flexible one. 

39:51  Leslie:  You reinforce that idea again, that every child needs the individuality—the need to be an individual—and every child needs the sense of belonging and connection.

40:02  Dale:  Can I add something because I’ve had an emotional day and I feel it holding back. I think I’m just constantly grateful for you, Mom, for helping Carrie be my twin and my sibling, and be able to stay close to me. Because we all know I was doing nothing to help that. And Carrie is so special and I’m so grateful for her as my twin and I deal with a lot of not feeling like I deserve her continued closeness. And just like not even that she didn’t hate me, that she actually loved me a lot. And I don’t think even to this day, I quite understand it. But I never take it for granted now. And I just…I’m very grateful. 

Carrie:  That’s so sweet, Smelly. You did a lot to deserve it. 

Dale:  Not to you. I was terrible.

41:13  Carrie:  That was only part of it.

41:14  Dale:  I don’t remember the good that I did to you. I remember having fun with you. But I don’t remember being a good sibling, at all.

41:24  Carrie:  Having fun. I mean, there were so many things. You did our entire bat mitzvah—I couldn’t remember Hebrew to save the life of me. 

[Laughter]

41:37  Dale:  We’ll tally that. We’ll put that in the won column.

41:41  Carrie:  A year of memorizing Hebrew, and I learned maybe six sentences. Do you remember that?

Dale:  No. 

Carrie:  We would be practicing together and you would be like, “Carrie, you have to actually say the words.” And I’d be like, “I don’t know the words.” So I would just mouth them.

41:58  Dale:  I don’t remember that. I loved learning it, though. and get

42:01  Carrie:  ‘cause it was in one ear, out the other.

42:03  Leslie:  It was natural for you, Dale. And Carrie, it was just like, “How am I going to fake this?”

42:07  Carrie:  Yeah. And you’d be like, “Everyone will notice,” if it’s just my voice. And I was like, “Nobody will notice.”

42:12  Dale:  Nobody will know…

[Laughter] 

42:16  Carrie:  I love you, Smelly.

42:17  Dale:  I love you. 

Carrie:  You’re the best.

42:20  Leslie:  What really is beautiful to hear, and hard—and I don’t think a parent can do anything about it—is a child’s perception is unique to them. I can’t change your perception per se. I can work on that. But like we said before, your perception of yourself in this situation and the way you describe it now, was painful for you. I can’t convince you that you’re loved and that you’re a wonderful human being. Parents try, but that’s praise, and that doesn’t always work. And so your experiencing it through the relationship is very powerful. Much more powerful. And sometimes, like Carrie said, sometimes it just comes later. So it’s amazing to be here at this point with the two of you. Whoa, you know, it’s like…

43:20  Carrie:  Yeah, I think it would be so different if you didn’t take the accountability in your twenties.

43:24  Dale:  Yeah, that makes sense.

43:28  Carrie:  I went to a different college than you.

43:31  Dale:  Thank goodness, that was probably the best…

Carrie:  …that was the biggest…

Dale:  That was the best thing you ever did for us, because I wanted to go together. And you were like, “I think maybe we should take some space.”

43:41  Carrie:  It was the hardest decision because it felt like I was hurting you, like it was insulting you. But I just needed space… 

Dale:  You saved us. 

Carrie:  …and it was the best thing.

 43:50  Leslie:  Your voice was clear, Carrie. You put your foot down.

43:55  Carrie:  Oh, I was so clear. I was not going to go to Connecticut College. You gave me Connecticut College.

43:59  Dale:  I think that was the first time you really put your foot down with me. Because Connecticut College was my top school. And so I wanted to go there more than anything else. And I think that was the first time in our life that you had just seemed so confident, so sure we shouldn’t go to school together. And you were right. It all worked out. 

 44:24  Carrie:  Yeah. I mean, it made me really good at repairs. I feel I’ve kept a lot of really close friendships, and you trained me well. As you said in your speech, you prepared me to be in a long-term…

44:37  Dale:  …to marry an anxious husband. 

[Laughter]

44:41  Carrie:  Yeah, who I love so much and is the best. You just have to understand what’s going on. 

Dale:  My gift to you. 

Carrie:  You trained me well.

44:48  Leslie:  That’s too much. You guys are too much. All right. So…beautiful way to wrap up. Thank you so much the two of you. We could talk on and on and on. And I hope that we do have more of these conversations. But thanks for joining me today.

45:04  Dale:  Thanks, Mom. It was great to be on.

45:06  Carrie:  Thanks for having us.

[Music: Acoustic Guitars Ambient Uplifting Background Music for Videos

by Lesfm]

45:18  Leslie Cohen-Rubury:  I want to thank Dale and Carrie for joining me today. It may be obvious how much I appreciate their willingness to show up on this podcast. But since I’m often recommending accurate communication, I want to say it out loud. Thank you, Dale. And thank you, Carrie. I so appreciate your openness to both coming on my podcast and sharing so freely. Dale and Carrie have such a strong relationship, in part because Dale learned how to apologize. We actually go into detail about this and how I handled it as a parent in Season 1, Episode 14: The Apology Episode. I highly recommend you listen to that, if you’d like to hear about those strategies.

[Music: The Wilds Beyond by L-Ray Music]

Join us next week to meet Lee and Pierre, who are trying to understand why their highly verbal bilingual and almost-five-year-old daughter won’t speak in public. 

Subscribe to Is My Child A Monster? wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss an episode. And if you like what you hear, tell a friend. You can find a full transcript of the episode or sign up for my newsletter at ismychildamonster.com. The Is My Child A Monster? team is Alletta Cooper, AJ Moultrié, Camila Salazar, and me. Special thanks to Eric Rubury. Our theme music is by L-Ray Music. I’m Leslie Cohen-Rubury. Thanks so much for listening. And this week, remember: all children need to feel like unique individuals and also need to feel like they belong.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by Eric Rubury

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