Dear Francine,This is my 3rd time 'womaning up' to the issues in my family and for whatever reason, I get all the responsibility, I’m the youngest of 6, and my siblings only enter the room when there are funds to be divided up. It's been a real eye opener for me on many fronts, these surreal experiences called 'daughters duty'. L.
When it comes to caring, will “boys” be boys? Sure, many will—if you let them. Others will be devoted caregivers. But I’ll come back to that later because the most important player in this picture is you.
You say “for whatever reason” you are the one to do this. That ‘whatever’ is huge, and it may pay you to think on it and fill in the blank. Possible reasons? Your role may always have been that of the “responsible” one or the kid closest to your parents or the last kid—who got more attention and money (a common scenario) and is resented by older siblings. The real trick is to understand why your’re “it.” What do you get out of it? Feeling you’re doing the “right” thing? Being a “good person” or “good” daughter? Something else? There could be many complex and overlapping answers, often not obvious. Once you’ve got a handle on them, you’ll be on the road to changing the situation—if you really want to.
Now back to the boys. All of us, not just boys, slip into automatic when we’re with our families. We slide into the roles we had when we were growing up: the responsible sister, the clueless brother, the bossy one, etc. Changing such deeply imprinted roles is tough. It requires people to become conscious of them and then for somebody in the family—maybe you—to start behaving differently. Because when one person in an interaction doesn’t play their usual part, that provokes a different response from the others.
So if you girls just keep keeping on’, the boys will have little impetus to change. But I have seen lots of “boys” become caring men, brothers and sons. Sometimes they do it in response to circumstances, or to powerful new feelings evoked by aging and mortality, or maybe in response to new expectations or behavior from a sibling.
You are right: this passage is a real “eye-opener,” and the insights you get now can be a real opportunity to grow—for your brothers and sisters—and for you.