Why I Want an Older Brother

I’ve been blessed by a fantastic family. I love my parents, and I adore my two siblings. One has flown overseas multiple times for missions work, and the other has found a natural niche in youth ministry. They are my younger siblings, and they are my heroes.

I am the oldest Zuniga kid (adult?), and for 26 years onward I have enjoyed the many perks of coming first: of graduating high school first and then college first, of owning a vehicle first, and of moving out first.

As childhood and adolescence have morphed into something resembling adulthood, however, I have grown weary of being the first root in this family tree. In recent years, I have often longed to be wedged somewhere in the middle or even the youngest of all.

I have yearned for an older brother.

Older Brother, Younger Brother

Photo courtesy World Bank Photo Collection, Creative Commons

I went to the gym last night, not unlike any other Monday evening. I spent 45 minutes pumping pedals on a stationary bike more for the mental release than any physical gain, and I was occasionally watching the Monday Night Football game directly above me.

As I climbed a steep “alpine pass,” I glanced up at the silent screen and caught only 5 or 10 seconds of a commercial that might as well have turned off all the lights in the place and froze every other exerciser mid-stride, mid-pump while the muted commercial suddenly blared with audible words and magical music and unhinged emotion.

I wanted to cry on the bike.

I started to cry on the bike.

It was a Christmas commercial for DICK’s Sporting Goods, and watching the extended version on my laptop ruined me last night:

My heart grew heavier and my eyes moister as the simple story of two baseball-loving brothers progressed. The thing was just 91 seconds and yet it might as well have been a full-length movie.

A full-length life.

When I look back on my childhood, I can point to many hard moments or non-moments of loss. A cross-country move here, a dead dog there.

One of the hardest things I have had to reckon with in recent years and even still at 26 is that I never had any close male friends growing up. In fact, I never really experienced the elusive notion of such a friendship until after I turned 22.

And yet where friendships may fail, family is forever.

I realize this statement might elicit deep winces and aches and groans from some of you reading, but for me, this is my blessed truth. Death aside, I cannot imagine a scenario where my family will not stand with me. I am indeed blessed; yes, I am.

And yet sometimes, some nights, I look back on my lonely male-deprived childhood and more than anything, I yearn for some supernatural family reshuffling.

I want an older brother. For all the joys of being “first,” I find myself desperately longing for another’s footsteps to follow rather than this long blank stretch of sand before me.

An older brother to hold my hand and walk me across the street.

An older brother to bother to drive me places as he eventually agrees and I feel important in the passenger seat beside him.

An older brother to spy on when he brings a date over and they watch a movie in the living room.

An older brother to tussle with and lose to, time after time, only to gradually gain on him with age and win some matches of my own.

An older brother for advice on college and relationships and messy struggles I feel too awkward and ashamed approaching anyone else about.

An older brother to hug and be held by and an older brother to cry into when I feel so outcast and unlovable among men.

An older brother to tell me everything will be okay.

An older brother to encourage me to follow through with little league even though I was too terrified and in tears before I even reached the clubhouse.

An older brother to wake me up and play catch with on Christmas morning as our parents watch from the warmth of a living room.

Zuniga siblings

  • foglight11

    I totally understand this, Tom. I have struggled with a lot of those same feelings. I would have LOVED an older brother, especially while I was growing up. I would have relished the times he made me feel stronger than I really was. I would still like an older brother, even though I am old enough to have fathered a pair of brothers myself. I have a lot of male friends now, and even had some good ones growing up. Being an only child has taught me that my good friends are my family, and that is really what matters. Family IS forever.

    • TMZ

      Awesome stuff, Allan. Glad you have lots of solid guys in your life. Here for you if you ever need a listening ear as well! Keeping you in my prayers. Much love brotha.

  • Zachary

    Man alive, I feel very connected with this. That commercial made me teary-eyed as well, and I HATE baseball. Thats saying something. I too crave that deep bond with an older brother. And I am not sure what is worse, not having and older brother, or having one who treated you terribly. Unfortunately I had the latter and it has not only left me a yearning for that bond, but also a lack of belief/trust in it. Yet there is hope. In the body of the Messiah we have many, many, brothers. Of all ages. And as far as I am concerned, that is my real family. They are true brothers – by blood. The blood of the Messiah. Amen.

    • TMZ

      Part of me almost wishes to have had that terrible older brother just for the sake of having one, but I won’t quibble over one disheartening scenario with another. Grateful for brotherhood that extends beyond the blood!

  • Kirin Pandit

    Oh my gosh, that’s like the sweetest commercial ever! And I totally can relate to your post too! I have seriously always wanted a sibling for as long as I can remember, and I still do. I’d be happy with a sister or brother, either younger or older, but I agree that an older brother would be amazing, and I can’t even imagine how awesome it would be to have one. It still makes me sad sometimes that I don’t have a sibling, and I hope that someday I will find someone who will fill that void! Also, you’re the best!

  • Rebecka

    I have an older brother and an older sister. They’re quite a few years older than me though, so by the time I was 12 they’d both moved out of the house. I totally get wanting someone you were really close to and that you could talk to about absolutely anything. It would have been very nice, especially during those oh-so-confusing teenage years…

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  • cmd

    Okay, I was going to comment on this a LONG time ago…. That is a great commercial! I must say I’ve always thought it would have been the best thing in the world to have a brother! I guess I had always hoped for a younger brother. Maybe that was just because I was already the oldest boy, and logically the next one would have been younger! But since we’d have to adopt to get one now anyway… 🙂 But, anyways, I’m extremely grateful to God for bringing friends into my life to fill those vacancies. The last 3-4 years especially! I couldn’t have hand picked better brothers!

  • JEA

    I stumbled onto your blog while procrastinating writing a paper, and you have some really good stuff. I feel like we have a lot of similarities: you went to UGA and I’m currently there, neither of us had male friends growing up, we both love running, and this post about wanting an older brother really hit my feelings on the matter. It’s kind of scary being the older brother. There’s a strong desire to succeed in order to show the way and an unpredictability. When my dog died in October, I had to be the comforter to my brother (also at UGA now) and let some of my friends comfort me, but it really wasn’t the same. I wonder how life would be different for me if I had had an older brother.

    PS: Go Dawgs!
    PPS: Go Braves!

    • Hey there! I’m glad you procrastinated long enough to find my blog. That’s so awesome that you currently go to UGA. Along with all those other connections we share. The good news about not having a blood-related older brother is that it opens the way for non-blood related older brother figures to step in and fill that role in your life. I’ve been so blessed by a couple such guys these last few years. I hope you experience that blessing as well.

      Go Dawgs, go PHILLIES, and be sure to procrastinate again on my blog some time! tmz

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  • Rager

    I have two older brothers and I can honestly say that along with my father, they have been the most detrimental people in my life. I’ve had bruises from when they throw me around, they used to trap me under tarps and leave me there screaming for help until I couldn’t breathe. There is no cheesy “Protector” or someone to talk to, or cry on, in my experience brothers are not the protectors, they are the threat. To this day I can’t help but flinch when they walk past me, I’m always expecting some sort of pain. It won’t be the same for everyone, and I’m sure some people have good older brothers, but they are not as good as they sound. It’s not their job to be your protector, it’s yours.