I’m planning a trip next year with my older brother. We’re going back-packing and hostelling all over Europe, something I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a kid. The problem is our other, younger brother: we know his feelings will be hurt if we don’t invite him, but we’re certain he would spoil the trip. He’s not the outdoorsy type and complains if he has to walk to the corner store, so hiking with him would be a nightmare. This is totally not his type of thing, but whenever we plan anything he always wants to be included, and he holds a grudge for years if he isn’t. We’re all adults, but sometimes I still feel like he’s four years old, tagging after me and wanting to hang out with me and my friends! If it was any other vacation we wouldn’t mind so much, but this is a dream vacation, the trip of a lifetime. How can we save our vacation and our brother’s feelings too?
It sounds like your little brother never really outgrew his need for validation from his older siblings. He needs to learn to make friends and plans of his own. So, it’s tempting to say you should stop protecting his feelings and just plan your trip, thereby forcing him to grow up and develop a thicker skin. However, if, as you say, he’s very sensitive and tends to hold a grudge, then the fallout from that approach may not be worth it. Worst of all, the guilt could spoil your enjoyment of your vacation. So for now, you may be right to work around his issues and try to make everyone happy.
You say you wouldn’t mind taking him if it was any other vacation, and that gives me an idea. Why not keep your backpacking plans a secret for a little longer, and plan a trip with him first? Choose something you would both enjoy (or at least something he would enjoy and you could tolerate), and take just him, not your older brother.
It doesn’t have to be an extended vacation- even a long weekend will probably do. Then, when you announce your backpacking plans, he’ll be less hurt because you’ll have already taken a great trip with him (though you may need to remind him of that fact). He might even be flattered that you chose him first. It will seem like your older brother’s “?turn’ to travel with you, something that should appeal to his (somewhat juvenile) sense of fairness.
Whatever happens, if this really is the trip of a lifetime for you, and if you’re certain your younger brother’s presence would ruin it, don’t give in and let him tag along. You’ve known him all his life, and if you think you’ll regret inviting him, you probably will. Don’t let him spoil it for you, either by coming along or by giving you a guilt trip: you are under no obligation to bring him with you. In fact, giving in will reinforce both his sense of entitlement and his use of guilt to manipulate you on future occasions.
Whatever happens, I hope you have a wonderful trip!
E-mail your questions to Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. Heather is an AU student offering objective advice to her peers; she is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.