Wednesday, March 22, 2006
F is for....
This is a picture of me and my siblings from two Christmases ago. While I plan on giving each of my siblings their own entries, I thought being the eldest was an entry that could stand on its own.
I don't really remember being an only child. My brother J came along when I was 3 years old. I was 7 when E was born and 12 when M was born. Much of my childhood revolved around being the oldest child.
There are all kinds of theories about the personality types of first-born children. I do admit that I don't like to take orders. I understand that some Oldests have a bit of a grudge against their younger siblings because it was the Oldest who had to pave the way for the younger ones with Mom and Dad--break them in, so to speak. Especially during the teenage years. I never really had that, mostly because I never got to go out and do things primarily because it was my job to stay home and watch my younger siblings.
Both of my parents worked nights in factory jobs and with money being scarce and babysitting being expensive, I had a lot of the responsibility taking care of my sibs. A lot. I started being responsible for M when she was an infant (remember, I was 12 at that time). The way it would work is that my sibs would go to a baby sitter either after school or when Mom went to work (depending on whether they were old enough to be in school). Then, during her dinner break at 7:30, Mom would bring my sibs back to the house and I would watch them the rest of the night. I would change diapers, help with homework, and put them to bed.
As you might expect, this sped up my emotional maturing. I didn't really relate to kids my age very well. People always said I seemed older than I was. I always played the part of the mom in school plays. A speech pathologist once told me in junior high that I had adult speech patterns. I had a huge sense of responsibility (and still do). I didn't do a lot of the things that other kids my age did, like run around on school nights and go see movies, and spend lots of time at friend's houses. Hell, I didn't have a lot of friends. I didn't really date until high school and then not much. My responsibility of taking care of my sibs only lessened when I started waitressing shen I turned 16.
Consequently, for most of my adult-hood, I didn't want to have children. I had already raised children, thank you very much. Other girls my age thought it would wonderful to be pregnant and a mom and fantasized about the day when they would have their own children. I thought they must be smoking crack. Watching my mother go through 3 pregnancies, I knew it was no picnic. Can't sleep on your stomach, swollen ankles, going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, emotions jumping around like a ping-pong ball, no thank you. And kids? Raising kids is hard. You have to feed them, clothe them, change them, wash them, pick up after them, rock them to sleep when they're crying, clean off their wounds when they've thought it would be a really great thing to make a ramp and jump off of it with their bike (and act calm while you're doing it and somehow get them to sit still while you put the hydrogen peroxide on their open cut), and help them with their homework and force them to go to bed when they don't want to, and try not to freak out when it gets really dark and they're still not home, and somehow manage to be fair and loving and not take out your frustrations on them and not blame them for the fact that you're exhausted and can't do your own homework until 10pm.
So yes, being an Oldest had a significant impact on my life. I certainly had a lot more responsibility placed on me than my sibs. But you know what the alternative would've been?
Being an only child.
No J to exchange books with, no E and his big bear hugs, no M with her visits to Chicago and growing up there would've been no J to play soccer with and play "made you blink" (really sorry about that black eye, btw, it really was an accident), and no E with his drawings and his tattered old green blanket that one day got "lost", and no making a cake for M when she was born and getting letters from her in college. No thank you. It may have been rough, but I wouldn't trade my siblings for anything in the world.
The thing I miss the most about Iowa is being with my sibs (although J actually lives in Atlanta now). In the last 6 years, I can count all the times we have all been in the same place at the same time on one hand. That's why the picture at the top is so special. The last time we were able to get a picture like that was at my wedding four years before that. It hardly seems possible that these people I spent every day with as a child I now only see occasionally. And while we're all talkers in person, we're not so good at the long distance communication thing. Perhaps we should try to improve.
One last thing. Lest any of you become concerned, enough time has passed that I actually do want to have children now, despite all of those disadvantages I listed above. I guess I just needed some time without people being dependent on me.