To my sweet boy,
I’m just going to come out and say it: it sucks to be a younger sibling. I can’t say I know how you feel, because as a firstborn, I have never been in your shoes. But I remember how I used to treat my little brother, and I wouldn’t have traded places with him for anything.
As your mom, my heart breaks for you every time that your sister hurts your feelings, or leaves you out, or makes you feel like a second class citizen. I think there must be something to the idea of karma, because with every heartbreak, I’m reminded of how mean I was to your uncle, and I see now how wrong I was for that.
I know you look up to your sister. I know you want her approval. I know you just want to feel like she likes you. I can see, on the “good days,” how happy it makes you when she’s nice to you, and on those rare occasions when the two of you have fun doing something together – like last week, when you both rolled around in the giant pile of paper in the garage – I can tell that you never want the moment to end. And on the not so good days, when she says she’ll play with you and then changes her mind, I can see your disappointment. When she yells at you and says you’re being annoying, I can tell how hurt your feelings are. When you ask a simple question and she snaps that it’s none of your business, the pain is written all over your face.
In those moments, I wish that I could wrap my arms around you and make all of the hurt go away, but I know that I can’t, because only your sister has the power to do that.
Now, I’m not saying that you’re totally innocent here. Sometimes, you make weird noises that would grate on anyone’s nerves after half an hour. Sometimes, you instigate arguments. Sometimes, you contribute your opinion when you weren’t asked, regarding things that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes, you make mean comments, too, like when you announced at the dinner table that your sister should wax her eyebrows because they’re too wide.
But while your sister gets upset about these things, they mostly roll off of her back. Unlike you, they rarely pierce the skin and wound her to the core. It’s not because she’s less sensitive than you are. It’s because – and this might sound harsh – your opinion of her doesn’t shape the way she feels about herself. But you, well, we both know that her opinion of you matters more than anyone’s, am I right?
That’s what I want to talk to you about in this letter, my love. I want to tell you that you can’t let her define you.
You’re not an annoying person just because you annoy her. You’re funny and goodhearted and generous, and people love being around you. I am literally bombarded with requests for playdates with you.
You’re not dumb just because you don’t know the same things as her. You’re really smart and really articulate and really clever, but you’re three years younger than she is, so you can’t possibly know all of the things that she knows.
Finally, you don’t – and this one’s really important, so listen up – you don’t matter less just because you matter less to her. Don’t let your sister’s feelings about you cause you to go through life feeling like you’re not worthy of people’s attention, or like you’re not important enough to ask for what you want. You matter. You matter just as much as anyone else, and you certainly matter just as much as your sister does. Don’t let her mess with your self-esteem, bud. Feeling good about yourself comes from within, and you’re an awesome little dude. You have a million things to feel good about.
I know this doesn’t make it suck any less right now, but there is some good news: one day, you and your sister are going to become adults. You’re going to go out into the world and get jobs, find partners, have children, build lives.
You’ll both mature, and she’ll finally see you as the wonderful man that I know you’re going to become. And you’ll realize that she wasn’t actually all that mean to you, she was just a teenaged girl with rampant hormones, and you were the unlucky guy caught in the crosshairs. And when that happens, she will want to spend time with you. Because there’s nobody else in the world who knows what it’s like to have me for a mom or dad for a dad, and there’s nobody else who knew what it was like to grow up in our house. You share the same blood, the same DNA, the same memories. At the end of the day, you’re her little brother, and when you’re both old and gray, you’ll matter to her more than anyone else.
Until then, hang in there, kid. And remember, it may suck to be the youngest, but you get to stay up later than she ever did at your age.