‘Those boys were being mean to my brother. So, I made sure that won’t happen again.’: Older sister fiercely protective of baby brother, realizes how difficult it was to grow up in her shadow

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“Dear Brother, I see you. I always have. I know you think you lay somewhere hidden behind my shadow or our younger brothers’. But you never were. Never to me. Your light shines brighter than anyone else’s in my life. I have always seen you, and I have always cherished your light.

Courtesy Meghan Byrne

The middle child carries a unique burden, or so they say. They’re in between the oldest child, paving the way for their parents and younger siblings, and the youngest who always seems to bring the most joy. Where does that leave you, dear brother? You followed close behind me, less than two years between us, and our little brother just three short years behind you. You had such little time to be the youngest, such little time to be a twosome with me. I remember your little body full of rage when our mom and dad brought him home. You felt betrayed, replaced, no longer special. So many feelings for such a small body, dear brother. You watched as I obsessed over our new addition. Cradled him, fed him, played with him, be mesmerized by him. These are all things I did with you, but before you could remember them, dear brother. I remember you asking mom if we could take our brother back to the store, where we got him. Everyone laughed, but the humor was lost on you, dear brother. My world as the oldest sibling expanded with our new member, and his world blossomed for the first time in an immense way. But your world shrunk right before your eyes. No longer the youngest, not quite the oldest, but stuck in the middle.

Can I tell you a secret, little brother? This larger than life personality of mine was no accident. I, too, did not want to be lost in the shadows of siblings. I have always loved you and our brother with my whole beating heart but sometimes worried our parents or people, in general, would love me less. But you proved them wrong, dear brother. You always held me in the highest regard. A title I have strived my entire life to uphold. You gave me the confidence in myself that I needed to carry me through life. To you, I have always been special. I am your big sister. I am also a teacher, a wife, a bunny mom, ATV rider, writer, makeshift Tex-Mex chef, and a daughter. My most favorite role, the job I have always been most proud to do, was that of a sister. Your sister.

Courtesy Meghan Byrne

My earliest memory is our dad teaching me to pray to the small crucifix hanging above my Barney bed for mommy’s new baby to be here safe and sound. And I added ‘and soon.’ How badly I wanted to meet you. The day you arrived, I was so little, less than two, but I felt so big. My heart felt love for the first time when I touched your tiny fingers on your little purple hand. You made me not just an older sibling, but the oldest sibling. I was a sister, a big sister, because of you. My life took on a new meaning. I was not alone in this new, scary world. I had someone. I had a friend. I had a brother.

You were so little, dear brother, but I remember life before our younger sibling. I remember wanting to be with you every waking moment. I remember telling our mother to ‘drive slower’ because I didn’t want you to feel the bumps in the road. While mom didn’t quite agree with my backseat driving, she knew that I loved you, fiercely. And I still do, just as fiercely. If I could take away the bumps for you on every single road life will drive you down, dear brother, know that I would. I would take every obstacle from you and place it on my road. I will always help you navigate the roadblocks, obstacles, and bumps, that life will throw at you, dear brother. Always. Even after our brother was born, my sentiments did not and will not change. You just share them now.

Sharing. Something hard-learned, dear brother. An older sibling starts to share the moment they become one. It is the first fulfillment of the role, I believe. I shared everything with you. I wanted to. I wanted to experience every bit of life with you, dear brother. But when our brother arrived, sharing was not something you were so familiar with. Youngest siblings have a tendency to take over. It’s never purposeful or meant to be punishing towards the other siblings, but it’s just something that tends to happen. We share with the baby. But share you did not, dear brother. I was only five when our brother came, and I don’t quite remember how everything transpired, but I do remember making room in my heart for him. I remember telling you how important it was to be a big brother, a role I could never fulfill. I remember assuring you that you would always be my first brother. My first little brother, my first friend.

Courtesy Meghan Byrne

Throughout our lives, people watched as I set forth on the journeys of growing up first, followed by you and our brother. I was so protective of you in school. I earned my first, and only, lunch detention with the principal after delivering not one but two bloody noses to two boys who you told me were bothering you. ‘Ms. Meghan, you’re not usually in trouble,’ I remember him saying, ‘there is never a reason for violence, Meghan. Never.’ Before I tell you what I said, dear brother, please let me remind you that I was never in trouble. I did all of my work, earned close to perfect grades, and made sure I was in bed before 8 p.m. I turned my face towards Mr. G, a towering man who had just told me my actions were inexcusable. With perhaps the most confidence I have ever experienced I said, ‘Actually, sir, I think I had a very good reason. Those boys were being mean to my brother. So, I made sure that won’t happen again.’ He looked at me perplexed and proceeded to remind me that despite my heroic reasoning, I still used my hands to solve a problem and therefore had to serve my time. I remember thinking that was fine. That I would gladly serve this time again and again if it meant that no one would make you feel any less than you are, dear brother. And while we are no longer in elementary school, and perhaps the consequences would be more severe than lunch detention, please know, dear brother, that I would serve whatever time, bare whatever burden, carry however many loads, for you. Again, and again.

Growing up, I was always motivated to succeed. I had reason to do well, a person to impress, and a title to uphold. I wanted to succeed for you. Certain things came quite naturally, like reading and writing. School, in general, was something I enjoyed and was successful at. I watched with heartache that it wasn’t as natural for you, dear brother. I knew it was hard for you, and how badly I wanted to make it better. I saw you struggle to pay attention in lessons and follow directions the first time. Despite this daily struggle, I watched you excel at building things and creating. Envious because I couldn’t complete a puzzle without help but overflowing with pride because my brother had such talent.

Courtesy Meghan Byrne

When we were both in college, I remember getting angry at you for not letting me help. You were struggling in an English class, an area I excelled in. I barked at you to let me help you, and while at the time it may have seemed like I was so angry with you, dear brother, I wasn’t. I was so sad and frustrated that you weren’t happy and wanted so bad to fix it for you. I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t let me. I yelled, ‘Just let me help! I have straight A’s, I can do this, let me do it!’ You said something to me that stuck to my soul. It rings in my ears to this day.

‘Do you have any idea how hard it was to grow up behind you, in your shadow? You made everything look easy, and it’s not. I have to do this by myself.’

I left, dear brother, my heart shattered. I don’t say this to bring upon feelings of guilt, although I have found that to be a unique gift possessed by sisters. I say it because it was the first time, I ever really thought about what it was like for you to grow up after me. I tried so hard to make it easy for you, all of the struggles in and out of school I didn’t share with you because I didn’t want you to think it was hard. I wanted you to look forward to every bit of life, and I only wanted to take the bad things away so you wouldn’t have to face them. In all my obsessiveness, I forgot to think about how you might actually view things. I was so set on how I wanted you to see the world, that I never really thought about how you actually saw it. Dear brother, I never meant to make things look easier than they are to make myself look smarter or more of a natural at this thing called life. I didn’t want you to think life was going to be hard for you, because I knew I would always do everything in my power to make sure it wasn’t. In my constant attempt to make the world seem brighter for you, I may have created too large a shadow.

But here’s the thing, dear brother. I know you may think that my shadow, coupled with our younger brother’s, is too dark for you to be seen. But shadows are only formed because of light. In our family, dear brother, you are the light. You do not hide in the shadows of being the middle child. You shine the light that illuminates and warms our family. Your humor, strength, bravery, determination, perseverance, and confidence are unique to you, dear brother.

Mine and our brother’s shadows may be large, but you do not live behind them. You shine through them. You created our roles as the oldest and youngest sibling, and are the middle, most important piece to our puzzle. The light you cast me in, as your older sister, is the warmest, brightest light I have ever felt. The most love I have had for someone has been for you, dear brother. You are my first and greatest friend, and without your light, my world would be so much darker. You are the sun, dear brother, and I will bask in your glow for as long as I live.”

Courtesy Meghan Byrne

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meghan Byrne, 28. Follow her journey on Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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