05/28/2014 02:40 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Ties That Bind My Kids

On Mother's Day weekend, our whole family drove to Virginia for my older son's college graduation. We got stuck in horrific traffic south of DC, there was a reasonable amount of fighting over who got to use the iPad in the car and who was taking too long in the hotel bathroom and we all got sunburned (as a pediatrician, you'd think I'd be better about sunscreen).

It was wonderful.

Not just because Zack was graduating, although that was pretty great. I am really proud of him and of Michaela, who graduated from college this year too (two down, three to go). It was wonderful because everyone wanted to be there, together, as a family.

This is not a gimme in our family. We rarely go a day without arguments. There is regular and sometimes really loud discord. Yes, there's laughter too (not always at someone's expense) and they have been known to get along. But it's not like everyone jumps in the car to go to Elsa's play or Natasha's swim meet or Liam's soccer game, or is dying to play a family game of Monopoly, as much as my husband and I try to encourage this.

But when push comes to shove (or when there are undeniably important events like college graduations), they are there for each other. They also put differences aside when one is sick or hurt, or when someone outside the immediate family is unkind to a sibling (they think it's OK if they are unkind to each other, but it's absolutely not OK if someone else does it).

I don't know that my husband and I get much, if any, credit for this. I've tried to drill in to them over the years that they need to be good to their siblings, because they are the ones that will always have to help them, take them in and otherwise have their back, but I don't think they get what I'm saying yet. It's certainly not why they all wanted to go to Virginia.

The bond between siblings is one of those unexplainable and largely unteachable things. It grows from shared experience -- from growing up and living through so much together, from knowing each other's secrets, from loving (and sometimes hating) the same people. It can be worn away by betrayal or neglect, but even still, there is something undeniable that binds brothers and sisters whether they like it or not.

You don't think about this when you start a family, at least I didn't. Which is a little strange, as I can't imagine life without my sister, but the far view gets lost in the stress and chaos of a young family. You don't realize how the relationships between your children will take on a life of their own and how a family becomes more and more complicated than you ever expected.

But you also don't think about how some day, some day that is hopefully but not certainly far away, you will be gone -- and your children will need to manage without you. When I watch Natasha cheer Liam up or Elsa help him draw a picture, when Zack gives Natasha swimming advice before a meet, when Michaela helps her sisters get ready for a dance or when they all stand up and clap at a graduation, I know that when that day comes, they will be OK.

They will have each other.