Hey, You. It’s your Momma.
You’re only six years old right now. You have two younger sisters. You are strong and beautiful and smart and brave, and I love every second of being with you. You’re fun, rambunctious, mischievous, and challenging. You’re teaching me so much.
We’re nowhere near ready for a conversation about where I come from and how I became who I am–but I can tell you from one oldest child to another–I’m working hard to change a few things around here.
Your momma has six younger siblings. You know them all as your aunts and uncles, and boy are they fun. I know they are because they are my best friends, and they’ve always been fun to me. I wouldn’t trade my little sisters and brothers for anything in the world; in fact, I’d do anything for them, any time.
I have a feeling you are, and will continue to be, very similar in that regard. I watch you take care of your sisters without hesitation. You are so eager to love them. It is a gift to watch you three love each other and grow together! But I never want you to forget your role in their life: you are their sister. You are their equal, and they are yours.
This is something I had to figure out and learn on my own as an adult. I always viewed my siblings as my siblings, but me? I was their other mom. I wasn’t really a sister. And my love, I got lost in that for a really long time.
A lot was expected of me, all of the time, from a very young age. I was responsible for too much too soon. I was repeatedly reminded that my behavior, my actions, my inactions–all of it–greatly impacted my six younger siblings, and they would always follow my lead, so I better get it right the first time. They were depending on me. They were watching me. They were always going to look to me as an example of what they should do in their lives.
I was their protector. I was their confidant. I was their teacher. I was the referee.
Being raised this way caused my entire identity to center around taking care of my sisters and brothers, which caused a major identity crisis for me in my late twenties. At thirty-one, I am just now figuring out who I am, what I like and don’t like, whose company I enjoy, and what my hopes and dreams are.
I still hardly know myself, but I’m learning a little bit more each day. Part of what I’ve learned in the past year on this journey of self-discovery are things I will not do to my children, particularly to you, the eldest. I’m sure I’ll have to edit these points one day, add some and restructure others, but for now–here are some of the big ones:
- You are never responsible for your siblings’ behaviors or their happiness.
- You are never responsible for my behaviors or happiness.
- You will not be our default babysitter, ever. You will be asked, allowed to say no, and allowed to have your own social plans. You will be compensated if you say yes. This is not your job; it is a favor to your father and me.
- You are never expected to make major life decisions for yourself with your siblings or your parents in mind. If you want to consider your family while you make those big moves, then go right ahead. But you are to make that decision freely. We aren’t supposed to hold you back; we’re supposed to cheer you on, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
- You don’t have to go to college. But if you decide to go, you can major in whatever subject you’d like. That’s really none of my business, but if you so choose to share your thought processes with me, I’m all ears and excited to help you decide!
- You don’t have to go to post-graduate school. But if you decide to, again, you get to do what you want without my interference. I don’t care if you become an attorney like me or get your Ph.D. in poetry. I just want you to love your decision.
- You are not your siblings’ role model. That’s my job. I’m their mother, not you. You will not carry that burden. You will be allowed to make mistakes and make poor choices and learn from them all without wondering if you’ve altered the course of your sisters’ lives in the process. I’ll make sure they look to me for help first, and go to you for the fun stuff (or to complain about me, let’s be real).
- While chores are a real thing and all three of you will continue to increase your helpfulness around the house as you age, just know the load will be carried equally by all five family members, mom and dad included. You are not responsible for more than I am, ever. And if someone has to take on extra during difficult seasons, it won’t be you. It will be a parent.
- Open and honest communication is and shall continue to be the goal between you and me (and your daddy). I cannot expect honesty from you if I do not lead with it myself.
- Respect is a two-way street and blind obedience isn’t it. You are always encouraged to ask questions, point out my blind spots, and challenge my authority. If you can’t do it with me, you won’t be able to do it with anyone else, and that, my love, simply won’t do.
- You don’t owe your father and I anything, ever. We brought you into this world without your say-so. We are raising you to be a good and kind person. That’s all we’re doing, so go do what you want, when you want, and make it count, kid.
I love you more than I’ll ever be able to express. You are a force, my girl. You’re a mover and a shaker, I just know it. I’m doing everything I can to give you the space to figure it out, and I know I won’t be perfect at it. After all, no one showed me how to do this. I’m kind of winging it.
Don’t be afraid to show me how it’s done.