This trip home has been extremely valuable. My oldest brother and I accidentally stumbled upon a whole new understanding of our family dynamic.
While chatting away the wee hours of the night (morning?), we talked about our respective positions in the offspring order - his trials as the first-born, the unplanned; and mine as the baby of three and the only girl.
We remembered the time when our brother, the Gifted One, when still a small child, took a shit in a shoe box and put it away in his closet. He'd made something very special and wanted to keep it forever.
Our mother, upon finding this, thought that was very interesting indeed. Clever. Brilliant, you could say. A brilliant box shitter. We don't yet understand this type of brilliance. He's in a league of his own, that one.
Had my oldest brother shat in a box and put it in his closet, he'd have been carted off to a shrink and locked up until he could explain with a straight face why it's not acceptable to keep your shit in a shoe box.
Had I shat in a box and put it in my closet, it would have surely been ignored and never spoken of. Ever. Girls do not shit in boxes. End of story. Now wash your hands and get ready for dinner.
We agreed this assessment made sense because as the first-born, you have to pave the way for the parents and the future kids to come. The parents don't really know what they're dealing with. Shit in a box as the first born and you're in for a world of trouble.
As the middle child, expectations are reset and the parents believe they can improve upon past mistakes - it's a do-over, really. The first kid is the starter kit where you work out all the bugs. Child 2.0 means a whole new start. This one will be good - we worked out all the kinks with Child 1.0.
When Child 2.0 shits in a box, it must be special. A great deal of effort has been put into 2.0. He's making a statement of some kind. He's creative. Again, brilliant. Its meaning is deep and multifaceted. He's barely stringing words together into complete sentences, but someday this will all make sense and we'll be amazed.
When Child 3.0 comes along - aka Girl Child 1.0 - years have passed and finding shoe boxes full of shit in a kid's closet has lost all the luster it probably never had. What's more, there are yet new expectations.
This Girl Child 1.0 has to be better than Child 1.0 and 2.0. If she's not, we're SOL, because we can't return any of them. Whatever goes sideways with 3.0 we will simply not address. If we ignore it, it doesn't exist. End of story.
Now wash your hands and get ready for dinner.