As some of you know, I am the older sister to two wonderful men.  I am about to acquire a younger sister (two months from tomorrow). Sometimes I even play that role for my older sister, who is a fantastic sibling, but–through no fault of her own–is in some ways the younger of the two of us.  We trade off, really.  There are times when I have been in the “older sibling” role for days or months for all my siblings.  There have been times when, in defiance of biology and convention, I have most definitely been the youngest in my family.  And this doesn’t even take into account all the non-blood related siblings I have.

But, when it comes down to it, I see myself as an “older sibling” probably 95% of the time and as a “younger sibling” maybe 5% of the time.  It shapes my actions in ways I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand.

In the last few months/weeks/days, I’ve been in several different situations that make me think about the responsibilities that come with my place in the biological order of my family.  I am far from perfect, but I earnestly desire to be better.  It’s made me examine how I do things.  I’ve learned a lot about who I am as a person and as an older sister.  A few things I’ve learned:

  • Whether you are my sibling or not (forget age), I will ALWAYS want to fix it.  This instinct is borne of years watching disappointed hopes and sickness and injuries and unavoidable failures, my heart breaking for the brothers who had to learn that life is not fair.  It will never be fair.  And, while I can’t fix everything, I can sure try to fix anything.  This is my first instinct in the face of trouble or sorrow and it can sometimes be a bother.  It is always meant lovingly.
  • I am fiercely protective.  There was this time when I was in fifth grade and Monkey was in third.  He came home one day, pride bruised (and his body, too, I suppose, but it was definitely the pride that stung the most).  He had been playing flag football with some of the boys in my grade and they had . . . chosen to ignore his reduced size and strength in favor of winning outright.  Then, they had rubbed it in.  I was FURIOUS.  I went up to the culprit Monkey named the next day and told him off.  This was my little brother and he would not be treated that way for the sake of a game.  I’m not sure I helped.  I may have even hurt him, as actions like that can make a child out to be a crybaby. But I don’t regret letting the boys in my grade know that I was not passive in the treatment of my younger brother.  He would be protected and defended as long as I could.  Of course, that meant that–one day–I had to learn that sometimes my brothers would need to be protected from me.  That, I believe, was a far harsher lesson than watching my brothers get bruised by classmates (mine and theirs).
  • Perfection is not possible.  Sometimes this is okay.  But when it comes to my siblings, this is where my perfectionism–and lack of actual perfection–is exacerbated.  I am SO AWARE of my many mistakes.  There’s no way not to be. But the mistakes are less and less acceptable when they involve my amazing and wonderful siblings.  Thankfully, as much as I mess up, my siblings are willing to forgive me.
  • Being far away is about the suckiest thing on earth.  I love being able to touch and love and hug my siblings.  I like being able to physically reassure them that no matter what comes out of my mouth–which always sounds so right in my head and so wrong vocalized–I love them.  Communicating that from far away is one of the hardest things I can and will ever do.  But I will learn to do it.
  • Being an older sister has made me a better person.  I empathize more, I try to understand more.  My little brothers and I don’t think the same way and we never will.  But  as we have grown and attempted to understand each other better, they have taught me how to understand all people better.
  • I will never enjoy suffering.  Being an older sister, with all that fierce momma bear and must fix it instinct, brings suffering into a new light.  When I see people hurt and–more painfully–people rejoicing in the hurt of others, I don’t see pain.  I see a child, often times a brother or sister (but does it really make it any better if they’re an only child and don’t have that support?), crying out for help.  I see a child being laughed at or told their suffering is good or just.  I see the person, but I also see my little brother after he jumped a metal sign and accidentally cut off a chunk of skin on his knee and enduring the iodine disinfecting bravely as he could.  I see my little brother aching because of a hateful sign posted on a door.  I see my older sister curled in a ball of pain as her body attacked her from the inside out.  And I see the boy in the fifth grade telling me my Monkey should toughen up.  I see me being the one who posted that sign that my Moose saw, intending to hurt.  I see the people who tell me that my Anli will learn so much from this trial of her health, as if that makes it hurt me or my parents or her any less. I see all these times and situations as I witness those who hurt and those who rejoice in hurting and I ACHE.  For the children inside all that pain as much for the siblings I saw in pain growing up.
  • I will always, selfishly and selflessly, want ALL the good things for my siblings.  I want the world to be kind to them.  Sometimes, these desires are at the expense of others and for that I apologize.  I don’t wish for others to fail, I wish for my siblings to succeed.
  • I will spoil my siblings until there is nothing left to spoil.  It is my job and my right as an older sister to make sure that all my siblings are taken care of in the little, big, important, and insignificant things.  It’s one of the few ways I feel like my “fix it” instinct can be satisfied.
  • I can be better.  If I have learned anything in my twenty-three years of being an older sister, it is that I can be better.  I can improve.  Sometimes it will be of the two steps forward, one step back variety of improvement, but I can and will improve.  My siblings will be the ones who support me and love me through those improvements, as well as the ones that inspire said improvements.  It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.
  • Being an older sister is a privilege.  I get to watch these men (and those women and men who aren’t technically related) grow.  I get to see how amazing they are.  I get to tease and make fun and have inside jokes.  I get to grow with them.  I get to be part of something and protect something wonderful.

Love to all those siblings, blood or not, who taught me to be better.  I love you, ever so much.

~J

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