What It’s Like to Raise a Bro, From One of Our Mothers

Ed. Note: My mom asked if she could write a little piece about what it was like to rear a hellraiser like me. I said, “Sure.” So here it is. And as a reminder, call your mom today. 

“It’s a bro!” the obstetrician announced, to my great surprise. Already having given birth to 2 girls, I was certain that this time it would be a boy. While the doctors and nurses marveled at this unusual birth, and weighed and measured him, I wondered what lay ahead for both of us. But those concerns quickly melted away as the nurse handed him to me. He was my new baby bro, and he was perfect!

I knew it wouldn’t be easy to raise a baby bro; there were no books with helpful hints, and no friends or family with baby bros of their own, whose experiences I could draw upon. Now, thirty years later, I look back and remember some of my favorite moments of raising a baby bro.

My baby bro was born during a Redskins – Raiders football game, arriving just in time to watch the fourth quarter swaddled and nestled in my arms. As he grew, the swaddling was replaced by ever larger blankets and my arms by the arms of a soft yellow sofa, but the need to be warm and comfortable while watching a sporting event endured. When I wanted to replace the family room furniture, my baby bro protested. “You can’t get rid of that sofa,” he howled, “I’ve watched every football game of my life on it!” That sofa was eventually sold on Craig’s list, and my baby bro learned that he could find love in the arms of another.

My baby bro loved pre-school but he rarely left the block and toy car corner. So I was surprised when I picked him up the Friday before Mother’s Day, and he gave me a hand-drawn card. I had barely finished thanking him for it, when he dismissed my gratitude by saying “they made me make it.” At just 4 years old, my baby bro already found the burden of holiday gift giving oppressive.

My baby bro always did his homework at the barest minimum level possible. When his sister asked, “aren’t you going to make a cover for that report?” he replied, “No, the teacher didn’t say that I have to.” By age 10 my baby bro knew exactly who he was, and he wasn’t going to work hard to make anyone like him.

When he was a teenager, I took my baby bro and his sisters on a long trip. On each flight, my baby bro grudgingly helped us lift our carry-on bags into the overhead bins, telling us that “a woman should only be allowed to pack what she can lift.” From that day forward, I have helped every woman I’ve ever seen struggle with a suitcase, quoting baby bro’s line as the reason. My baby bro has unknowingly helped dozens of women on flights around the world in the past few years.

As my baby bro grew up, his knowledge of sports, pop culture, and beer has helped my career. A quick phone call before any meeting with colleagues, and baby bro gives me the information, and just the right words, to drop in any conversation and impress even the hippest in the group. A blind date with a sports fan? A phone call to baby bro and I know the important players on the team. Dinner with friends? A phone call to baby bro and I know the beer I ordered last time and liked.

In college, baby bro’s best friend developed testicular cancer. When I asked baby bro how he and his roommates were helping this friend during chemotherapy, baby bro said “by making fun of him.” At first I was appalled, but then I realized how smart and right baby bro was about this. By treating the friend as he always had, baby bro was showing him that the world was OK, and that he, too, would be OK.

While it hasn’t always been easy raising a baby bro, it has, more than anything else, been fun. Giving birth to a baby bro might be an unusual event but for those lucky mothers who experience it, it is a joy, a blessing, a challenge and a wonder, and a learning experience like no other.

Nancy Adelman

[Image via Shutterstock]