Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mom really DID love you more!

Enjoy it now, folks. This is probably the only time I'll ever post a photo with an unobscured view of my face. That's me, and my little brother. I was four, and by the looks of it, he couldn't have been more than a month old. Oddly, I think my parents still have those Raggedy Ann and Andy bedsheets.

Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me referenced a recent study that proved that parents are harder on their elder children. They punish them more and generally place higher expectations on them. Younger children get away with so much more than we elders ever could. Here's what the Telegraph wrote about it. (I was amused that they referred to study done by "Maryland University.")

Part of me wants to send this article to my parents to show them that I wasn't imagining things when I'd complain to them of letting Bro get away with things that I would've been roundly punished for. But what's the point? They raised two functioning, happy, compassionate adults who've found healthy, permanent relationships with people who understand math and finances better than they do.

The resonance of this study for me now is less as a child with a grudge than as an adult pondering and witnessing parenthood, myself. Mom was the second of 5; Dad was the fifth of 5, so my complaints of unfairness fell on deaf ears. Honey and I both come from two children families, and he's the baby of his. At least we'll have two perspectives to bring to any children we may have.

Beyond that, though, this study reminded me of how it's only been in the two years that I've realized how important I was (am?) to my brother. He's always been important to me, of course, but I didn't really recognize, until lately, how much he adores me, and has his whole life. I always assumed that he lived to annoy me, until he reached junior high, by which time we became more peers and friends. When I turned 30, he sent me a really touching card extolling how great a sister and steadfast role model I've been for him. (My drunken, cussing, graceless, directionless ass - a role model? Poor guy!)

Apparently he also knew before I did that the only reason he existed was because I wanted a sibling. My mother was content with having only one child and Dad was down with it, too, but apparently I began begging for a sibling once I could vocalize it. I was so eager for one, I began telling people - friends, family, strangers on the street - that my mother was pregnant. She got pregnant so as not to make a liar of me, I assume; that, and because she and Dad decided one more was probably okay. I told this to Bro last year and he said he'd known it for a decade.

His admiration of me though has really only become more evident to me since he and his fiancee got serious about a year ago. I'm really looking forward to her being added to the family. As he began to regard her opinions and incorporate them into his lifestyle, I realized he was acting on influences of hers that I had, for years, been trying to exert on him. For instance, he now eats sushi - not frequently, but that he does it at all is amazing - and has begun to drink wine and looks for new wines to try. This, from a boy who just two years ago was immovably a steak and beer guy. I've always said he needs a girl who is smarter than he is, and I think he's found her. Why she wants to hang around my fart-bucket brother, I don't know, but I'm happy she does.

But I digress ... much as I like her and am happy for them, I feel myself being replaced as the primary female peer relationship in his life. (Assuming, I had that role, to begin with.) And I've found myself kind of jealous as he's begun aligning himself with her family. And I can only assume this jealousy is because I've been used to being listened to by him for the last 28 years and now that's shifting. It's a good thing it's shifting. But, holy cow! Is it possible my parents were right: the reason why he'd copycat me was because he looked up to me? And maybe I've been the bossy older sister the whole time and never known it. Crap. Next thing I know, I'm going to find out I'm a Cylon. Frak.


Pearl said...

Heh. I love it when siblings are close. My brother and I live 200 miles away from each other, but when we get together there is always giggling and mischief and I love his company. I find it really sad that I'm often told how unusual it that I'm a sister who talks about her brother with real affection. It's lovely to hear you speak about your bro in a similar vein, and great to find another big sister who loves her annoying farty brother. Mine is in Thailand at the moment. I've just had an email telling me that he got sexually assaulted by a baby elephant. I swear this could only happen to him!

Molly Malone said...

i also love hearing when adults are close to their siblings. i really admire my little brother. ... and i love that your brother was harassed by a baby elephant! that is too rich!

Darla D said...

I love the photo up top - very cool.

Oh, and if you catch me doing that to my #1 kid, please give me a sharp kick in the shins. I think it may be because we're so freaked out by the first child and trying to do things right and keep her safe and make sure she's responsible, but we mellow out a bit with #2 because #1 is blazing the trail, so to speak.

No matter what I do with the best of intentions, I'm sure they'll both be in therapy one day - and it will be all my fault!