Sunday, January 12, 2014

Joining the Big Sister Club

People join clubs for different reasons, and sometimes they gain membership because of something someone else did. That’s certainly the case for those initiated into the big sister or brother club. Affiliation with this organization has nothing to do with a child’s intentions. Involvement is totally a result of parental action. 

First off, mom and dad had you before they had another baby. If you’re the eldest in the family, everything was rolling along beautifully until the day your momma took her swollen belly to the hospital. When you finally visited, her tummy had shrunk considerably and there was doll-size creature wrapped in a pink or blue blanket and wearing a tiny stocking cap. It squeaked and mewed like your best friend’s kitten. When it did that, everybody in the room, including your momma, paid immediate attention. What was this thing that drew everyone’s eyes like a magnet draws iron filings?

Did it have anything to do with the new t-shirt you wore that said, “I’m a big sister”? Could you trade that interloper for the puppy you really wanted? Could Mom and Dad leave that bundle at the hospital and take you home so everything could go back to normal?

For all of us who have younger siblings, entry into that elite organization changed our lives forever. In an instant, we were no longer the center of our parents’ lives. Suddenly, we had to share attention, toys, snacks, beds, and more. Routines we’d come to count on changed overnight. Mommy and Daddy didn’t have as much time to color or play games. Mommy’s lap was now a shared haven, not a private outpost.

That word share became the mantra over the next months. Toys and cups that used to be just ours suddenly were now community property. That baby had a stake in our stuff.

After my brother was born, I discovered I not only had to share toys and parents, but depending on where we lived, I sometimes had to share a room. As we got older, we drew imaginary lines across the floor to designate one another’s territory. Supposedly, we couldn’t trespass, but you know how that goes when siblings aren’t in sight. Both of us invaded foreign  space to play with one another’s  games, dolls, and trucks.

For a toddler, learning  to share is a tough lesson. It took years before I decided my sibling was a blessing. Now, I can’t imagine life without him.

He’s the only one who knows what it was like to move and make new friends often. He’s the only one who shares memories of our secret hiding places. He’s the only one who recalls me coaching him to jump from a swing at its highest arc and the resultant crash landing. I can mention long vanished places, friends, and loved ones, and he relates immediately without any explanation. He understands joys and grief connected to our early years that my husband can’t.

Our granddaughter is still confused to find her mom and dad’s arms occupied by someone else. Looking back on my entry into the big sister club, I advise her to give it a few months or maybe even years. Over time, she’ll realize brother is way more fun than any puppy could be.


  1. This is lovely. Unfortunately, I can't remember becoming a big sister since I was only 17 months old when the youngest of my three brothers was born. Your post had me peacefully wandering down memory lane.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I am the youngest in my family and although I have observed this in my own children, I've never heard it explained quite this personally. So glad you and your brother are close now.