Parent #3

Mom’s oldest, Dad’s middle child… Either way I've fashioned myself to be the most responsible of my 2 siblings. I can’t say if that was by choice or design. I can say there has always been this weight that came with my birth order, and I never knew what it was until recently.


I have been a 3rd parent to my younger sister.


My parents got divorced (I've referenced this story several times before) and as we shifted to our new normal, my responsibilities also began to shift. My dad called it “being a good big brother”. My mom called it “helping her out”, either way they looked to me for support. I was supposed to step in to fill my dad’s physical absence and be a muscle when my sister was trippin.


My sister and I are 4 years apart, so when I was moving through high school, she was in middle school and as I left for college, she was entering high school. During these years, my dad chose to live in Alabama, starting life with his then 2nd wife. When my sister did some wild shit, I could expect a call from him reminding me to be a good big brother, which really meant check her. Same with my mother, if she couldn’t get through to her, it was up to me to be the voice of reason.


It was a burden, one I carried into adulthood. As I tried to grow into adulthood and chart my own path, I was frequently called back to fulfill a role that was placed on me, tied to me, like an anchor and thrown into a lake. I often felt like I was drowning in it. It took a toll on me and my family, whether they know it or not.


I look at the relationship my sister and I have now and it’s rocky at best. I see the way other siblings move, and we aren't like that. it’s not even close… we can go weeks without speaking and months without seeing each other, we only live 20 minutes away from each other. It takes more unlearning than I could have imagined. It also affected my relationship with my parents, there’s a lot of unlearning to do there too.


In my current space, I reject the idea that I am my sister’s 3rd parent. I refuse to allow myself to be wrestled or strong armed into playing that role. It takes a lot of boundary setting, saying no, and having uncomfortable conversations. Cheers to breaking old shackles.

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