My Family Keeps Comparing Me to My Older Brother, and I Hate It
And how my little sister became the appointed legal guardian for my brother's children when she was 14.
I received the label of "financially irresponsible" when I was 6 years old. This coincided with the year I started school. I had never been to any sort of school setting before, no pre-school, no kindergarten, none of that in the early 90s. My first foray into school life was when I started Grade 1.
I received this label because, as a 6-year-old, I was given a 2 Rand coin as a tuck-shop allowance, and would spend my allotment on sweets.
Now for a confession…I did steal money from my parents in my early teen years to fit in with my friends. And I did run up the phone bill one month because I went online (in the dial-up days) outside of the recommended days. So in a sense - I was a rebellious teen who stole money and ran up a phone bill. By the time I turned 14, I had stopped stealing money and stopped running up the phone bill. I was reformed. And on the path to saving all my pennies.
How sister was named legal guardian
When I was 17, my sister was 14, and my brother was having his first child at 26. My brother and his wife were being responsible adults, writing up a will, and deciding who would be appointed as legal guardians should something happen to them both.
At first, they wanted to make my parents the legal guardians. However, my parents sat them down and said perhaps they should choose someone who was younger, as my mother was already in her early 50s, and would be in her 60s when their child was 10, and in her 70s before their first child was 18.
My brother and his pregnant wife went out for lunch and came back with their decision. They would make my little sister the guardian of their children. My brother openly said the reason behind this was because I was financially irresponsible, citing the sweet buying habit I had when I was 6 years old.
At the moment I stayed calm. But on the inside, I was annoyed, taken aback, downright offended and majorly relieved.
I didn't hear the remark that I was just like our older brother.
Was I really financially irresponsible?
The young teen me evaluated my life. Yes, I had made mistakes. But now (well, at 17), I had a small savings account and wasn't spending the very little I was receiving willy nilly. I was even mowing the lawn for my parents to earn a little extra cash on the side (instead of them hiring a garden service).
So no, I wasn't financially irresponsible.
Also, who puts the responsibility of raising children on the shoulders of a 14-year-old. Sure the will said that guardianship would only be handed to her at 18 and until then my parents were in charge, but still. This was nuts in my opinion. And how was I the only one who saw this as
"They still think you are just like him."
One weekend, my parents had come to visit me. Weed had become pseudo-legalized in South Africa. The Constitutional Court had deemed using marijuana for your own personal use was a constitutional right. And since it was no longer "illegal" and my parents had also been talking about growing some, I decided to come out with my occasional use.
I had a vape and was vaping while I was cooking dinner. My parents were very concerned about this matter. They didn't say anything, their faces said it all, disapproving shakes and a look of concern.
When we were relaxing in the lounge, watching GoT, I texted my sister, telling her I was confused. I was high, but confused. My parents seemed to think that my partaking in marijuana was dangerous, yet when they spoke about my sister partaking, it seemed to be okay.
"They still think you are just like him," she texted me back. Meaning my eldest brother. The one who has a drinking problem, a drug problem, never finished school, can't hold down a job, and had been arrested multiple times for all sorts of things.
She also reminded me of the whole legal guardian debacle, where I was looked over for spending money when I was 6, and she told me that they had compared me to our oldest brother. Something I was not aware of at that point in time.
Why the comparison?
After 32 years of living, my parents still hadn't figured out that I am a completely different person to my brother. And it stings a bit if I'm honest.
As a young teen, I stole money and ran up the phone bill. I also had a huge argument with my parents about attending church. I didn't want to. This was the extent of my rebellion.
I never stayed out later than curfew (because I didn't really have friends). When my brother lived with us he was also pushing the curfew.
I never got drunk and almost burned down the house. Something my brother did when he was 12 years old. I may have helped myself to an odd drink here and there but I was never drunk. The first time I was drunk, I was 18. Already at university.
I didn't drop out of high school just before my final exams because I didn't feel like writing them. Hell, I did my homework, most of the time, and was consistently in the top 15 of my grade every year. I never had detention. I kept to myself. And I managed to obtain a degree in Biochemistry.
And I've never been arrested, especially not multiple times.
I'm not saying my brother and I don't share traits, what I am saying is that even though we may be alike in some way, I am still my own person. So stop putting me in the same box as him.
Will I ever get out of this damning box? Do I even need to? I know who I am.