I’ve never wanted a brother. I haven’t blown out candles for a football-tossing, video gaming big guy, or gotten down on my knees for a bookish, intellectual little boy to join the ranks of the four powerful women and one resilient man who make up my family. Rather, I have basked in a childhood of shared emotions, shopping trips, movie nights, and aerosol hair spray. My father, bless his heart, has been enough “guy” to suffice for my family. I saw what my friends had with their brothers, and I didn’t envy it.
Here’s the thing about having beautiful, intelligent, charismatic, caring sisters: you aren’t the only one who finds them to be incredible. I am not referring to their friends, or even their boyfriends, who may discover some of their magic and, if they’re smart, embrace it. I am talking about the one man who discovers them and is utterly enchanted. This happened to me. Twice. My sisters’ charm wasn’t lost on two lucky men, and so they got married. They are living happily ever after. As for me, I got exactly what I had never wanted: not one, but two brothers.
They’re not really your brothers, I can practically hear you smirking as you read my ironic disappointment through your computer screen. You’re wrong, though. They are as much a part of my family as my own kin, because, like it or not, when they married my sisters, they became a part of my sanctum. My family is my safe place, my place of fervent trust and vulnerability, of relaxation and utter reality. They are my toughest critics, and my biggest supporters. On my best day and my worst day, they treat me with love. My sisters invited two new people into that.
The day that Peter proposed to my sister Amy was like a turning point in a novel, the top of a roller coaster, the chase scene in a good spy film: I knew something big was happening. I was hyper aware of the change this presented in my family, and I felt an invasion on my sanctum taking place. My family reality had shifted, and I found, under anger and frustration at the present of a brother that I didn’t want, and at the prospect of a separation from my sister that I didn’t desire, fear. Fear that having a boy in my family would change how I acted, how my sister acted, how my parents acted, how my family acted. I was scared that I would lose my confidant and my friend to a man who had a warm smile and my sister’s affections.
The wedding planning ensued and I, with bitter acceptance, threw myself into being a supporter sister, helpful maid of honor, cooperative daughter and kind soon-to-be sister-in-law. I hate that title. It’s as if it’s mocking those of us who never asked for a brother, and emphasizing that whether or not you like it, BY LAW he is your brother. Thanks for that. A supportive, kind, funny, and genuine man who loves my sister and respects her deeply, I couldn’t dislike Peter, because I saw how happy he made Amy. I saw how much my parents cared for him (though I knew they felt the same way I did- wary of bringing someone new into the equation) and I saw how my middle sister, Allison, seemed to yearn for what Amy had found with Peter. The marriage went off without a hitch, and I could say without growing a nose that I liked Peter. He didn’t push me too hard, he didn’t interfere with my business, and he treated my sister well. Okay. Maybe I could handle the brother thing, if this was what it entailed.
In the weeks, months, and now years that followed my sister becoming Mrs. Peter Williams, I have ever so slowly opened the door to my family sanctum. Don’t misunderstand me – I still feel uncomfortable letting loose in front of my brothers in the same way that I do with my parents and sisters, and my sister’s name is still Amy Morris in my phone, but I have warmed up to the idea of having a brother. I don’t mind the addition of another body on the couch, or the difference in opinion that a male perspective brings. I think it’s endearing that Peter feels the need to protect me, and I desire a relationship with him that isn’t founded because we are bound “in law,” but that stems from a mutual respect and love for one another and for my family, and forming a relationship that looks more like that of two siblings from birth and less like one of two strangers brought together just mere years ago.
I’ve never wanted a brother. I was happy to remain steadfast in my family structure, to protect my sanctum, to push away new people. I think that’s exactly why it’s great that I got two. I am learning, often with much humility, push-back, and grace, that family is about more than what it gives to you, because it’s about what you give to it. It’s about evolving and adjusting so that the things- the people- that bring your family joy and who show them love are welcomed with open arms. It’s about accepting the people who they present to you and giving them your best, but also giving them your real: your honest and raw portrayal of who you are, what you’re about, and what your family means to you. For me, that meant accepting that I got Peter and Mike as brothers. It means loving them and getting to know them and working with them to form a relationship that strengthens and compliments my relationship with my sisters and with my family. It means learning to love having brothers, and accepting that this change is one that will further strengthen my sanctum, not destroy it.