More Than the Kid Sister

The Taboo Carnival

Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. Our topic this summer is PLAYING FAVORITES! This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on favoritism in relationships with children, parents, siblings, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Me in the ASU Honors Dorm Hall Council in 2006

Of all of my friends and classmates, I think I would be perceived as one of the least likely to drop out of college mid-second semester, and definitely the least likely to elope at 19, marry a military man, and start having babies.

And ever since I became that young, baby raising, military wife, I have felt like I somehow let my parents down, and accepted the fact that my brother was definitely the favorite. Until recently, I thought I’d never be seen as anything but the silly, surprisingly wild and defiant kid sister.

Being the Kid Sister

Having been somewhat of a miracle child, ten years (and much trying, loss, and trying again) after my brother, my reality was pretty much that of a single child household from the time I was 8 years old and my brother went off to college.

Our Family Easter 2008

Though I have a few very clear and dearly fond memories of playing with my older brother when we were younger, most of my relationship with my brother played out after he had “reached adulthood” . . . and I have to admit, it kind of stunk.

Until very recently,  I’ve been under the impression that because my brother took the expected route to adulthood, career, and family, that he has made our parents proud . . . whereas I am still just the kid sister, and have let my parents down by going about life on a different path. Until a surprising phone call on Father’s Day, I felt afraid and saddened by the idea that my parents love my brother more because his traditional successes and fulfilled expectations pleased my parents, and that I have always challenged them in one way or another.

Great Expectations

You see, everyone had certain expectations of me. Being the youngest child, and somewhat of a miracle baby at that, and an exceptionally bright student and talented dancer and artist. . . I’m sure everyone had visions of me as a successful writer or researcher or broadway star or something. I know that I had those visions of my future in my head at one time. . . but God led me on a different and incredibly blessed path and showed me what amazing experiences and opportunities he had in store for me, and that shocked, scared, and I think to a certain extent, appalled my family and my friends and everyone who knew me.

For years, even as I have been discovering my true calling and become quite a successful and busy military wife, mom, blogger, and even now a work-at-home-”mompreueur” . . . I have always felt afraid that I let every one back home down.

I’ve been afraid that I have never and will never live up to the expectations assigned to me. That somehow waiting until inspiration struck to go back to college as a full time student and a full time mom was somehow. . . less of an achievement because it wasn’t what I was expected to do.

I assumed that because my brother took the usual path through college, on to work, then marriage, then kids, and was successful in his family and in his career, that he was somehow the favorite child. I thought that he had made our parents so much more proud than I could ever make them, and that I would always live in the shadow of everything that he had done right and that I had done . . . differently.

I felt disparaged by the fact that my brother was “an adult” yet I did not feel that, even at 23, being a successful and strong military wife, volunteer, parenting blogger, and mother to two. . . that I could ever been seen as “an adult” in my family’s eyes.

Until one phone call set me straight, and thrilled my heart with the knowledge there is no favorite or best child between my brother and myself.

Silly Me

On Father’s Day this year, my dad called for ME.

Before could even wish him a Happy Father’s Day, he said that he wanted to call ME on Father’s Day to tell me something important.

He wanted me to know how happy it makes him to be my father. He said when your daughter is little, you don’t think forward to when she’s going to be an adult – but then as your children grow, you wonder what type of people your children will be. And he wanted me to know that I have grown up so wonderfully. He said that as a father, you hope that you’re teaching your children the values and tools they need to become successful, and that he loves seeing me as an adult because he is so proud of who I have become.

He told me that I was strong, determined, and motivated, no matter what the circumstances, and that I’m a responsible and wonderful mother to my children, and that my passion and motivation makes him very proud. He said “thank YOU for being my daughter” And I cried.

I masked the fact that I was weeping as we finished our conversation, and as I hung up the phone, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard, but I played it over and over in my mind and stashed it safely in my heart for safekeeping. It has to be one of my very favorite memories, and I think it will stay precious to me for the rest of my life.

Because through my years of assuming that my “path less taken” meanderings and unforeseen choices and alternative ways of choosing a career, committing to a marriage, and creating and raising babies, I hadn’t been disappointing him as I thought. . . Silly me! I wasn’t letting him down. . . I had made him immensely proud.

A few weeks later, my mom said a similar thing to me about my life choices. She explained that it took her a while to accept my choices as an adult because I am her baby girl, but that watching me make serious decisions, follow through with and navigate my life, and care so well for Abbey and Joe that I make her extremely proud and she wanted me to know that she sees me as a “strong woman and a strong mother” (” though”, she added, “your older brother just doesn’t get that yet!”)

Knowing that my life, my choices, and my motivation makes my parents proud means everything to me. THEY are the ones who made me. Who nurtured me. Who taught me, supported me, and protected me throughout my entire childhood. I can understand what my father meant about looking at your children and hoping that you are doing the very best you can to teach them the ways of the world and how to live well. So, the fact that what I am doing as an adult brings happiness to my parents . . . that makes me feel incredibly blessed.

***

Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival! Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!

  • What makes a favorite? — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders what caused her grandparents and parents to choose favorites. She also considers possible causes for her own favoritism.
  • Taking Longer to Fall in Love with My Second Baby — Dionna at Code Name: Mama fell helplessly, powerlessly in love with her first-born. Love with her second-born has not been as easy, but does that mean #1 is her favorite?
  • Mommy Dearest or Darling Daddy? — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro guest hosts about every parent having faults. Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders why she would prefer one parent over the other and whether this applies to every situation or can it vary?
  • Money and Equality: Should All Your Kids Get the Same? — At Authentic Parenting, Laura investigates whether or not we should provide exactly the same for our children financially.
  • More Than the Kid Sister — Amy of Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work always felt that she lived in the shadow of her older brother’s accomplishments, until her parents made her aware that her personality and passion have always brought them joy and pride.
  • Playing Favourites — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school looks at how her intense parenting style has created what ‘looks’ like favourites but is more causal than reality.
  • There Are No Favorites (I Hate You All The Same) — Amy at Anktangle guest hosts about it being easy to see how a cycle of conditional love can make a mother keep her children at arms reach.
  • Yes, Parents Have A Favorite Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her thoughts on parents having a favorite child and how this may have long term effects on both the favored and unfavored child.
  • On having two kids & not playing fair — Lauren at Hobo Mama learned from her mother that you don’t raise children based on what’s fair but on what’s right for each child.
  • My Kids Totally Play Favourites — Amber at Strocel.com tries hard not to play favourites with her kids – but they make no secret of which parent they prefer.

  • The Ugly Side of Favoritism — Shannon of Pineapples and Artichokes shares a guest post warning: Don’t favor one child over the other.

Comments

  1. What a wonderful gift your parents gave you by allaying your fears with their kind words! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    It’s interesting for me to read about your experiences because I have some similar insecurities about being a (youngish) mother even though I completed college and had a career (albeit, short-lived) before getting married and having a baby. In my family (like yours) I am the youngest and there is a large age gap between us. Unlike your family, though, both of my siblings have chosen not to marry or have children, which puts me in a strange position of being the odd man out by doing the “traditional” thing out of birth order.

    This carnival is bringing to light for me how the unique life paths we each take are all good and valid in their own ways. No one of them is the “right” way, and they each have their benefits and drawbacks.

    • “the unique life paths we each take are all good and valid in their own ways. No one of them is the “right” way” . . . exactly. Thanks for your kind words, Amy!

  2. I have tears in my eyes reading this. :)

    • I had tears in my eyes writing it, too. And my heart is just filled with joy knowing that I, not what they thought I would be, or who I wanted to be, but I, me, as I am right now. . . please my parents more than they (or I) ever thought I would!

      Thanks for your sweet comment, Amber!

  3. mommajorje says:

    Wow. I’m a little teary-eyed myself. I don’t think my father will ever see me as a competent adult. And that makes me a little sad. I stopped asking him to bail me out a long time ago. My mother, on the other hand, made it clear that she was proud of my choices in life.

    My only full-blood brother went to college and continues to learn there still. He has a steady career and is so very fiscally responsible. He is successful. He is also gay. I’m sure my mother is proud of him. I’m sure she let him know that. My father was the one that might have trouble with that last part. I don’t think it really matters, though. I don’t think he’ll ever see any of us as adults, much less competent ones.

    If he does see it, he certainly wouldn’t share that with us. Emotional moments are few and far between with my father.

    Sigh. Cherish what you have with your parents. Though I’m sure you don’t need ME to tell you that.

  4. Oh this post just brings a huge smile to my face! As an only child, I have no idea what it would be like to be the oldest or the youngest but I do know that my friends who were that “kid sister” you were describing all have questioned their worth in their parents’ eyes. It seems like the youngest child almost has the most difficult role to fill.

    I love that you never needed to say anything to your parents and that they, our of a true genuine love and respect for you, spoke from the heart and eased your worries that had been carried in your heart for so long!

    Beautiful, raw post. I am so glad you shared it as part of our Carnival!

  5. I cried reading this :) My dad called me once after the whole Time thing exploded, and he told me how proud of me he is for being such an advocate for our parenting choices – and that is coming from a man who doesn’t necessarily agree with us :) It was good to hear!!
    ~Dionna @ CodeNameMama.com

  6. This brought tears to my eyes — what an amazing thing for your father to do, especially on Father’s Day! I enjoyed learning more about you and your path in life.

    Many continued blessings,
    Stacy

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