Siblings are connected for life by not only the parents they share but the bond they form while growing up in the same home with the same rules and ideas. You don’t get to choose your family you are born into it and like it or not it’s forever. Although many siblings decide when they are grown to either walk away from their siblings or to sustain and grow relationships with them. No matter what they share a history together.
Through retreats at my church I have come to know many older people whom I adore and have heard stories of how they grew up in families of 6 -10 children. Many of the women having been the eldest daughter of so many siblings found themselves raising the younger ones. That’s just how life is in a huge family everyone pitches is in. Well a few of these eldest daughters felt as though they lost a good chunk of their childhood by acting as a mother instead of a child. Which is very understandable, back in those days they really had to do mothering to the younger ones many times in depth mothering. Justly so they did not want to do the same to their own children so these women either choose to have only a few children or made sure that the older ones would not be as responsible for the younger ones. Understandably so coming from their history.
I was raised in a family with four children, I am the youngest and I remember rarely my oldest brother babysitting. I remember my sister not liking to watch over me but she did it once in awhile. I am sure that between acting as a mom as a child and not having any responsibility towards your younger siblings that there must be a happy medium in there somewhere. That is what I am trying to teach my children. I don’t want them to be burdened with tons of responsibility however I want them to feel some need to help with the younger children.
Ethan and Anna often help with Spencer and Jake. Not the big things but sometimes they will read a story to them, they help with tying shoes and teaching them to ride bikes, watching over them in the backyard at times. These small tasks I think are great learning tools on both ends. The older children get to be a leader, a teacher and a caregiver. The younger ones learn how to trust that their older siblings love them enough to lead, teach and care for them. By sharing that responsibility with them they are forming new bonds with each other without me as mom being involved. We went to Holiday World for vacation earlier this week. Ethan stayed with Jake the youngest at one of the water parks playground, water slide areas (I of course was there also, it’s just hard to stay with them in that atmosphere at all times). Ethan had fun showing Jake all the big slides and playing with his little brother. Jake told me “Ethan is my best-est buddy”. These are memories of their siblings that will form the image they have of each other and deepen their bond.
So next time you think to yourself my older child cannot help my younger child it’s not worth the time to ask them, ask them they will be doing something beyond that little task. The older child will be a teacher at that moment and the younger child will feel that he/she is important to the older child, enough to take the time to help them. We all need help sometimes and we all should give help to others in need. Not only will you be deepening the bonds between your children, you will be teaching your children compassion towards others. That is a lesson I feel sure God wants each of us to learn how to give as well as how to receive love from others and that lesson will hopefully be taught first in our own family.