I love my little brother more than anything in the world. He is my favorite person, my best friend and the reason I try my hardest every single day.
On Oct. 10, 2012, my life changed forever. It was late at night when my dad called me to say good night, and I heard the sound of hospital machines in the background. I didn’t find out until the next morning, but my little brother Isaac was born that night.
I was nine when I saw him in the hospital for the first time. He was so small I thought I would break him if I held him, and his skin had a pink undertone I found unsettling. However, my heart stopped beating the second I laid eyes on him and I knew then he was my everything.
I’ve been taking care of him and playing an active role in his life since he was born. I love being an older sister and exploring the world with a fun, creative and adorable little human. However, spending time with my brother started to get in the way of my life, causing me to miss out on important experiences like going out with friends and exploring the city I lived in.
When he was two I started to help change his diapers, make his formula bottles and watch cartoons with him. As I grew up, I took on bigger responsibilities and got involved in more serious aspects of his life, like helping with his homework, checking his assignments and getting him ready for school in the morning.
I decided to get involved because I saw Isaac needed more support and attention. Our parents did what they could, but they were often busy with work and he deserved to have someone’s complete devotion. I spent a lot of time with him and I taught him to be a kind human being.
Helping raise my brother, while also growing up myself, had a huge impact on my life. I started to see him as my responsibility, and I constantly worried about his well being. It was my decision to get so involved in Isaac’s life at first, but after a while, my parents relied on me as a third parent.
I felt pressured into a much bigger role that I never signed up for, but I always smiled and pretended I was fine because my parents were extremely proud of me for being such a good sister.
“Val is such a great big sister,” my dad would say to our relatives. “Isaac loves her more than anything and honestly I don’t know what we would do without her.”
I was anxious when he wasn’t with me, and even though I was only a teenager I thought I was the only person able to raise him because I could give him my time and unconditional affection. Eventually, I stopped hanging out with my friends and stayed home, convincing myself I had to watch my little brother because I was the only person capable of doing it.
I didn’t realize what I was doing wasn’t healthy until one of my friends made a comment about it when I was 15.
“I’m not even gonna ask you if you want to go because I already know you’re going to stay home with your brother,” she said.
That moment was a wake-up call for me. I understood I was missing out on important experiences with my friends, like going to the movies or to parties, or simply hanging out at their houses after school. I promised myself I would start living my life, but the thought of leaving Isaac made me feel guilty. I felt like I was failing as a sister if I ditched him for my friends.
I started going out once every weekend to find a balance between taking care of my brother and living my own life. I talked to our parents about my responsibilities as a sister, and they understood that I was not Isaac’s mom.
My guilt was still haunting me. I was trying to have fun, but all I could think about was how much I wanted to be with my little brother.
I eventually pushed through those feelings by constantly telling myself my relationship with my brother won’t change. With time, I was finally able to hang out with my friends without constantly being worried about Isaac.
I feared my relationship with my brother would be affected because we were spending time apart, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our bond remained strong, and we enjoyed our time together even more. I regularly took him to the park, and we enjoyed ice cream while laughing and creating more fun memories.
My brother is the person I love the most in the world, but that doesn’t mean I have to live only for him. I can love him and focus on my life at the same time, knowing our relationship will always be more powerful than anything.