What is it about the middle kid? Heaven forbid they get anything to themselves, right? Here it is, April 10th: Siblings Day, and my own brother (the middle sibling) is even having to share his birthday. We’ll call it the tradeoff for also being the favorite.
This Siblings Day, I find myself reflecting on sibling-hood a little differently than ever before as I’m pregnant with my second child. I’m also writing this from the passenger seat on my way home from visiting my brother who lives over 400 miles away. Needless to say, what being and having siblings has meant to me, and what it will mean to my current only child’s life, is giving me all the feels.
My wife, daughter, and I took a road trip to see my brother, his wife, and their 5-month-old son so that we could finally meet that sweet baby (freaking COVID…). While we were all together, my brother mentioned how sweet it was to get to enjoy doing life alongside each other as parents for the weekend. Blame it on the hormones, but I burst into tears. As the tears streamed down my cheeks, I explained to him a revelation I’d had months earlier; that this new phase of life we both found ourselves in (and my most favorite yet, parenthood) was one we would never truly get to do alongside each other. This revelation brought with it a kind of grief I’d not experienced before. I’d been living in a sweet delusion that we’d raise our babies as part of each other’s village, not just via video calls.
My sister blessed us with our first nephew over a decade ago, and her youngest is nearly five years older than my oldest. It doesn’t seem like that big of an age gap, but it puts us in entirely different phases of our parental lives. Though we didn’t get to go through the same phases of parenthood alongside each other, I was incredibly lucky that she never lived more than an hour and a half away, and for two years, we got to be next door neighbors. I got to watch those boys grow up and watch my sister and brother-in-law grow in a way I will never experience with my brother’s family.
It’s funny… as kids living under one roof, you just imagine life will look a certain way. I knew it was unrealistic, but I always dreamt that one day my siblings, their families, my parents, and my own family would all live in what I lovingly refer to as a “cult-de-sac.” Less cringey than a compound, but still too close for most peoples comfort, including all the family members I listed except myself. More realistically, I always hoped that we’d live within the kind of proximity that allowed for drop-ins and last-minute dinner plans, and at the very least, we’d live close enough that all major holidays and birthdays were spent together. I was spoiled with this kind of family dynamic growing up with my aunt and cousins a city away and my grandparents two miles down the road.
One day though, it hits you; you’re the grown up now. It sounds silly, but I find myself having this realization more often than I’d like to admit. I’m the grown up now. I’ve now lived under a different roof than my siblings for longer than we ever lived together. Now I’ve got the kid, and as I’m adding another to our little family, I am hopeful that one day when they’re grown, they find themselves so full of love and adoration for their sibling that they too are filled with a new kind of grief. After all, grief cannot exist without love.