This question is about my brother, and I suppose it has two parts. My brother is 15, and I'm in my late 20s. I live hours away from him and my entire family.
My brother is quiet and introverted, though for brief periods of time his personality will come alive. I think amongst his friends he might be more outgoing, but I have no concrete evidence of this. I assume no one would be his friend if he didn't lighten up a bit.
Even before I moved away, I felt like I lost some of my ability to communicate with him. But he was a kid then, 11, and I could get more out of him. Now it's like pulling teeth. I try to see the way he interacts with people and family, and he just seems like a quiet person. I don't want to force anything because I feel that could make him clam up even more.
I just want him to have friends, communicate more and be happy. Most of all, I want him to know he can call me day or night about anything, and no matter what I'll be there. I want to be his big sister, but I don't feel I'm doing a good job of it.
That brings me to my second part. My dad fears my brother might be gay. There's nothing I've seen that would lead me to that conclusion, but my dad thinks he stares at men. Perhaps there are things I don't know about, but that's all I was told.
Something like that would not be welcome in our family for religious reasons and cultural ones. But if he is gay, I want him to be okay and not internalize anything negative because this is eating at my dad.
Whatever the case, I want my brother to know I'll always be there for him in a way that doesn't seem to embarrass him, as it seems teenagers are so apt to be.
Heather, in her book Charred Souls, Trena Cole describes growing up as an abused child. What we remember from the book is not Trena's many punishments, but the story about the time her family stopped at a gas station. The gas station attendant smiled at her.
That's all. There's no more to the story than that. But that smile gave her the courage to go on.
Every lonely kid collects smiles, little acts of kindness and thoughtful gestures. That doesn't mean the person who makes these gestures will get a positive response from the child. Most often, all they get back is a blank stare, and sometimes, an inappropriate remark.
If you want to do something for your brother, do it with no expectation of return. Regularly drop him a card, an email, a text. Skype. Suggest the two of you play a game on Facebook like Plants vs. Zombies. Online games take only a few minutes to play and allow two people to check in with each other every day. At your age, you understand how this can make a difference for him.
Drop the notion your brother is gay until there is evidence. It could be your brother finds your dad overbearing, or it's your dad's defense mechanism for what he did or failed to do. Older children often get attention and have experiences younger children never get. Your brother may simply feel left out.
Your brother hasn't grown up in the same family you did. He is of the opposite sex, 13 or 14 years younger, growing up in a different time. Now he is 15, a trying age in itself. There's more than enough angst to go around.
Some people are introverts, some people don't need close friends, some people are late bloomers. It doesn't mean there is something wrong. But if there is, you will be there to help.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for The Week of August 5, 2013
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