My granddaughters, Brianna and Mika, recently experienced a huge change in their lives. At ages 10 and 12, respectively, they have both become a big sister to the newest member of their family, Bethany. When the news of her arrival was made a few months ago, neither girl was thrilled with the idea. After all, their routines would be completely turned upside down. All the baby clothes and equipment had been given away or sold at garage sales. The family was able to travel, unencumbered by car seats, diaper bags, pack and play, toys, special food, and fretful toddlers. They were now visiting museums, going on cruises, shopping for fun, and staying up late to watch movies in the media room, uninterrupted, except to refill their bowls of popcorn. Suddenly, all that would change.
No doubt, my brother Dick, now deceased, had those same feelings, at age 10, of resentment when my mother told him that he was getting a baby brother or sister. Back in those days, it was a surprise. He probably wondered what on earth he was going to do with a baby sister, and how was he going to put up with her? Of course I don’t remember the first few years of being a little sister, but from what my mother has told me since, he adored me. The feeling was mutual. There must have been times of torcher and humiliation. What 10-year-old boy could resist? But what I do remember are the times he was a hero to me. I admired how he could do such amazing things as jump up in a doorway and hang from the door frame with his hands, a trick that never failed to annoy my mother. One of my favorite memories is the time he and a buddy of his took me to the skating rink. I might have been 5, because I actually remember it. He and his friend each held my hands and pulled me around the rink. I was the little princess. Most probably what happened was that Dick wanted to go skating, and my mother told him that he had promised to watch me that afternoon, and if he wanted to go, he would have to take me. But they made the best of it. I have fond memories of walking to the corner drug store and sharing a Coke with him, one 7-ounce bottle, with 2 straws. When Dick was in the Air Force, he’d bring me little presents from wherever he was stationed. I treasured the little set of Air force wings he gave me. When he would come home on leave, he’d drive me to school in his beat-up convertible, and I felt like a big shot.
As I grew older, I remember being so proud of him when he’d drive to Indiana to bring us to a family thanksgiving dinner or to my mother’s 25th high school reunion, where Dick danced the waltz with first my mother, and then with me, much to my delight and my mother’s bursting pride.
Tragically, we lost him to a car crash when he was 29, and I was 19. I don’t think of him every single day but often enough to be sad and bitter for my loss, but grateful for the time I did have a big brother.
My message to my precious granddaughters is that you have an opportunity to be this baby’s role model, teacher of jump rope games, rules of jacks, colors that match, how to get your way with Dad, what Mom really likes for Mother’s Day, and what to say to that boy at church who keeps smiling at her. You have the luxury of observing how to be a parent, since you are old enough to understand, so when you are parents someday, you won’t be as bewildered as those of us who weren’t around babies when we were young. There are hundreds of reasons why having a little sister will be alternately a pain and a blessing, but in the end, the number of blessings will come out on top. Enjoy your status of Big Sister. It’s a gift.