I have two brothers, and I’ve never had a close relationship with either of them. I’m not sure where the blame lies for that, but I have to expect some of it came from parenting when we were children. We weren’t often encouraged to cooperate, and were more often encouraged to compete against each other. I’m not sure what else goes into fostering children to love and grow close to their siblings. Whatever that magical component is, I fear we were missing it. (This post builds on some of my Toxic Grandparents posts, you may want to read some of those to get caught up on where we are today.)
I have to wonder if growing up in a household with a narcissistic father had some impact on this. It wasn’t until the last year or so that I understood what narcissism is, and that my father is afflicted with it. Perhaps I learned by example that I was the only one important and that my sole job was to look out for myself. Possibly my brothers learned the same.
We definitely came out with self-confidence issues, and I’ve had to work very hard to overcome these self-confidence issues. I still struggle with it, but I’m much better than I was as a child. Lately I’ve also been making a conscious effort to pay attention to how I view and interact with others. I want to make sure that I’m not holding onto any narcissistic tendencies learned during my childhood. I know I have some, as we all probably do, but I want to make sure they are minimized and aren’t a major factor in my life.
As I am now well into adulthood, there is no excuse for me to not develop a relationship with my brothers. To make things easier for you to follow, I’m going to make up some names to use for them on the blog. We’ll call my middle brother Brad. My younger brother, the one now in favor with Toxic Grandfather, the one with a fiancé and her two daughters, we’ll call Mike.
Brad and I have a good chance of developing a relationship. Mike, since he’s now in Toxic Grandfather’s favor, has taken Grandfather’s view that we greatly wronged him when we asked him to change the way he treated our daughter Faith. Mike may come around eventually, but he’s in a position, emotionally and financially, where he depends too much on our parents to risk upsetting the balance.
I work about 10 minutes away from Brad, so the other day I called him and asked him if he’d like to grab a beer after work. (Grabbing beers is what men do, right?) He accepted and we met at a local restaurant after work.
We had a good long talk, which ended up lasting nearly three hours. We started with some small talk, but I also wanted to talk about what happened with Toxic Grandfather, because I was sure he had gotten a very one sided view of things. (I forgot to mention, Brad is currently living with our parents.) I shared everything we had gone through when trying to get Toxic Grandfather to respect our daughter, and the falling out that occurred afterwards.
I also shared the suspected diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder that my wife and our daughter’s psychologist had made regarding Toxic Grandfather’s behaviors. Brad had heard of narcissism and had researched it a little when he had a coworker that had it.
Brad also shared that he understood how Toxic Grandfather didn’t accept disabilities (I’m not sure if disabilities is the right word, but it’s the best I can think of at the moment) as an excuse for behavior that deviated from his expectations. Brad had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) as a child. He really struggled when he wasn’t on Ritalin, and Toxic Grandfather really took it out on him. Brad was constantly belittled because he couldn’t focus on the task at hand.
This was one of the reasons I felt it necessary to sit down with our parents two years ago and discuss the issues he was having with our daughter, Faith, and her inability to speak to them (later diagnosed as Selective Mutism.) I wasn’t going to let him treat Faith the way he had treated his own son Brad.
Brad and I spent maybe twenty minutes talking about all the issues related to Toxic Grandfather and then moved on to talk about other things.
One of the other things I wanted to talk to him about was to find out why he was still living with our parents. He’s 35 now. Let’s share some backstory. Brad wasn’t sure what to do after high school. He started community college, but just wasn’t feeling it. After a year or so, he decided to join the Navy. From what I’ve seen, I believe this ended up being the right move for him. He learned a lot during his time in the Navy, both in job skills and life skills.
He was stationed in Hawaii, and after he left the Navy, he had his motorcycle shipped to California and he meandered across the country back towards home in Florida. A funny side story here, he stopped and visited our Aunt and Uncle on the way back and learned that they can’t stand our parents because of their “holier than thou” attitude.
When he got back home he stayed with our parents for a short time. Soon after, he got a job doing electrical work for the county and moved into his own apartment. He was there for a couple of years and started looking into buying a house. My parents dissuaded him from doing this.
About the same time, our mother discovered she was being transferred to a neighboring town. They would have to move to an apartment in that town and offered that Brad could move back home while they tried to sell the house. Mike was already living there, but he doesn’t take well to responsibility and I think they wanted Brad there to help keep things in order while they were away.
I feel like they used Brad and told him so while we talked at the restaurant. Sure Brad benefited some with a free place to live, but I think he would have been better off on his own and in his own place.
Our mother was laid off about a year later and they ended up moving back to the house. Brad is still there, and I could tell as I talked that he would like to get out of there. He talked a bit about buying a house and I encouraged him to give renting another shot. I’m not sure what he’ll end up doing, but I’m sure he’ll give some thought to regaining his freedom.
He let slip how he really feels about Toxic Grandfather when he said he might have to go back to working the evening shift. He said at least he doesn’t have to see dad (Toxic Grandfather) when he works evenings.
The rest of the evening was spent talking about various other things. He’s been on some adventures of his own lately. He camped on an island and did some diving for lobster over the summer. He’s going camping in the Keys later this month and I offered to go with him if he didn’t have anyone else planning to go. He said he mentioned it to a couple friends, but it didn’t sound like they were going. So, I have tentatively scheduled a camping trip with him. Faith loves camping, so I’m hoping it works out that we can go. I’ll check back with him this week to see how the plans are shaping up.
The evening was a great first step in establishing a relationship with my brother. If the camping trip works out, that will be a great time to strengthen our relationship and get further reacquainted.
I’d like to hear about your family. Do you have good relationships with your parents or siblings? Is there anything you’d care to share?