Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Confessions of An Older Sister

Being the oldest of eight children is a delightful position to occupy and to attempt to fulfill to the highest of its calling. I have learned, however, that the job description changes with time.

Strangers are particularly accurate measures of the job description of "older sister." How so? Well, when I was a young teenager I would often be in public with my siblings and asked, "So how old are your children?" I tried to respond with grace, but at times it was so tempting to say, "Oh, yes, I had Hannah when I was seven, and Jacob when I was nine, and Rebecca when I was eleven."

Great has been my relief, in recent years, to discover that the comments have started to change. Recently, while Hannah and I were paying for our lunch at the deli, the cashier said, "Oh, I thought you were twins." I will forever gratefully explain that we are actually eight years apart and not twins. It is vastly preferable to awkwardly navigating through the reality that, no, I did not give birth at age seven.

But the changing commentaries and questions are only road posts along the road of sisterhood, reminding me that my role has changed from being a second mommy to becoming a friend. Twelve years ago my primary responsibility as a sister was changing diapers, cleaning toys, rocking cradles and giving baths. Today I find myself spending time building relationships: talking on the phone to the boys at college, helping to tutor the new and upcoming students, chaeffeuring, and just enjoying the fabulous company of seven people that have more energy than I.

The challenges change with time as well. My biggest lesson of recent years has been that of, well, relaxing. I have done pretty well when it comes to letting my younger siblings clean up after themselves and find their own way to bed. Actually, these things are quite fun changes to witness. However, I struggle when it comes to letting my younger siblings drive my car.

There are some things that you entrust to another person that in reality have no direct influence on your continued ability to live and breathe. Letting a sibling that I carried around as a baby get behind the wheel of my car is a different story. Now, in all fairness, I have never been in an accident of even the most minor proportions while my sibling was driving. But if my siblings are not driving my car the way that I drive my car, I am inclined to warn them with words like "Slow down!" or "Careful now around the curve!".

So, my very loving siblings have taken it upon themselves to coaching and counseling me through the fears I have in letting them grow up. "Sarah," they say, "it's okay. I do see the car turning in front of us."

As Nate would remind me, "Trusting your siblings with important responsibilities and tasks is sometimes a gamble, albeit a worthwhile, necessary risk."