April 10th is National Sibling Day! A day set aside for you to appreciate those people who you share an immeasurable bond with. You’ve laughed together, you’ve cried together… They’ve been your best friends and your worst enemies. In the case of my baby brother, worst enemy may be characterized as an understatement.

I lived 10 years as an only child. I didn’t realize how lucky I was. My best friend had a younger sister who was just 2 years younger, and I envied their companionship. I begged and begged my mom for a sibling, but after years had gone by I started to resign to the idea that I would be alone. Finally one night my mom announced that she was expecting another baby, and I spent the next 9 months dreaming of the endless hours of playing house, school, and BarbiesĀ that were in my future. When the doctor finally emerged from the delivery room and proclaimed “It’s a boy!” I remember my grandmother jumping up for joy, while I crossed my arms and grumbled “I wanted a sister.” I kid you not… I was not ok with a brother, and I wasn’t going to pretend to be.

And so it began… I have spent the last 14 years loving, hating, everything in between, and learning these lessons from my little brother:

1. Chew with your mouth closed! Ok – I just HAD to get that one out. He chews like a cow. To this day it can turn me from mature adult to “Mooommmmm, make him stooooppp!” in a matter of seconds. It drives me nuts, my friends nuts, even his friends nuts. Word to the wise: Chew with your mouth closed and people will tolerate you a lot more. Sorry, John!

2. Boys are more fun to raise than some people think. After my brother turned my uber-pink, frilly world upside down, I was terrified when I found out my first child was a boy. How was I going to relate? It turned out that those baseball games and model trains had grown on me. I now have 2 boys and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We spend our warm months on baseball fields every night, and our colder months playing with cars and trains indoors. Not to mention, since my brother is so much younger than me, my boys have a built inĀ friend/Uncle to play with!

3. It’s ok for me to make fun of him, but if you do it I will go totally crazy, over-protective big sister on you. Now that I’m older and realize the value of a close family like mine, I am much more protective of him. I may tease him, but no matter what happens I will always go to bat for him. After all, one day we won’t have our parents any longer, and he will be my closest tie to them.

4. It’s ok to be different. When I was very young my mom could put me on a blanket with toys and I would sit there content for hours. If you set my brother on a blanket and blinked he would be halfway up the stairs with anything but the toys he was supposed to play with. We are like night and day. Over time I have learned to tolerate, even appreciate, how different we are. I don’t think I’d be able to deal with other people as well if I hadn’t learned to tolerate him!

5. The secret to success is doing something you love. I have always been the intellectual one. I spent much of my free time as a child reading and playing school. I felt like the only success that mattered was the grade on your report card, but I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do with my life. He does well in school, but he is most passionate about sports. He has a bright future in fitness/athletics, and I envy that he knows what he wants. At his age I had considered everything from a dog-sitter to a state prosecutor (and pursued neither). Even at almost 25, I’m still trying to pinpoint what I’m passionate about. Only then will I truly feel like my life has been successful.

6. Have faith in people. I was bullied quite a bit when I was a kid and into my teens. I struggled to fit in, and was always trying to impress the “cool” kids. My brother fits in pretty well with the popular kids, but he is never mean to anyone even if they are not in his circle of friends. I have seen him stand up for kids who were bullied, and take new kids under his wing to make them feel more comfortable. He always tries to do the right thing, even if it isn’t what his friends think is cool. The world needs more kids like him.