Lessons I Learned From My Brothers…Or what a girl with few or no sisters and lots of brothers learns by default

I have three younger brothers. No sisters. My daughter has two younger brothers. No sisters.

L-R Matt, Kristen, Ben and Mike summer of 2011...please excuse me, the monster is better than seeing me in that particular bathing suit! photo credit: Lee Ellen Oeser

L-R Matt, Kristen, Ben and Mike summer of 2011…please excuse me, the monster is better than seeing me in that particular bathing suit! And this is one of only two pics I can find of us together as adults photo credit: Lee Ellen Oeser

This past June, my brother Ben, the baby, got married. That makes three out of four kids married (my brother Matt is the lone hold-out). Growing up with all brothers was not easy. Not.at.all. I was not athletic, artsy and introverted. They were uber-athletic, rational and extroverted. It was the perfect storm of sibling discontent a lot of the time. They were forced to come to all my dance recitals, I was forced to go to a lot of practices and games. I was the default babysitter and because I was their sister and there were three of them and only one of me, I rarely had the authority other babysitters could command.

However, because I was older, I did earn the privilege first of sitting out of activities I didn’t want to attend (mostly the aforementioned practices and games) and staying home. Oh yeah, and it was the late 80s-early 90s when I was growing up, so you let kids stay home alone back then.

But no matter what, there are lessons, good lessons, valuable lessons, I learned from living with all those boys (for the record, I cried when my father told me my youngest brother was born, I was seven and REALLY wanted a sister).

  1. Speak loudly and fast and keep your message succinct if you want to be heard. No, seriously. While some men are deep thinkers, a lot of them have ADD when it comes to certain things. Like sports, for example. So if it’s important speak loud and fast and make it short. Better chance of being heard AND understood that way.
  2. Keep your emotions in check. We kids are 1/4 Sicilian and so our fire bubbles close under the surface. We had numerous fist fights with each other as kids and then there were the verbal altercations. However, my brothers learned quickly that allowing your emotions to get the better of you, it never ended well. Not only was there the fist fight, there was the punishment afterward.
  3. Stick together, even in the face of overwhelming defeat. We cheered for the Buffalo Bills as kids even when we were made fun of. And we joined forces to beg our mom to stop putting Peeps in our Easter baskets (we still get them). But all that sticking together, it makes for great memories and creating loyal spouses and parents later in life.

    Mike and Ben, Mike was an usher in Ben's wedding photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

    Mike and Ben, Mike was an usher in Ben’s wedding photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  4. The statutes of limitations must always be observed. My parents are still now just hearing about things we probably would have gotten our butts beat for if they knew at the time. My brothers did a lot more of the “secret stuff that gets you into big trouble” than I did, but yeah, we all understood that if we made it out alive, mom and dad could know about it…someday.
  5. Like Fleetwood Mac said, “you can go your own way”…just make sure you know the way back home. When we were kids exploring the woods, that was very literal. As adults, well, you get it. My brothers were mostly the big explorers including an incident where my brother found what turned out to be a cow femur in the woods but he thought at the time might be human. Our lives have taken us to the beach, Florida, Charlotte and just down the road, but we all know how to find each other.

    L-R Matt, Ben and Mike photo credit Garrett Price  of Carolina Portrait Designs

    L-R Matt, Ben and Mike photo credit Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  6. Bros before…everyone else. The biggest infraction one could ever have committed was to side with friends over your brothers. My brothers did occasionally side with friends but always regretted it. I see this in my boys as well. And as Jeff (one of four boys) always says, “Your brother will be your brother for the rest of your life.” (As opposed to friends who come and go on whims)

    Matt (left) and Ben at Ben's wedding. Matt was Ben's best man

    Matt (left) and Ben at Ben’s wedding. Matt was Ben’s best man photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

  7. If your bones ache, you have dirt under your nails, and your skin is burned redder than Crayola makes…you had a good day.  Work hard, play hard, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. A little pain leads to a lot of happiness. I am still trying to learn this one from them.Ben and Matt on the beach
  8. You might only ever be known as someone’s brother or sister, but own it. In high school, my brother Matt told my mom, “Kristen and I are just fillers, everyone knows Mike and Ben.” But daggum if Matt didn’t totally own up to being their brother at all times. For example: when he was in driver’s ed, the instructor called out names and when Matt answered, “here,” someone immediately asked if he was Mike Oeser’s brother. Matt told him yes and then the other kid proceeded to tell Matt that he saw Mike climb on top of one of the trailers and said, “He’s crazy!” (the climbing on top of the trailer really did happen, I think Mike got detention for it). Actually, Matt offered that he was my brother in the eighth grade when I was a senior and members of my class came to talk to the middle school kids coming into high school. As luck would have it, they both knew me and stopped me in the hall the next day to tell me they met him.
  9. Grudges aren’t worth it. Either get over it or move on. As badly as they could fight, they always made up. Again, something I still struggle with but their example is pretty inspiring.
  10. Nothing Feels as Good as Laughing Together. I was a girl and not always privy to the inside jokes or the brotherhood. But you know what, I could see how good that laughter felt. I knew the curative powers it had and the few times I was let in, that I could bottle up that feeling and sell it. I’d be a millionaire several times over.

Although I will always literally look up to all of them, I can honestly say, although I was the oldest, they led the way. Their example was probably a million times better than mine ever was.

With our parents, Ben's wife Lee Ellen, and my grandmother. This is the other pic of us together as adults. We do clean up pretty well. Photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

With our parents, Ben’s wife Lee Ellen, and my grandmother. This is the other pic of us together as adults. We do clean up pretty well. Photo credit: Garrett Price of Carolina Portrait Designs

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