Growing up in my family, I was the youngest of three and the only girl. Which is a typical family situation, but I have a curveball. In September, I will be turning twenty years old. In December, my brother, Josh, who is closest in age, will be turning thirty-one. My eldest brother, Zach, will be turning 33 in March. My curveball: a 10-year age gap.
I bet most of you are thinking, "Oh, a different marriage." Well, I can tell you that is far beyond the truth. My parents were best friends in high school and remain that way to this day. In June, they will have been married for thirty-seven years. So why the 10-year gap? I ask that question every day.
A few nights ago, some of us went for dinner. My brother Zach, my parents, Baba (my mother's mom) and I all went out. On our ride home from the restaurant, we got on the topic of the age gap. I always joke that I was the "whoopies" or the mistake in my family. My mother, being the kind-hearted person she is, always says "Well, all my children were a mistake and never planned."
That really got me thinking: If we all were really a mistake and they had a healthy relationship, how could she not have gotten pregnant for those 10 years?
After a short disagreement with my brother and the rest of the family, my grandma talked to me and tried to calm me down. My brother threw in my face that I had a “better life” than him. What makes a better life? It is all relative, but here is my side.
Growing up, my two brothers were twenty-one months apart. My parents were working their asses off to support the family. My dad worked two jobs. Came home from his architecture job and then spent hours in the basement drawing for the second job. They went on a yearly vacation to Kelleys Island to camp for a week. Zach and Josh played together endlessly and were the true “American Dream” siblings. My brothers and parents lived a happy life and had not a lot of things to complain about until I came along.
My family will say it was very hard for my eldest brother, Zach, to adjust. In his defense, I came out of nowhere 10 years after the ‘baby’ or Josh was born. They got moved out of their room for the new baby girl: that’s me. I can only image how much of a curveball it was for them.
While growing up my life was a little bit different than my older brothers. My father had switched careers when I was just a baby. Since then, he has been consistently making better money. My brother Josh, the middle child, was my best friend. He was not just my brother but also my babysitter. We did everything together. I knew all of his friends and they were my friends too. By the time I was eight years old, I was the only kid left in the house. Both of my brothers were away going to college and earning a degree.
That was the first time in twenty years that my parents household had calmed down. My parents and I got to travel a lot more because it was significantly less expensive without two extra people. My mom really got a kick out of these travels. We would go on short little trips every three months to different cities and states in the US. By the time I graduated high school I had been to twenty-five of the fifty states.
Kelleys Island, Ohio also became a bigger destination for my family. Instead of camping one week every summer, my parents bought a little, red cottage on the island. We started to come up every weekend in the summer and fall months.
When my brothers say, “ you had a better life” it really hits me the wrong way.
Yes, I did have a more stable financial life than they did growing up, but money is not everything.
At the end of the day, my brothers will have an extra 10 or 12 years of memories and time with my parents. That time is something I will never be able to gain and I would pay any amount of money for that time.
My brothers also had each other growing up. I never had someone that I could go play in the backyard. I will never have the memories that they had with that one person that was always there because I was essentially an only child.
My brothers were also fortunate enough to have the whole family come to the events that were important to them. I was brought to endless soccer games as a child. My dad was the commissioner for baseball, a scout leader and much more for my brothers. In my case, my dad was a coach a few years but nothing too grand. My parents and the rest of my family missed my senior nights and senior banquets in high school, which really tore me apart.
Josh, the middle child, is married now and having kids. My parents are grandparents. They spend endless time with Josh and his family. Time that I might never get. The way that my parents look at my nephew might not be a look that my children ever get. Growing up without grandpa’s is something I’ve always off about. My kids might end up with the same feelings I felt.
Granted my brothers cannot change the fact that I was born 10 years later and I cannot change the past finances. Over time I have realized that it is a hard concept for most of my family to understand the feelings outside of money when it comes to my defense. Hopefully, now, they can understand.