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A Thousand Words On... My Siblings

by Nathan Box 2 months ago in siblings
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Thoughts from the Outside

ears ago, I was in Oklahoma for the holidays. After we cleared empty plates from the dinner table, we moved through the next stage in the ritual. Gathered around the Christmas tree, gifts were being opened in an orderly fashion, wrapping paper tossed aside, gratitude exchanged, and then a quick version of show-and-tell. Surrounded by my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, I took stock of the room and the people in it. In that special place, I began thinking about family and the circumstances that shape them. Among these people, I grew up. This place and these people shape me. With or without their knowledge, they placed me on a path that is still unraveling itself in fantastic ways.

In my life, at moments when we gather as a family, I have felt the sting of our differences. In their presence during occasions such as these, I have felt like an outsider. My life has unfolded in ways so vastly different from theirs. So much of my life has been an exercise in rejection - rejecting the tyranny of the expected. I left my small hometown and pursued nonprofit work. I opened myself up to new ideas and ways of viewing the world. Unsettled by being told what to believe, how to worship, or how to vote, I did things my own way. I loved differently and found value in roots never fully planted. The terms of my life have differed vastly from my siblings. Not better. Just different.

Yet even this mission statement for my life is a product of my environment. Who we become is part nature and part nurture. As we age, we choose to accept certain aspects of this environment, or we rebel. It is these choices that mold us, shape our character, and give birth to the person we are to become. My parents and my siblings, in part, have played a part in creating my mission statement.

As an adult, I now realize predetermined lives do not exist. We live defined by the people who surround us and choices that are often out of our control.

Family dynamics, the place or places we call home, the people we meet along the way, events both big and small come together to shape us. So much of who we are is determined by our birth order, our parent’s relationship, the gender makeup of our family, gaps in age, being an only child or coming from a large family, your relationship with your siblings, and a thousand other characteristics that define a family.

In my family, I am one of five children (one girl and four boys). I am the middle child, but for much of my life, I was the oldest kid in the house. My parents were both married twice before finding each other. My sister, who is the oldest, was born in 1975. Lucas, my youngest brother, was born in 1991. I have always found my parents to be loving, supportive, and focused on turning us into independent, caring, honest, and nurturing human beings.

Set in motion long before I was born, the relationship between my biological father and my mom would serve as my first defining moment. It was not me who told my father to leave. I had no voice in the quality of our relationship. I had no say in choosing the man who would become my stepfather. No one asked me about more brothers and a sister. I did not choose to be the middle child. Many of the circumstances that would come to shape me were completely out of my control.

The only thing within my control was how I reacted to these circumstances. These choices have been some of the most important in my life. Instead of embittered by things out of my control, I focused on the quality of relationships with my family.

With eyes wide open, my siblings have also had their own unique challenges. They have wrestled challenges and life has thrust upon them impossible choices I will never fully understand. Perhaps this is the first great thing we share in common.

Knowing everything written above to be true, here is what some of the people sitting around that Christmas tree have meant to me...

Having a biological father who wants nothing to do with me was/is the first great tragedy of my life, but it opened the door to a man I consider my dad. Eldon loved me with as much fervor as his own children. I never felt different or less than. Eldon supported, counseled, disciplined, and provided a role model. He loved me unconditionally.

My mother and I have a special relationship and that is born of circumstance. My mother was single and alone when she gave birth to me. This forged a special bond. She poured her heart and soul into my success. She pushed me to be better, work harder, and achieve more. With no doubt in my mind, I am the man who I am today because of this devotion.

As a child, I adored my older sister. In Jonetta, I found a protector; someone who has always worked to include me. While we did not grow up together, I have never questioned her love or pride in me.

In Brian, I found a role model. From afar, I would watch his choices and then choose to emulate or reject. He would introduce me to a world of music that I am still processing. I will be forever grateful for that.

In Clayton, I found my first best friend. Four short years separate us in age. As kids, we spent countless hours playing together. We shared a room and learned to depend on each other. In so many ways, we are different people, but I love him dearly and would do anything for him.

In Lucas, I found someone to protect and mentor. Too many years separated us to find ourselves interested in the same things, but I always did my best to include him, and make him feel special. Caring for him probably did more to determine my chosen professional field than any textbook or experience gained while volunteering.

With eyes sharply focused on my siblings, in the shadow of our parents, I can still feel like an outsider. I can struggle to find common ground. I can find myself baffled by our differences, but I regret nothing. There is not another family I would choose. There are no other siblings I would choose. These are my people and they have given me gifts I would be foolish to refuse. So, I accept it all. I accept the choices I have made, and those thrust upon me by circumstance. Like atoms colliding together with substantial force, I carry each of them with me. I march forward in this world, proud of my siblings and the environment that shaped us.

Be good to each other,

Nathan

siblings

About the author

Nathan Box

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