I wish everyone in the world could experience the look of bewilderment I receive when I try to explain my family dynamic. Yes, I am one of six kids. Yes, four of my siblings have a different mother. Yes, I am a 20-year-old with four nieces and nephews. Yes, my oldest brother just hit the 40-year milestone.
I might not have a traditional family, but I wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world.
I imagine my older siblings and I get along so well because they spent most of their life raised in a different home. We didn’t have the stereotypical sibling experience of being at each other’s throats 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (Except for my younger, full sister. She’s a terror). I would see my half-brothers and sister every other week, which isn’t much time, but we made up for it.
Reflecting on my childhood memories, my favorite times have always included them. My brother Zack, a high schooler at the time, showing me what “cool” music was while laboring over yard work. Baking Christmas cookies with my older sister, Katie, while belting out “Winter Wonderland” at the top of our lungs. My oldest brothers, Darin and Chad, instructing me on how to throw the perfect spiral, urging me to stay outside in the brisk Illinois air until I perfected it.
While these memories, along with countless more, have made my childhood so special, I’ve realized, just in the past few years, how important my siblings are in shaping who I am.
My Siblings Shaped Me
The summer before my freshman year of college, I received a gift from my older sister: a necklace with an angel charm. But placed on the box was the true gift—a sticky-note asking me to be her maid of honor. Shock rippled through me. All of my older brothers were married at this point, but this proposal hit me the hardest; I felt like it was just yesterday that Katie and I were dancing to “Crazy Frog,” pajama pants pulled up to our belly-buttons. And now she’s getting married?
Months passed, and I moved to Alabama for college. For the first time, I had been away from my family. It was also the first time I could truly sense my own identity, learning how much of a role my siblings played in it. Fall break rolled around at the same time as my sister’s wedding, and I was so excited to return to the mundane cornfields of the Midwest. More so, it would be the first time in years that all my siblings would be in the same room.
We’re Back Together
The last time we were all together was Katie’s high school graduation in 2012. One of my older brothers had a falling out with my parents and hadn’t spoken to them in years. My other brother had entered the Air Force, living in Iraq, Hawaii, New Mexico, and most recently, Florida. My oldest brother was fighting over custody for my nephew.
Life had gotten in the way.
Although I had never been more excited to see my siblings, I had also never been more nervous. Would they talk to me? Would there be a fight? God forbid, would something ruin my sister’s wedding day?
I’ll never forget how I felt as I walked into the wedding rehearsal. I froze and looked around at the familiar faces. Faces I had grown up with, that I had shared so many memories with, but somehow, they looked like strangers. I can only compare the feeling as walking up to a podium, preparing to give a speech to a 400-person lecture hall. It was nerve-wracking.
But then, all at once, I couldn’t remember why I was even worried in the first place. My brothers and sisters hurtled towards me, enveloping me in the most loving, warm embrace. I’ll never forget it.
Despite everything, we’re still family
I Idolized my older siblings in my younger years, but as I grow up, I realize how flawed they really are. How flawed we all were. But I never should’ve doubted the indestructible bond of family.
I would never trade the unique dynamic of my family, or the lessons they taught me. I learned how to throw a football (a perfect spiral, might I add). How to flawlessly decorate a Christmas cookie and how to execute an impeccable punch (thanks, Zack). But from them, I also realize the gratification of being an aunt. To not take everything so seriously. To not grow up so fast.
I learned that these people have shaped me into who I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Family teaches you invaluable lessons like how to throw a football or that it’s okay to like stupid stuff. Madeline has ten invaluable lessons that she learned before turning 20, check them out!