Big Sistering

To be flat out honest, I have never had a big sister. Nor have I ever been one. But gauging what I can from raising one, it’s without a doubt a full time gig. It demands constant supervising, a loud voice, and a strong sense to justice. Especially if you, like my daughter Girlchild, feel like you have a mother who needs a bit of extra support from you as she tends to dance the line of competent disciplinarian (her opinion, not mine). In situations such as these, the role of the Big Sister becomes highly involved and often quite loud, as you step out of your bounds and into said parent’s, since they shall clearly never make it without your input.

Case in point, recently our family took a little safari bus tour of the wildlife at Penns Cave in Pennsylvania. One of the rules of the bus, and of every bus you will ever be on for the rest of your life actually, is that you must keep your arms inside the bus. It’s a given. Another vehicle or object could come to close and wham, just like that, you lose your arm. Or so we’ve all been warned.

However, this was a very controlled bus loop with everyone going the same direction. There were wide open pastures where we were literally just in a field, looking through a fence at bison. Nothing to threaten one’s body parts for miles acres around. But this did not stop 10yr old Girlchild from informing her 8yr old brother Manchild that his arm was most definitely NOT inside the window. Add to that imminent threat of danger the infuriating fact that you very own mother is seated right beside you, and while she can quite clearly see Manchild in the seat in front of her, has yet to set the situation straight. She appears to be happily gazing at bison instead.

“Mom, Manchild has his arm out the window. Mom! Mom, his arm isn’t inside the bus!!” Girlchild loudly persists (as her mysteriously silent father sits beside Manchild). Then helpfully repeats her mantra until she has successfully verbally aided in the recover of her brother’s arm, and it has reclaimed it’s proper place inside the bus. Crisis averted. Parental frustration is simply an unavoidable byproduct, not the problem of a Big Sister. Score one for the Big Sister.

Call it admiration, appreciation, or straight up Stockholm Syndrome, but Manchild sure does love his Big Sister. When he’s not bruising her, he is wildly defending her with a scarily reckless abandon. This weekend, Girlchild and Manchild were experiencing an old fashioned seesaw at a playground. Gravity being the friend that it is, injured Girlchild as she attempted a dismount. As she climbed off crying, and explained what happened, Manchild caught wind of the situation. Feeling a touch theatrical, Manchild launched his 8yr old fists upon the recently vacated seat of Girlchild’s end of the metal seesaw, and unleashed his fury. The seesaw, being a seesaw, dipped lower and lower as Manchild punched it for hurting his sister…until he relented and it swung upward and it clocked him right between the eyes on the center of his forehead. Four days later, the fading bruise still makes me laugh. An entirely avoidable injury, yet not in Manchild’s book of punishable offences. Chapter one starts off with hurting his sister…

While I do appreciate Girlchild’s Big Sistering at times, like when she informs me Manchild has something in his mouth that isn’t food or is being too rough with her dog, I do jokingly call her Mini Mama. Between the both of us, Manchild seems to be turning out okay (punching see-saws aside). On one day of our stay in Pennsylvania I was lounging in our rented home and Manchild was antsy to go somewhere. I told him to take the $5 bill out of my purse and head down the road to the table of produce and wares an Amish family had set up in their driveway. Considering it was mostly vegetables, jelly, baked goods, and soap, I didn’t really care what he came back with. We’d use it eventually. Manchild happy sets off down the road, money in his fist and independence in his heart. He’s adventure bound!

Moments later my boy returns with a bag of ginger snap cookies, and a bar of soap. Doing a quick calculation in my head, I asked him about the remaining $1.25 that should be leftover.

“Oh” he replied casually, “I told them to keep the change. I knew you wouldn’t mind, and they seemed like they could use it.” He smiled at me as my jaw dropped. Now, maybe he just didn’t want them to know he couldn’t quite manage the math to know how much was leftover. But I think at least a part of this growing child sensed this family could a few extra dollars, and knew that we had some to share. He certainly had no fear of my reaction at his volunteering me to bankroll those around him. I’m proud of the decision he made on the fly, whatever the reason. I certainly could find no fault in it. He was absolutely right. Between me and Girlchild, this kid was gonna turn out right.

While much of Big Sistering involves keeping the youngers in line, some of your time is take up with making sure you have your fair share of the spotlight. No matter what the ruckus, that spot light ought not move too much off target, or higher ups should be notified. Logic and reason are innocent bystanders. During our vacation, Manchild had been indulging on cookies without feeling the need to notify anyone else of his consumption. As a result, Manchild became a spewing fountain of regurgitated vanilla cream cookies (this is why I don’t buy this stuff at home), as he moved through various rooms of the rental.

While Captain Schenanigans tackled the bedroom, I took on the project of cleaning up the living room. The more we cleaned, the madder Girlchild got. Finally, as I tucked her into bed that night I asked what was bothering her. Her reply? “The entire time Manchild was throwing up no one was paying ANY ATTENTION TO ME!!!”

She was absolutely right. Situation be damned, her attention was stolen by a younger and she wasn’t having it! Corrections needed to be made to ensure her Big Sister role was held intact and with the respect she demanded. Stomach contents were no match for birth order! That’s what Easu illustrated in Genesis, right?

But for as lone wolfy as the Big Sister role may feel at times, our family definitely wouldn’t be complete without her. Only Jesus knows how many more injuries Manchild may have sustained without his hovering Big Sister’s watchful eye (we’re not gonna talk about how many injuries Big Sister may have brought upon herself from Manchild due to taking her role a bit too seriously). Big Sisters are a class unto themselves. A rank I will never join, though probably ought to learn more about in order to help relieve the self appointed burden they often choose to shoulder. Bless their little hearts, they only want fairness. Well, and control. Absolute and utter control.

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