Borja Carrasco was 19 years old when his parents told him and his sister that they were going to have another brother. He remembers that his mother said it in a very casual way, as if without giving too much importance, and he himself admits that he did not give it to him either and that this lack of interest might not be “the correct reaction” Verne. But as the belly grew, everything became more real and the bond with the new baby brother appeared even before his birth. “I remember, and my mother too, my sister and I sitting with her on the sofa and stroking her belly without realizing it,” he says.
What he does have very clearly etched in his memory is the day Guille was born. At three in the morning, his parents entered the room to tell him that they were going to the hospital. That he continued sleeping, that he would go in the morning. He woke up early and went with his grandparents and his sister. “When we arrived just my mother was leaving the delivery room,” he says. He remembers that he was very excited when he saw his brother, who was “super little.” The first time he picked him up, it was a bit rough (“I hit him with my head on the crib bar”), but there was no major damage and he quickly became an expert not only in picking up babies, but also in changing diapers , bathing him, and other tasks related to his care.
Sandra Pereira, 46, has also been with her sisters for many years, although she sees that relationship from the other side: she is the little girl and her sisters are 11 and 13 years older than her. And he remembers, on many occasions, his two sisters playing a role similar to that of their parents. They even said to one of them: “What a beautiful girl you have, but you’re very young,” she tells Verne by phone. For older siblings to act as father or mother figures to newcomers when there is a large age difference is common. But it is only one of the edges of these relationships. As he explains to Verne On the phone, the psychologist Helena Arias, the special bonds that are formed in these cases can be “wonderful.”
A special degree of maturity
Older siblings logically develop a heightened sense of responsibility by taking care of their siblings at certain times. In addition, the fact that there is such a great age difference makes “the appearance of jealousy or rivalry” less likely, as he explains by email to Verne the psychologist Lourdes Merino, one of the directors of the Centro Clasifical Psicólogos. Thus, in a healthy relationship between siblings, this age difference translates into older siblings showing more “attitudes of care, protection and support for the minor,” according to the expert.
This situation also affects the development of children, who, according to psychologist Helena Arias, tend to end up being very mature children “on an emotional level.” The fact that many times “they dream of belonging to that group of elders” teaches them “to be responsible,” according to the psychologist.
One of the childhood memories of Guille Carrasco, the baby born in the middle of the morning that we were talking about at the beginning, is accompanying his sister María in the car to take care of her cousins. That made him feel that the two of them were “the oldest and most responsible,” even though Guille was only about 5 years old. His brother Borja also confirms that, when he grew up with four adults, Guille was always a very precocious child: “He began to speak right away, and immediately he had things of a gentleman …”, he says.
Tamáriz Álvarez, 13 years younger than his sister Paola, remembers everything “very funny.” She was the sixth daughter of a couple who already had two daughters and three sons (the father also had three children from a previous marriage) and she says that having older brothers gave her security and that she felt “very protected.” His sisters, he says, were his “idols” and he wanted to be like them. This relationship has also meant that, from a very young age, Tamáriz was told that she was “very mature and very strong” and even now sometimes she looks older than her brothers, despite being the youngest, she does not know if by personality or by things that she has had to live (for a while she has metastatic breast cancer and is the founder of the association Heads against cancer). “The truth is that I was premature in everything, something that now makes me feel sad,” she says.
With the passage of time, there is another common situation for siblings who have been with each other for many years: that the older ones leave the family home when the little ones are still very young. At that time, Guille and Borja Carrasco had a particularly bad time. Their first separation took place when Borja left for Prague on Erasmus and his brother was only 3 years old. When he returned at Christmas and at the end of the course, he noticed a lot how much he had grown. Just a couple of years later, Borja moved to London, where he stayed for seven years, making the changes even more remarkable. “Guille went from being a child to being a teenager,” he says. The two remember how bad it was every time they had to separate after a visit, although Borja assures that he never considered not going on Erasmus or living abroad. “It would not have made sense to stop doing things because I had a little brother,” he reflects.
When they are all adults
But time keeps passing and there comes a time when everyone becomes an adult. Then, the differences between siblings related to age are reduced, and they become more similar to those that also separate us from other people: “They have more to do with personality, interests or way of seeing life, or with mismanaged discrepancies, “says psychologist Lourdes Merino.
All the interviewees agree that, over the years, their relationships with their siblings have become richer. Paola Álvarez marks the turning point in Tamáriz’s march to university: “We went from being sisters with different rhythms and lives to sharing a lot of things,” she says. She considers that Tamáriz is now part of her life in another way, “as a friend, someone with whom you have the confidence to call when you are sad or need something”. This feeling is also shared by Guille Carrasco, who is now 17 years old and who considers that he now understands his brothers better. “We talk about more serious things,” he acknowledges.
Although for everyone having siblings with such a difference in age is the most normal thing (Borja Carrasco remembers that he realized immediately that “when Guille arrived it was already a normal routine, he did not conceive that he had not been before”), they do know that there is something exceptional in your situation. There are bad things: the little ones talk about missing not being in many of the stories and anecdotes of their brothers (Tamáriz), having that strange relationship halfway between mothers and sisters (Sandra) or that their brothers leave home ( Guille). Older people talk about missing things because “he is not your son and you continue with your life” (Borja) or “that he will have to take care of me when I am old” (Paola, laughing, because it is the only bad thing that comes to mind).
The best thing, at least in healthy relationships like those described by the interviewees, is everything else: the different vision that her little sister gives her of things because she is 13 years younger, points out Paola Álvarez; being able to do things with your siblings that other children cannot do with theirs, such as taking you ice skating or going on a trip with them, says Guille Carrasco; that they teach you many things that a brother closer in age could not, contributes Sandra Pereira; always feel very protected, says Tamáriz Álvarez; “See him grow up and remember everything,” says Borja Carrasco.
If you have been with your brother for many years, we will be happy to hear about your experience in the comments.