Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Comes with the territory

Two little girls played in the room. The older child watched as the younger explored. The younger was not afraid to look at everything – she was eager to learn of all the things in her environment. She did not know of danger or harm, she did not know of disappointment and frustration. She happily went from place to place, toy to toy, investigating with awe and innocence. The older child watched. She knew what trouble the younger could get into. She herself had fallen down while climbing there. She had lost a toy and been reprimanded. She did not want to see the younger hurt. So, she did what she felt she could do – she picked the younger up off the ground and prevented the younger from going anywhere, from seeing and exploring, from experiencing the heartache and pain she knew was possible. The younger cried in frustration until the father intervened. He set the younger down and explained to the older she would have to allow the younger to do all those things as it is part of learning and growing. The older was not happy and the younger did indeed get hurt when she ran too hard and tripped.

I watched my cousin’s children for some time as this scene played out in front of me. As I watched the older sister struggle with her younger sister’s need to experience things and get into messes and possibly get hurt, I could see the wheels in the older girl’s head turning. I understood where that was coming from. She would rather stop her sister from doing anything than to see her hurt.

How telling this moment was for me later on as I looked further into my own reasons and motives in dealing with my sisters. I am controlling and apt to take charge of them, their lives, and their decisions. I am well aware a large portion of this is just me wanting to be the boss of everyone. (Seriously. Everyone.) However, a great part of me just wants to protect them from all the pain I know is out there. In my mind (and in the mind of the older girl I watched play) it never occurs that these experiences are necessary in order to allow growth and maturity. It never occurs that more harm is done than good.

I am now watching as my sisters prepare to leave our home and move towards new and exciting experiences. I see the dangers and falls and heartaches they will experience and I want to scoop them up and stop them from going. I see the stress, the trouble, the hurt, the frustration and I want to stop it. What I am failing to see is the joy, the fun, the experience, the growth, and the chance for maturity. But still, it hurts me to not be able to stop the possibility of pain. My own too.


  1. As the oldest child in my family, I've felt that many, many times. Sadly, I'm not very good at letting go and letting people make mistakes... I usually end up making my opinion known.

    The stupid thing is, I hate when people do the same thing to me.

  2. This is a heartwrenching post - thanks so much for sharing. I feel these things doubly, maybe tripley (is that a word?) right now, what with the current situation my son is in. But ultimately, we all have to learn by our own mistakes. And the older have the heavy burden of sitting by to watch it all happen.

  3. I am the oldest too. At least the girl was trying to protect her and not just sitting and waiting for her to mess up or get hurt so she could laugh. That would have been me as I was growing up. Don't worry. I'm better now.

  4. I"m the youngest. taadah. But my heart is GLADDENED by your protective instinct toward your sisters. Just remember, when it all boils down, it's the oldest sister who is loved the most...

  5. Awww. I teared up a bit. Very well written. I will miss your sisters too! We should hang out more and miss them together. For reals this time.

  6. totally. get. it.
    oldest. sister. of. three.

  7. Thanks everyone for your understanding. It's nice to know so many have been there.


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