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On Being a Big Brother

Ever since my mother sang the first verse of Rolf Harris's classic "Two little boys" to me, I had an idea of what it would mean to be a big brother. Today is my brother's birthday and I thought I would write this piece as a short homage to him. I have wanted to put my thoughts down on the subject for a very long time but, for the longest time, I have not had the courage to share publicly what has been on my heart for the majority of my life. Yet, I think it is necessary, if not for my own sake or that of my sibling, then for the world and its big brothers that are or have yet to be.

Being a big brother to a sibling, for me at least, has always been something where I saw myself in the role of a protector. Yet, in my life, I failed at this quite spectacularly right from the word go. My brother and I are very different. I am an extrovert. He is not. I wanted to be his friend. To my understanding, he always wanted to be an only child. I wear my heart on my sleeve. He has always been closeted, emotionally speaking. Of course, I am writing this from the perspective of the observer. It is my subjective experience and it is something that has caused me, rather than to be his protector, to be his tormentor when we were kids. It is one of the great regrets of my life.

I don't believe my brother ever needed my protection. I don't believe my brother ever wanted my protection. I don't really believe that my brother ever wanted me in his life to begin with. And so it was that we became rivals, at odds with one another. As kids, I cast a very big shadow over him. And I don't think my mother did either of us any favours by casting me as her favourite. I was always made out to be the "bright one", the one who would go out and change the world, the one who would succeed no matter what. While she never voiced these words, the message was always that he was, as Prince Harry coined the phrase, "the spare". I can never imagine how this must have affected him, growing up.

The irony of the matter is, he is anything but stupid or in any way lacking in ability. At this stage in my life, while I would have chosen to have had a different relationship with him, I have nothing but pride and admiration for the man he has become. He is a doting husband, a loving father, and an accomplished professional.

Why am I writing this piece? Well, as I mentioned before, today is his birthday. So, I write this for him. But, I also write this for myself, for posterity as well as a reminder to whomever is reading this that relationships are not something to be taken lightly, that one should never take the people in one's life for granted. Ultimately, words can hurt. At the end of the day, actions can do real damage. If you are a parent to siblings, be mindful that you shape not only them as individuals, but their relationships with one another as well.

I always wanted more siblings. I recall a day, I couldn't have been older than six, when I asked my mother to go out and buy me a baby sister along with the rest of the groceries. Of course, this was something she had a good giggle about, but for me, I was being deadly serious. Later in life, after she had passed away, I discovered a letter wherein she declared to my grandmother that she, too, wanted a bigger family and that my father had balked at the idea after both I and my brother had walked at the age of nine months. I suppose, for him, the idea of a third infant toddling around the house along with my brother and I was something he was not prepared to face.

Yet, looking back, it would have been nice to have more siblings. Perhaps, then, I would have figured out how to be a better big brother to the ones who came after. Perhaps, then, I wouldn't have had to live with such shame as I have for the majority of my adult life. Time, it turns out, can offer cruel reminders of that which we were lacking, even at a young age. Some might say, I was young, ignorant, and unwise as a child. Others might say, give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack. Yet, every time I see my brother in front of me, all those feelings of regret return.

I don't know if my brother will ever read this. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. What's done is done. God knows my heart. If this is the best I can offer at contrition, then let it be thus. Again, all I can do is observe that which is written in the Bible on the subject and do my best to live up to what I am called to be by my Creator.

1 Timothy 5: 8 says it best –

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

As someone who lives with a disability, it would be easy for me to turn around and say "I am the least able, and therefore the one who should be excused from contribution." However, I have never used my disability as an excuse for anything. I have always tried my level best to distinguish myself in all things, as per my abilities, and in terms of being an older brother, I still believe that I am able to fulfil that task quite well.

To you who have siblings I say this; you are called to love them, support them, and, when necessary, guide them. You may find common ground, you may find that you are very different. Neither one, nor the other, makes you a bad person. Rather, just be grateful that you have been added to one another as family. And, in all things, be grateful for the other and love them as best you can. You will need one another in this life. That much is for certain. When that day comes, I hope that you will have the freedom to reach out to your sibling. When that day comes, remember my words.

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