My Older Brother
My older brother is a genius, literally.
I am not a genius. I am very smart, actually, but not in the same category as my older brother. Growing up, compared to my older brother, I felt stupid.
What made things worse was that my brother was just two years older than I was. I spent twelve years following him in school. Every year I was greeted by the same words. They would read my name off on the class roll and say, "Oh. You are George's younger brother. We expect big things from you."
Every year I was doomed to disappoint my teachers’ expectations. I was not George. I was Mark. My older brother was brilliant at math and science, while I was just very good. I had different skills. My real strengths were in English and history.
I could not even be mad at my brother because it was not his fault. I knew that. Besides, George was not the type of person anyone could be mad at. He was too nice.
I survived. Oddly, when I went to college, I studied engineering. I had to work harder than I would have had I majored in history, but one thing I had learned was how to work hard in subjects that did not come naturally to me. I was not the most brilliant student in my class, but graduated with an engineering degree.
Eight years later, I was the promising lead engineer where I worked. The company, then going through an expansion, needed more people. My older brother was looking to relocate to Houston. He had a physics degree, and got hired by my company after I told him about the opportunity.
When he started, people told him, “Oh, you are Mark’s brother. We expect big things from you.”
At first I enjoyed the turnaround. You would have to a saint not to, and I am far from a perfect Christian.
Then I began feeling uneasy about it. If I was not George, he was not me. Expecting George to be me ignored his strengths and highlighted his weaknesses. It led to frustration and eventually my brother found another job where he could be himself.
I learned something important from this about raising my own children. However alike they superficially might appear to be, they had individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests. I made sure to always encourage them to follow their own interests regardless of their siblings’ interests and activities.
I never compared them to each other, except to highlight that being different from each other was a good thing. Shared interests were fine, but when my sons had different dreams it was okay for each to follow their own individual path, so long as they did their best at whatever they did.
My sons are now grown. Two have their own careers, the third is finishing college. I expect big things from them. Not because of their brothers—but because of who they are, individually.