Written by Aidan, #6
My brother, Declan, was born five months after my fourth birthday. Even at that age, I was already becoming competitive with a love for sports that would stay with me. I had futilely played and lost to my older brothers in backyard sports of all kinds. I craved the opportunity to be the older brother and do the same with Declan. As I grew older, I waited for the seemingly inevitable moment that Declan would realize that sports were the best thing in the world. As time wore on, it became apparent that Declan didn’t view things the way I did.
I was dumbfounded.
Countless times, as Declan grew to an age where he could play Wiffle ball and other competitive yard games, I made ‘deals’ with him, promising to play his favorite game in return for a competitive contest of my liking. I dedicated myself to the task of converting Declan – molding him into my ideal brother, whether he liked it or not. I focused so hard on this task, that I lost track of my own growth – I was years older than Declan, but I was failing to be an older brother.
My moment of awakening came when I was in eighth grade and Declan in third. Declan joined a local recreational soccer league, and I anticipated the prospect of my younger brother finally venturing into the world of competitive sports. Looking back, I’m not sure why I thought local third-grade soccer would provide a competitive atmosphere, but that is beside the point. I was certain that he would be hooked and, finally, we could share the relationship that I always wanted. Excited, I attended Declan’s first soccer game of the fall.
And, in just an hour and a half of poorly-played soccer, my dreams evaporated and a new realization hit me: Being the older brother was not about what I wanted Declan to be; it was about being the role model Declan needed, regardless of his interests and passions.
That soccer game, from a competitive standpoint, was horrendous. But it provided the proverbial slap in the face that I needed. Declan had a blast, but he had no idea how to play soccer. And he was absolutely fine with that.
It was time for me to rethink my ways
Soon after, I taught Declan how to play chess, which he turned out to have quite the knack for. After years of trying to mold Declan, I realized it was my own character that needed molding. After I taught Declan chess, we played nearly every day. It became our ‘thing’; it just wasn’t the thing I was expecting. Again, I realized that was my issue, not his.
I’ll never forget the day he first beat me in a game of chess. For a brief second, I regressed to my competitive nature and was frustrated. However, I stepped back, saw the excitement in Declan’s face, and I, in turn, found the joy of a newfound relationship with my brother.
I continued to teach Declan games – from Stratego to Backgammon to Clue. With his naturally intuitive mind that thrives in robotics – he’s already created a robot – he quickly proved to be my equal in most of the games we played. We developed our tradition – playing each other in our favorite strategy games for an hour or two each day.
It didn’t pan out the way I always dreamed it would. But after sixteen years, and one really bad soccer game, I feel like I can finally say that I’m not just a person a few years older than Declan that happens to live in the same house.
I’m his older brother.