When You Can Do Things They Can’t

My blog is all about being an older sibling, a status I love and take seriously. Growing up in a family of multiple offspring is a privilege and when you are the first born, you have responsibilities galore that come with the territory. No one had to force me I am proud to confess. I have always been a mentor and trusted guide to the younger family members. Parents with several children face issues if the older sibling is not on the team. Let me say that everyone misses out on lifelong friendships if this is not the case. Therefore, I advocate doing what you can to set things right day one.

There are so many situations where older children can serve as guides. It can be as simple as getting dressed on your own and learning how to hold a fork and knife to riding a bike. In my family, I had the added pleasure of showing everyone how to use our new family hot tub from Hottest Tubs when I was about twelve. I had to decide in the absence of my vigilant parents when a sibling was old enough to join me in the bubbling hot water. Kids that misbehave are also not mature enough to participate if they don’t follow the “rules.” I loved establishing them and asserting my authority. Since I did it at the ripe age of ten, it continued for my entire life at home.

I was horrified at the stories of pool drownings in the newspaper. Word got around fast at school. Therefore, watching my little brother and sister was a very responsible job. We loved playing games in the pool on hot summer days. I always led the way over the years until the kids were old enough to swim alone—as young teens. I was conservative about what I allowed. I felt like a second parent in a way. For the first-tier parents, I have some advice. Make the hot tub a place of fun and frolic, but not a danger zone. Make sure the rules are posted in nicely printed letters. This way neighborhood kids who are invited over will clearly see them. I was never bossy, but I lovingly initiated various games. When my brother and sister were tots, these consisted of tossing a small ball or floating on a cute animal raft. We had a duck and an alligator, both water creatures. I made a ritual out of putting on swimsuits so the day would seem special.

Since I started young with my siblings as an authority figure who knew the ropes, everyone followed my lead with ease. In fact, they did in better with me than my parents. With them, they would often cry when they were told it was time to rest and get out of the tub. I knew how to lure them with hot dogs or cookies. I was careful to keep big, soft terry cloth towels nearby.