How can I show my older brother I appreciate him?
January 19, 2014 11:04 PM   Subscribe

I have a great older brother. He’s supportive, generous and very caring in his own I’m-sensitive-but-pretend-not-to-be sort of way. Sometimes I feel like he gives me a lot, and I give him little in return. How can I show him my appreciation?

I would like to give something back to my brother for being a good sibling, but I’m stuck for ideas on how I can do this. He is eight years older than me, and in addition to being good at traditionally masculine things—carpentry, electronics—he’s also got some considerable domestic skills, like cooking, basic sewing, etc. Needless to say, he’s pretty self-sufficient, so I can’t really teach him how to do anything. He’s the one who helps me with things most of the time.

When we lived together, I liked to think that perhaps I gave back in our relationship by just being there as a sounding board when he needed to rant, and by asking about his friends, work, etc. I feel like this is how I help my older sister, who is also considerably older than I and also very self-sufficient. Now my brother and I live in different states. Unlike my sister and I, we don’t talk on the phone very often, because he’s not the type who wants to make small talk every few days. But I do call him every now and then just to see how he’s doing, and sometimes we send each other links or communicate via Facebook message.

I may be moving in with him again later this year. If that’s the case (and even if it isn’t), I’m wondering what I can do to show him I appreciate him. So far I’ve come up with sending him a card thanking him for being a good brother, buying him a guidebook for a site in Europe that he wants to visit and picking up the check more when we go out to eat, because he’s paid for me more often than I can count. Any other ideas? If any of you have had older siblings who have been the major givers and caretakers in the relationship, how did you show your appreciation for them?
posted by dean_deen to Human Relations (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
And if it's at all relevant, he's in his early thirties, I'm in my twenties.
posted by dean_deen at 11:06 PM on January 19, 2014

If you end up moving in with him you could commit to doing the household chores he doesn't like. Or bake some cookies and mail them to him.
posted by hjo3 at 11:49 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

My older brother is my favorite human on the face of this Earth. We've lived significantly apart our entire adult lives, but we both hate phone calls and small talk. We're also both introverts, overachievers, and workaholics, and insanely dedicated to our respective passions and careers. As a result, we don't talk very often at all, sometimes extending on for months, but we communicate in regular blurbs through texts and e-mail.

As a result of all this, I find that appreciation is really a matter of scale, and it may involve things that seem, on the surface, like no big deal to other folks. For example, although our family agreed to stop doing gifts for the holidays years ago, I know his tastes so well that I can't help but get him something every year. We have an informal contest where we try to crack each other up with the most random yet perfectly-attuned birthday cards. We're always looking out for one another's tastes and interests in the wider world, and trying to introduce one another to neat things. And on the rare lucky occasions when we get to spend time together in person, I think we both just feel like we can be 150% authentic, and as daffy, cynical, messy, withdrawn, etc., as we can't otherwise be around anyone else, and that's sorta our fraternal code of honor. (That, and sending cat pics back and forth.)

This may all sound like perfectly average brotherly stuff, but it's the gold of our relationship, and I sense that an awful lot of people don't have it with their sibs. Presumably your brother does this stuff because he loves you and isn't even concerned about parity. And while I think it's awesome that you want to offer something concrete in return, I'd say that you already are, by allowing him to be a big brother to you. Your affection for him is clear; I'd be surprised if he didn't already feel it in every way that matters.
posted by mykescipark at 11:52 PM on January 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

Bake stuff from scratch and send it to him.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:10 AM on January 20, 2014

Buying and baking things are good ideas, though I feel that giving him a tangible and personal expression of the 'obviousness' that is familial love will be treasured and possibly more meaningful. I've heard of that 'love languages' thing, yet I truly believe in the power of saying what is deep in our heart. Maybe throw in some hockey tickets or cookies if you like- but gosh, tell him.

Take what you have written here, expand and edit. Write to him and tell him in detail what he has meant and means to you. A written letter (more than a common card) is something he will turn to again and again, recalling kind and loving words.

What do you admire about him, what do you remember from when you were children in the same home? What makes you laugh every time you remember it? How does he amaze you, care for you, and do good for others?
posted by maya at 12:43 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Write him a letter --- an actual, old-fashioned, written-on-paper snail mail letter he can hold in his hands. Tell him all you've told us; tell him how proud you are to be his brother.
posted by easily confused at 2:49 AM on January 20, 2014

I'm the older sibling in this scenario. Because of our age difference, there's a big gap in terms of financial stability, so I wouldn't want my sibling spending much money. The things that have meant the most to me have been less tangible and more behavioral. Saying thank you, asking for favors rather than assuming I'll take care of it (even though we both know I will), volunteering to help when I need it.

When she does buy things, the stuff that has meant the most has been little and thoughtful. Cool yarn because I knit, little treats that she knows I'll like. Basically, anything that shows that she's paid attention to who I am as a person and not just a big sister.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:53 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I read this in another post several months ago, but I think it applies here, too. One thing you can do is to live your life as a responsible human being and try not to do too much screw-up stuff. To a mentor, that's the best type of thanks you can give - show that you've followed their advice. In addition, you could write a note when you've achieved something - a promotion, a fitness goal, whatever - and thank them for putting you on the path that allowed you to achieve that.
posted by CathyG at 5:31 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd send him a lovely letter, outlining how much you appreciate him, how he's an awesome mentor and how much you've learned from him.

Perhaps you can include a photo-collage of you and him and your other siblings.

I'm the older sibling, and my siter and I are close, and we tell each other all the time how much we appreciate each other.

It's good for the soul.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2014

Write him a letter --- an actual, old-fashioned, written-on-paper snail mail letter he can hold in his hands. Tell him all you've told us; tell him how proud you are to be his brother.

I'd send him a lovely letter, outlining how much you appreciate him, how he's an awesome mentor and how much you've learned from him.

Will you please listen to these smart cookies writing above?

Write the letter! I damn well guarantee it will mean a lot to him to take the time to put your feelings on paper. Go ahead and say it all--don't hold back, man. Sometimes ya just gotta have the guts to do it.

Then fold it up, stick it in the type of card you'd usually give him, put it in the guide book so he can find it, and package it with a rubber chicken if that's the type of relationship you have with him.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:22 PM on January 20, 2014

If you have pictures or mementos from when the two of you were young, maybe make a scrapbook filled with pictures dating from your early days to recently. You could include pictures of your proudest moments or life achievements and write things underneath about how he helped you get there or how much his support meant to you during those times.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2014

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