This is one is a little different because I'm not super clear on who exactly I'm speaking to. Is it others who grew up like I did? Parents raising a girl with brothers? The brothers?

Maybe all of them?
Probably all of them.

I am the eldest of three children. My first brother is about two years younger than I am, my second is five years younger. Our mom left our father when we were all quite little. Growing up was hard in some ways...we didn't have much money
and our mother worked long hours to try and pull us out of poverty. We were raised by our grandmother, a wonderfully kind woman who suffered from extreme anxiety. Things did get better eventually.

I include this for some context of course
I also want to explain: I refer to myself as she/a girl in this thread only because that was how I was viewed by the people raising me. Socially, culturally, psychologically I was raised as a girl with brothers but please if possible, don't call me a girl now. Thanks

A girl with brothers will be asked to sacrifice.

What, exactly, will comprise that sacrifice depends of course. Sometimes it's time; sacrificing time that she, perhaps, was looking forward to spending on herself. Sometimes its money. Sometimes its labor.
Sometimes it's not so simple. Sometimes a girl with brothers has to sacrifice less tangible things.

I sacrificed building myself as a person with likes/dislikes, with desires, with ambitions, with goals. The sports my brothers played cost too much for me to also have something
The dreams I cherished weren't doable because resources were limited and in the balance my family found it more worthwhile, more useful to have my brothers play hockey. After all, my family value athletics. My uncles played hockey. It was a traditional thing, very important
It would help my brothers become better people. It would heal the hurt left in them by my father's failures.

It was necessary for them.

For me, it was necessary to sacrifice

A girl with brothers knows that her emotions, her sadness, her anger, her joy, her rage, her fears--all of them are things she's expected to manage on her own.

Her brothers, meanwhile, are different
Her brothers aren't ever expected to manage their own emotions. Mother's had a long day at work and she's exhausted. Grandmother's having a panic attack. The boys are upset about--well, who knows what but they're UPSET and it's much too much to expect them to ride it out.
So Mother soothes them, sieves away the bad feelings so none are left, makes them quiet and satisfied and peace again descends. No matter the girl's own sadness, she can handle it quietly, there's no need to be soothed, Mother is tired honey, go check on the boys
"You need to toughen up," Mother says at the girl's tears. "You need to know life won't be kind to you."

Oh she knows this. Life isn't kind to her but it is certainly kind to her brothers, who never know what it means to feel anything they don't want to

The boys come home filthy. Their friends drape, sweat-soaked, over the furniture. The kitchen is a mess. Everything is coated with that particular grime of pre-adolescent children who have been outside all day in the heat.
The girl will of course have to take care of it. Not necessarily because she's a girl & cleaning is what girls do. No. Mother is thoroughly modern. She's a scientist! She doesn't hold to those old gender norms except the boys won't clean, it's not worth asking them, it's too much
How can you expect them to be able to do those things? They never do them.

The girl should know better! She should KNOW the boys just can't, and she must because Mother WORKS ALL DAY & how ungrateful to have her come home to a filthy house?

You have to grow up. Be responsible
Boys of course don't have this edict. Boys aren't ungrateful.

It's just how it is.

But it has nothing to do with you being a girl, or them being a boy. Of course not. How dare you even suggest it. How dare you.

Grow up.

This is the dangerous one friends. Because a girl with brothers know how hard it is. Because it'd be impossible not to see how hard Mother works, how difficult life has been, how much stress and exhaustion go into keeping things together.
And it's easy for Mother to realize that you, the girl, are the one who will listen. Who will feel bad. Who will be pulled by guilt, by disappointment. Who is so desperate for love and attention that she'll do whatever you ask her to in order to feel wanted & important
So the girl gets asked:
write your brother's essay, I know he should've done it but you're the more responsible one
lend your brother some money I know he should've saved his own but you're the more responsible one
forgive your brother, I know it was cruel, be the bigger person
Being the bigger person means being the quieter person. Being the accommodating person, Being the non-person who makes life easier for everyone else. For the real people. Who aren't burdened in that same way

The problem for a girl who has only brothers is that she is expected to shrink back while they are allowed to shine and then, when outsiders wonder why she isn't as funny, or smart, or charming, or interesting, she is blamed for it
"She's such a nerd," the boys say as they talk about hockey camp, as they talk about trips to Lake Placid, as they talk about tournaments and week-long skiing trips with Uncle

"she never does anything." as she finishes their homework, does their dishes, folds their clothes
"What a loser," they say as they and their friends go out, leaving her to clean their filth before Mother gets home from work

And then at Thanksgiving aunts and uncles don't spend much time on her. Even the ones with daughters themselves don't, because they have only daughters
A girl with only brothers is never as interesting as them.

She can't be. She wasn't ever allowed to be.

When girls with only brothers lose their father--whether though accident or design--it's not important how she feels because everyone knows boys need fathers.

Girls will be ok
No one thinks about the specific ways she might be hurting because oh, those poor boys. Those poor fatherless boys.

So they go on skiing trips every other weekend during the winter time with their uncle. The girl isn't invited. Not once.

After all, boys need a father
So they go to hockey games with their uncle multiple times a month. So they develop a secret language only they and the adults around them speak. The girl's fine. She's such a loser anyway so she wouldn't want to go. It's not important. The boys need a father. The boys need this
Later, when they are older, sorting through memories of childhood they wonder why the girl remains silent, her face blank, without expression, her mouth drawn firm.

Who cares that she doesn't have memories. She didn't need them. The boys did

If you are a girl who only has brothers, who has sacrificed her own needs for theirs, there is only one thing that can save her.

She has to be pretty.
If she is pretty, perhaps it can be saved. Perhaps she has some value. Perhaps the boys' friends will have cute crushes on her and she will have to grin and bear it. Perhaps the boys will be protective which, while still dehumanizing is at least not cruel. She may be ok
If she is not pretty?

Or even if she is a completely average little kid who goes through the same awkward phases all little kids go through?

She's lost.

Tell her to her face. Laugh when the boys mock her. Make sure she knows just how she has failed
Even if she grows out of that awkward phase? Even if she maybe someday DOES become pretty?

Too late. The damage has been done. She will never be anything but ugly, but wrong, but lacking in all ways. She will never be anything but a shadow while the boys shine.

A girl with only brothers
A girl in a broken family where resources are scarce
A girl who is not pretty, who is quiet and shy
A girl who needs adults to notice her, who needs care and gentleness but does not get it.....there is nothing sadder. Nothing lonelier
If you're the girl? I see you. You're not alone. This is not your fault and never was.

If you're the brothers? Speak up for her. Prioritize her. Remember her even when your parents don't

If you're the parent? her acquiescence, her responsibility does not mean she's ok
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