Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In My Brother's Shadow

As a child, I lived under different rules than my older brother. Jim was allowed freedoms I never enjoyed; stayed out late with his friends, went places I wasn't allowed to go, did things I wasn't allowed to do. At the time, I chalked it up to my parents learning from their mistakes; my brother was permitted much and was a constant social, legal and academic disaster; the way I saw it, they would never allow me the latitude to make the same mistakes. I thought it rather unfair, as I was a very different person than my brother, but of course completely at the mercy of my parents until I moved out from under their control at 17.

I developed into a strongly responsible and motivated woman, while my brother smoked dope with his friends and lived at home with my parents until his early 30's. I managed a store and joined the Army while he worked as a seasonal labourer in silvaculture and drew unemployment all winter. He has been, until very recently, purposeless and without ambition.

It was within the last decade that I realized that I was, and would always be, second best. No matter what I did, he would always come first to them. My victories, my medals, my awards, my commendations would be politely applauded and then put underneath the scanty pile of his achievements. Every success I have, every mountain I climb, I call up my mother, excited to tell her, thinking that maybe at last I will have won her affections. I tell her and she makes the appropriate happy noises, and then tells me that she has to go because she's expecting my brother to come by. She sees him every day but his visits always trump our phone calls.

I know that there's absolutely nothing I can do to change the dynamics in this relationship but it pisses me off and breaks my heart every time I get shelved for him. It probably always will.


Velda said...

wow. I could have written that, including the name Jim for my brother. Only I moved out at 16 and never joined the army. I never measured up either. You know how to change it? Don't call your mother anymore. It will alleviate the disappointment, call someone who cares. (((Hugs)))altho I DO know how you feel...break the cycle.

lookinout said...

But now she feels more needed by him, and is perhaps intimidated by your competence. She's got baggage. (Or perhaps my imagination is really good today.) Yeah, I know it hurts. Velda's got a good idea. Also, adopt a mother.

Susan said...

I'm adopted, and over ten years ago I finally met my birth mother. She and I had an instant bond. I am much closer to her than I am to the mother I referred to in this post. I'm important in her life; I have a place in her family. Having that love after so long spent on the outside looking in is a wonder. Her love balances the equation.

So, Gillian, in a sense, I have done what you said. :)

And Velda... I can't just not call. She has no idea of the hurt she causes so casually, and I feel obligated to keep trying and trying.

kate said...

Your mum made a classic mistake of many parents - she focused on the child that seemingly needed more help, encouragement, guidance, mangement,support, whatever you want to call it, to be successful than you did. You simply did not have the same preceived needs as he did - after all, you made out just fine, didn't you? See what I mean? It is not fair, but we parents do it all the time. After all "he" who screams loudest gets the attention right?? So sad that as parents we fall right into the trap every time.
In my family it was my sister that got shafted of the praise and recognition that she earned, as both brothers and myself took turns making a mess of out lives and commanding all the attention, she plodded on and did everything right and gets little credit for that. I see it now, but it didn't stop me from making the same mistake with my own children.
We parents must have some kind of blinders on when our children are small as we make such a mess of their lives, don't see what we have done and continue to do, and the impact is forever isn't it.
Glad you found another mother who sees the real you and is proud of you, the same way we all are!