What an eight-year age gap with my sibling taught me

It's not just fights and bickering…

25 April, 2024
What an eight-year age gap with my sibling taught me

As the youngest child, I was the apple of my parents’ eyes. Some might say I was spoiled rotten, and they wouldn’t be wrong. My parents indulged my every whim, giving me everything I wanted on a silver platter. They were more like my best friends than just authority figures; they were my closest companions, showering me with affection and rarely uttering the word "no." Yet, my childhood wasn’t without its challenges. Amidst the sunshine and rainbows, there was one person that I was afraid of and that was my brother. With an eight-year age gap, he wasn’t so much a playmate but more like a third parent. While my parents showered me with love, he was the disciplinarian, the one person whose disapproval stung the most.

I was barely a teenager when he left for college in another city. And by the time he graduated and started working, I was caught up in my own teenage world. We never had an opportunity to bridge the age gap and truly bond as siblings. In my eyes, he remained the strict, grumpy one.

Then, COVID struck, and the world shut down. Lockdowns forced him to return home unexpectedly, and for the first time, we were stuck under the same roof for an extended period. The forced proximity was awkward at first. We tiptoed around each other, unsure of how to navigate this new normal. But eventually, the ice began to thaw.

We started spending more time with each other; working out together in the evening was my favourite part of the day. This newfound camaraderie even spilt over into the kitchen. Baking became my passion, I would bake cookies and my brother would finish them all. He loved them so much that one day, I caught him leaving the house with a tiffin full of my cookies, carefully wrapped in a napkin. Later, he shyly confessed that he was sharing them with his long-term girlfriend, proudly boasting about his “little sister’s baking skills.”

As the weeks progressed into months, our forced proximity evolved into something deeper. We didn’t become best friends overnight, but there was a newfound comfort between us. I eventually began opening up to him—I told him about my struggles with online classes, the anxieties of college applications, and how that one breakup had distorted my perception of love. It was a small step, but it felt monumental. The age gap that once seemed like an uncrossable chasm was slowly turning into a bridge. The challenges posed by COVID, although challenging, had ultimately brought us closer. It showed me a side of my brother I never knew existed—a supportive and caring confidant. And for the first time, I saw a friend in him instead of a parent. Every now and then, I keep thinking to myself, “Maybe the eight-year gap isn’t that bad after all.” 

Here’s everything my brother taught me. 

How to be confident AF

Growing up, I yearned for his approval. He was effortlessly cool, always excelling at everything he did. Of course, this made me feel like a clumsy, awkward mess in comparison. His initial “tough love” approach was harsh. He wouldn’t sugarcoat my mistakes, which stung, but it also forced me to face them head-on. He was there for me when I fumbled through breakups and cried over rejection emails, offering advice without judgment. I gradually began to see my mistakes not as failures, but as as opportunities for growth. His confidence in me started to rub off, and I began to believe in myself, even if I still messed up sometimes.

Everyone expresses love differently

My brother’s love is different. It came in the form of setting boundaries, pushing me to do my best, and even the occasional (well-deserved) scoldings. Sometimes I’d roll my eyes at his constant reminders to “sit up straight” or “finish your vegetables,” but now I realise those seemingly insignificant pokes and prods were all part of his bigger plan—to mould me into a strong, disciplined person.

Setting high standards for my romantic partners

Seeing my brother with his long-term girlfriend, now fiancée, it’s evident that they challenge and uplift each other. It makes me realise that having high standards isn’t always about grand gestures like flowers (although those are nice too!). It’s about finding someone who inspires you to grow, who respects your independence, and who is there to celebrate your victories and stand by you when you fall. It's about finding someone who takes care of you, not because you’re helpless, but because they genuinely want to see you shine.

Some fights aren’t worth having

There were moments of frustration, disagreements, and even the occasional fights, mostly sparked by my teenage angst. Looking back, I realise many of those fights stemmed from misunderstandings or not picking my battles wisely. Now, I take a deep breath before getting swept up in the moment and focus on resolving issues calmly and respectfully. It’s an ongoing process, but my brother’s patience and guidance have made all the difference.

That I don’t need anyone in life, but he will be there anyway

There were times when I felt like I could conquer the world on my own. And then, there were times when I felt like I couldn't. Either way, my brother always had my back, through thick and thin. I remember a time when I panic-dialled him after receiving bad news. I called him with the expectation of receiving a little bit of consolation. My brother, on the other hand, picked up and once I told him what went wrong, he said, “So what? You know you can deal with anything out there..." He showed me that independence isn’t about being alone, but about having the strength to stand on your own feet, despite knowing that you have someone cheering you on from the sidelines.

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