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From special “lemonade” to doctored recordings to scary horror films, the TODAY anchors know all about sibling rivalry.
When Natalie Morales disclosed on TODAY Tuesday that her older sister, Patricia, once tricked her into drinking urine by calling it lemonade, it brought a flood of similar stories of sibling torture and pranks from TODAY viewers. On Thursday, the siblings of Willie Geist and Al Roker weighed in with their own tales of growing up with the TODAY anchors, and Natalie’s sister defended her “lemonade” surprise. Expert Dr. Jennifer Hartstein was also on hand to analyze the psychology behind all the teasing.
Geist’s younger sister, Libby Wildes, remembered being about 5 years old when a 10-year-old Willie made her watch the horror film “Friday the 13th.”
“My youth was less about getting beat up and definitely more about the long-lasting, traumatizing mental torture,’’ Wildes said. “(Willie) made me watch 'Friday the 13th,' where Jason murders a lot of people in the woods. It’s really, really disgusting and horrible. I was obviously traumatized.
“To this day, if I see the trailer or even the tiniest clip of the chase scene, I scream out loud, totally traumatized. And I have my big brother to thank for that.”
“I would like to point out that this was an isolated incident,’’ Geist said. “I was otherwise loving and caring to my little sister.”
Teasing and fighting (and watching gory horror movies) are all part of learning how to form relationships, Hartstein said.
“There’s going to be fighting, there’s going to be that stuff. But when it becomes really problematic that one child is saying, ‘This is happening too much, I’m scared of my sibling,’ parents really need to pay attention,’’ Hartstein explained. “You need to really let them figure out how to work some of it now, because that’s how they are going to do it later in life.”
Roker’s brother, Chris, and his sister, Alisa Smith, had much different experiences growing up with him. Al is 16 years older than Chris, but much closer in age to Alisa.
“For God sakes, he potty-trained me,’’ Chris said. “I think of him as my big brother, as a second dad.”
But Alisa’s experience with Al was closer to that of Libby Wildes and her big brother Willie Geist. “Not sibling rivalry: trickery,’’ Alisa said. “He was a trickster.”
She detailed how Al once recorded a phony interview with her and then edited her answers to fit different questions. “None of the questions were the same,’’ she recalled. “Do you curse? ‘Absolutely!’ Do you listen to Mom and Dad? ‘Never!’ Do you lie? ‘Always!’’’
“The fact is you have here, where you’re closer in age, you’re more friends, you have similiar experiences,’’ Hartstein commented regarding Roker and his sibs. “Where with 16 years’ difference, you are going to be more like a parental figure. You are going to have a different quality of a relationship, and that’s a big deal.”
The Roker siblings are part of a family with six children, so there was plenty of pranks and teasing. “We know there’s new research that says that the more siblings, the more prepared you are for the other relationships in your life because you have to figure out how to navigate those relationships,’’ Hartstein said.
Sometimes navigating those relationships means revealing on national television that your older sister once made you drink pee after saying it was lemonade, as Morales revealed Tuesday on TODAY’s Take.
“Natalie, I love you dearly, but you have to understand where I was coming from as a child and why it is that I felt the need to put you in your place,’’ Patricia Morales told her kid sister Thursday. “After you were born, I lost all my privacy. I was now forced to share a room with you. If we fought, I was always the one to get in trouble because you were smaller and younger, regardless of who started the fight.
“I hope I did not traumatize you too much. I think you and Priscilla came out OK, so I’m going to forgive you for bringing national attention to my tactics for getting even with you when I was 10 years old.”
Natalie is a middle child, and the dynamic with an older sibling of the same sex can often produce that type of joking torture, according to Hartstein. “There’s a lot more rivalry, there’s a lot more fighting for attention, and you become the mediator, so it’s a hard place to be.’’
Especially when "lemonade" is served.