In my family, I am the firstborn.
The one that would need to go through all the strict parenting because your parents don’t have any clue yet. You’re their first try. The experiment. The desperate “let’s not fuck this up!”.
How strict is “too strict”? And how fast does this first kid need to learn to be on their own?
Weirdly, even though I am a cis-woman, I’ve always seen myself as the “male” firstborn. The throne prince, who would slay dragons and conquer the world for the approval of their parents.
TIM – my sarcastic, know-it-all treasure that I need to protect
But only one year later my brother Tim was born. A guy …
My brain that was still conditioned by patriarchal role models thought:
What the fuck?! If he is the firstborn now – because he’s obviously a man and I don’t count as a woman – what about me? Who am I now in this family?!
But my little heart and soul thought:
No matter what, I will love this little beacon of sarcastic sunshine. I will protect it, support it, and treasure it forever!
I’ve been loving Tim deeply and unconditionally since he was born. We have this special bond between two siblings who get each other instinctively. We even developed the same sense of humour, a language just for us. All it needs is a glance or one word, and we’d laugh.
Mostly about others, but who cares if we have each other?
Tim was a sick kid. He was in the hospital a lot. I guess that’s why I’ve always felt very protective of him. Everyone felt protective of him. But my protectiveness was on the level that I would rip someone’s tongue out if they dared to speak ill of my little brother.
I’m not joking.
I might have been a shy and distant kid, but if someone would dare to do anything to my Tim, my shyness would shatter into thousand sharp pieces that would cut your skin, heart, and soul.
In our early childhood, Tim and I were inseparable. We held hands and did everything together. Some people even called us “twins”, but I hated it and I always replied with a serious look:
Excuse me, but that’s wrong. He’s one year, 21 days, 9 hours, 15 minutes and 10 seconds younger than me!
Maybe the small age gap is the reason we have been so close or we just always knew we’d belong together. Our connection still goes strong to this day. It struggled a bit during our teenage years, but after that, we joined forces again.
I’ve always admired Tim for his thirst for knowledge. He would inhale “boring” books and absorb all the information like a sponge. And then he would remember everything!
I mean, come on!? How’s this possible?
Still to this day I don’t know if there was ever a topic Tim didn’t know about. He knows everything! And he loves to show it. Sometimes in a very “Ha, I know something you don’t know, idiot!“-attitude that would annoy me so much that I would just love to punch him.
And yeah, there was ONE single occasion when that happened. I admit it. I once slapped him when we were young because I felt helpless, annoyed, and also someone had just told me: just slap him if he annoys you.
But I know if I wouldn’t have mentioned that, Tim would have. Because he occasionally mentions this one incident when I lost it and apparently “traumatized” him for his entire life. His words, not mine. And even though I’ll always feel incredibly guilty about this one temper slip, I know he has forgiven me and just wants to mock me from time to time.
Also, I’m sure he checks my text for grammar mistakes right now and will let me know instantly if there’s something.
But 99% of the time, Tim would change the topic or make me laugh before I would get too annoyed. I’m always surprised how well Tim can read me. I’m someone who hides her emotions very well, but he always seems to know what’s up.
What I love about him the most though are his brilliant and sharp comments that would show his incredible intelligence, but would also make you crack up. He’s one of the most sarcastic people I know, and I adore his sense of humour.
Sometimes we would try to have a sarcastic witty battle against our Mum, but I would always start to laugh because I can’t keep a serious face. Besides his sharp, pointed humour, Tim is also just a loveable dork who would make random faces at me that surprises me so much that I burst out in laughter.
What makes Tim and my relationship special is that we can talk about anything and everything. He is as curious as me, and we love to share our knowledge. With him, it’s always uncomplicated, fun, and insightful.
But with Nils, it is and always has been different.
NILS – my bittersweet chocolate milk that I need to simply love
Nils is three years younger than me, and therefore our youngest sibling. The baby of the family. The baby that would never swallow its spit and drool its way over the floors. That has been addicted to Nutella and chocolate milk for since I can remember.
I don’t know if it was the fact that I was over-protective of Tim or that we behaved like twins (No, we’re not! God, damn it!), but Nils decided to have the unquestionable right to “own” our Mum. I still remember his glares at me when he sat on our Mum’s lap, sucking on his chocolate milk, probably thinking:
Don’t you fucking dare come over here and think you can sit on MY Mum’s lap!!!
But as Nils was getting older, our bond grew.
With him, it wasn’t the instant understanding or the spark of knowing that we belong together. Our relationship was slowly flowering into a deep love and support for each other. It was like we needed to get to know each other first to find out if we would like to stay in each other’s lives.
When Tim would just accept my guidance and leadership as the oldest, Nils would challenge it. He would question it, not wanting to follow the “orders” of his big sister.
In fact, he wouldn’t want to follow any order. Ever.
It took me a while to get that because like Tim I wanted to protect him from harm. But I could only do that when he does what I fucking say!
I guess, his resistance and constant questioning of authority bugged me so much because I was the same. As soon as I noticed that I suddenly recognized the same free spirit, the same love for entertainment, and the need for connections with others.
I saw parts of myself in him.
When others meet us, they instantly notice that Nils and I look alike. You can tell that we are siblings. And what they will notice next is how welcoming and funny Nils is, while I’d step back and let him do his thing.
Nils is an incredible connector.
He loves being around others, making them feel comfortable, and cracking jokes. He would shower in the attention and enjoy every minute of it. I’ve always admired him for that.
He could easily go up to strangers and talk to them like they were old friends. Tim and I would mostly awkwardly keep to ourselves and make fun of others while sipping our beers. Unless we’re both in a good mood and want to connect. But that’s rare.
Until today no one could ever make me laugh as hard and as deeply as Nils. He is a brilliant jokester and he could be a great comedian or entertainer. Someone like Jim Carrey or Ryan Reynolds because of his natural talent to make people around him instantly feel at ease. With a smile or dirty joke, he can lift the energy of a room instantly.
Even though I’m supposed to be the big sister, I always feel safe with him wherever I go because I know Nils can handle it. And if he can, I can.
I know I already said that Tim is a dork, and if you know me, you also know that I can be a dork, too. But Nils, well, he’s a next-level weirdo!
He would make up legendary ancestors of our dog Ida, invent her two strange kids, and even start talking for them to us. He would change his voice, pronunciation, even his behaviour to imitate the “kids” of our dog who would just live with us.
As I said, he could be a famous entertainer who would charm the world into anything he wanted. But unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to see his talent. He doesn’t recognize how his soul shines when he is in his entertaining element.
But if there’s something I learned from Nils it’s that I can’t tell him what to do. Even though I’m his big sister and he should do what I say.
Over the years I’ve also noticed that Nils has inherited another trait of mine: taking responsibility for our parents.
Nils would do anything for them. He would stay strong in the wildest storms, he would go through the pain and put all his needs and emotions aside so he could be of service to our parents. He would make himself small so they can be big. He would dim his light so they can shine.
This breaks my heart and makes my soul ache bitterly.
Not only because I had been there many years before him, but also because this is a burden no child should ever carry.
Whenever Nils tells me about our parents emotionally abusing him, that’s when I would unleash the BIG SISTER.
THE BIG SISTER – when the dragon is released
The big sister is someone who wouldn’t fear anything or anyone. She is a dragon raising from her dark cave with glowing eyes, razor-blade teeth, and the instinct to kill everything that’s a threat to her loved ones. Especially to her brothers.
Simply said: You do not want to fuck with her!
When Tim and I were still at home, the big sister in me would constantly check on him. She would sneak around and hold his hand all the fucking time! So, he wouldn’t go into the evil world where she couldn’t protect him.
My family thought this was cute that we were inseparable and that we were constantly holding hands, but this wasn’t just a simple act of love and bonding. This was protection!
The big sister even went that far one time that she stopped talking with her parents when I needed to go to the kindergarten on my own.
Without Tim? Fuck no!
Being still a small, not fully developed dragon, the big sister did what she needed to do to get her way. She simply stopped talking to her parents. She refused to communicate with them. Until they broke and let Tim go with her.
But things got more complicated when my second brother, Nils, arrived in our cozy little world. Because now there were two brothers to take care of! And one of them doesn’t even listen …
For Nils though, the big sister grabbed another boy at his collar and shouted at him to fucking apologize to her brother because he called him names. Or the big sister made sure he felt heard and seen when he was telling his jokes or his strange stories about their dog.
Over the years, the big sister would not only slay but also take care of other things:
She would stay up in the middle of the night to get her drunk brothers safely home after a party when they were too afraid to call their parents.
She would take on all the emotional baggage of their parents and shield her brothers from these burdens.
She would never drink alcohol, so she would be sharp-minded and ready for battle all the time.
She would be there to comfort her brothers and dry their tears when their parents weren’t able to.
She would make sure that her brothers always feel safe and loved.
She would shout at her parents to get their shit together because her brothers were suffering.
She would step in when her parents were unable to lead or make decisions.
Eventually and over the years, she would take on the parent role for her two brothers, pouring all of her being (and mine) into it. To function properly she would lock me away and push my needs away. She wouldn’t care about me anymore. All that she cares about is to take care of my brothers, my parents, my family.
ME – the one that slayed the dragon
It’s hard to live your own life when you constantly protect your cave as a dragon. When you constantly look out for others or any threats that could hurt your loved ones. When you don’t allow yourself to go away because you fear that this might hurt your loved ones or worse:
that something happens to them and you weren’t there to protect them!
Life is funny sometimes, but a close friend of mine sent me this song a while ago:
It’s a German song about a woman who would fight fearlessly against dragons and step out of the shadows as the winner after she has been imprisoned by a monster for a long time. She would finally be free…
I remember that this friend sent me the song with the following message: This reminds me of you.
When I listened to this, I started crying. Because deep down I knew that my friend was right: this is ME.
I have been fighting a dragon in myself for a long time and I wanted to be free so desperately.
The hardest part of slaying my dragon was that I needed to accept that my brothers are now on their own. That I, of course, will always support them, be there for them, and love them unconditionally. But that they now need to learn how to protect themselves.
I felt like I betrayed them. I felt like I left them dying in the battleground, while I would flee into safety.
Sometimes I still feel that way.
Sometimes my dragon growls deep in my soul and hisses: You left them and see what happened?! You should have been there! You should have protected them!
Because the truth is: I didn’t slay the dragon. I can’t.
It’s a part of me. Deeply intertwined with my soul and heart. If I’d rip it out, I rip out part of me. I would kill a part of me.
So, it’s not about slaying the dragon. It’s about taming it. It’s about becoming friends with your dragon and appreciating everything it did for you and others.
Because I have been a fucking great big sister. And I always will be.
The only difference is now that I won’t be pushed into the dark cave by the dragon again. Instead, I will swing myself on its back and ride into battle with it.
So, now when I unleash the big sister, she will spread her wings, fly, and we will slay. Together.