I am the eldest of seven. I have never experienced the trials and triumphs of being a younger sibling, much less “the baby”. In a recent conversation that I had with my younger sister I marveled at the perspective of a younger sibling and wondered if all younger siblings felt this way.
I decided to ask you, my readers, your thoughts on sibling hood. With the Results of Poll and many conversations, I have some thoughts to share with siblings.
To the Eldest and Middle child:
I might be “the hardest” on the eldest, simply because I am the eldest. But this is for all older siblings:
Our younger siblings grow up. Novel, I know. But seriously, we will always view our younger siblings as “young”, because we are so many years ahead of them. But I have found in my conversations with siblings, that the eldest , or even middle children, will forget that their little sister is a young woman, or that their baby brother has actually turned into a young man, and we, older, maturer, wiser ones, forget to treat them as such.
Did you realize that younger siblings are born with an innate desire to please their older siblings? It's true. There is an “awe” given to younger siblings for their “big sister” or “big brother”. We older siblings can take it for granted, or not recognize it. This is an opportunity to influence our siblings for good, and yet it is often squandered.
It's easy to get caught up in life. Honestly, between schooling, our job, our hobbies, our friends and just life in general, it's easy to overlook some of the greatest blessings: our siblings.
According to the poll, and to many personal friends, I've learned that younger siblings struggle with feeling lonely or forgotten. They yearn for quality time. They desire to be treated as young women or men, not babies.
Craving attention leads to many things. Did you know your little sister craves male attention. Even your 9 year old sister. As she grows older she suddenly is aware of young men near her age. At 14-15 your sister is also noticed by boys. They get “the look” are whistled at...etc. For the last four years they've felt kinda ignored. At this age they are super sensitive and emotional.
I remember the first time I was whistled at. It was in a parking lot as I was walking back to the car with my mom. I wasn't quite fourteen. It was a rather embarrassing moment, but I later recounted it in my diary – I was shocked. And it was kind of pleasant. I later felt convicted, and got rid of the outfit I was wearing! But the point is, these are real feelings going on in the heart of your “baby” sister. You are busy with “important” things and never dream your sister yearns for your attention. As a brother you have an incredible opportunity of guarding your sister's heart. I don't just mean physical protection, although that is obviously imperative. It's also a message to your sister that you care – that you believe her to be cherish-able. That she's worth something. And when you are worth something, you'll think twice before giving your heart away. BUT, your sister also craves attention. Not just protection. I still immensely enjoy little notes from my brothers. Or a hug. Or even a reprimand. Or going on a walk. Or driving together one-on-one. These actions prove I'm loved. Your little sister, no mater if she's 4, or 24, needs this. As a teen she might just go looking for it somewhere else. Of course your inaction is no excuse to her bad behavior. But you do have an opportunity. Even possibly a duty. And I don't necessarily mean your sister might go onto an online dating site, or run off, or something that extreme. Although it's happened, over and over again in the most conservative Christian families. But she might take up romance novels and day-dream her life away. She might take up flirting. She might saturate her heart in things less than innocent. We older sisters can also encourage in this area, but I have found that brothers have an amazing open door into their little sisters hearts like no-one else.
Young brothers also need attention. At a young age their hearts are tender and impressionable. They respect their older sisters. The desire, even at a young age, to be chivalrous, to be protective, to be manly. We can encourage this, or snuff out theses admirable feelings. Do we take our little brothers seriously? Do we allow them to be chivalrous? Do we treat them like inconvenient brats, or like knights in training? How we treat them does influence their self-image. How do we speak to them? In what tone? Are we belittling? In conversation to others, or in patronizing actions? Men desire respect (no matter what age). We can either fulfill the world's stereotype of sister-brother relationship, or we can influence them to be godly men. We have that choice.
Middle children often feel ignored or overlooked. The eldest is given many responsibilities, the youngest is spoiled, and the middle is left high and dry. Sometimes they are told to “act like your older sibling” and they are resentful. We must keep this in mind. In the poll there was a percentage of siblings that never felt pursued as a friend by their older sibling. This is heart-breaking to say the least. 28% never feel included in their siblings lives or activities. 62% of siblings wished their siblings would communicate more. 60% of siblings said that quality time with their older siblings affected them emotionally and spiritually.
As older siblings we have the tendency of “taking over”. Of orchestrating. I recently did a post on this. (A Post for Martha). With this tendency comes the negative occurrence of the younger sibling having very little responsibility in the home. She has little opportunity of taking pride in managing housewifely tasks. She struggles to learn basic homemaking skills. She is given the left-over tasks. They are the helper, never in charge. They can grow resentful, or even bored. Which both lead to negative outcomes. Older sister, we can include our younger sister in our responsibilities. Sure it takes more time. But our little sister needs to learn how to bake too. We make baking cookies fun now, and she will appreciate making meals later on. Ask your little sister to not only help but ask if she'd like to take over a task for you. You know, if it's not done exactly “your way” the world won't end? I remember Corrie ten Boom sharing how she always did the housework, while her older sister always managed the shop. One day they decided to trade chores, and they found that Corrie was much better suited for the shop work, and her sister immensely enjoyed the very same housework Corrie found to be drudgery. Consider asking your little sister if she'd like to trade chores.
Also with this attitude of “taking over” our young men are encouraged to “step aside”. We encourage the instinctive feminist flame every time we “take charge”, when really it's the men's responsibility. We affect our brothers.
Recently it has occurred to me that maybe the men in our lives would speak up if we would pause to take a breath and be still. Maybe the men would step up if we didn't consider ourselves the “fix-all” to every circumstance. Maybe the men would take charge if we stopped assuming we're the only candidate for getting the job done. Maybe men would be leaders if we stopped treating them like “baby brother”. It is possible to rob our men of the opportunity to be leaders, protectors, and men. Do our men trust us? Are we working on making our men “known in the gates” as righteous leaders, or do we verbally accuse them and put them down? How we treat our men now is a good indication of how we will treat our man later.
I'd like to encourage you, older sibling, that you have an amazing opportunity to influence your siblings. Your attitude greatly effects them (especially your attitude towards your parents). They often follow your lead.
Younger siblings also desire to share their heart, they just aren't sure how to approach their distracted busy older sibling. You will be amazed, if you take the time, what your sibling will share with you. Especially if you aren't critical or their “fix-all”. But simply and sincerely a listener. Communication is sometimes a sacrifice. But it's also something God admonishes us to do.
“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:16.
Your sibling doesn't need condemnation. They get that from many other places. They don't need a nit-picker. They need unconditional love and someone who communicates. They actually can teach you a lot if you give them the chance. And they will be a lot more apt to listen to your advice later on if they know you're a friend, not just a “big sister” or “big brother”. They desire to be included in your life. Faith shared with me how, as a little girl, and even not so little, how important and loved she felt when we older kids asked her opinion. Go ahead and ask! They want to share. They desire to be accepted. We cannot change our siblings. Our criticism is not helpful. Hold no expectations but simply be a friend.
To the Baby and Younger Siblings:
I would like to encourage you little sister or brother that you are important to the family role. You will always have the “special spot” in everyone's heart, as the “baby”.
With this comes some hard tasks. I have heard from many “babies” of the family that they struggle with selfishness. They were spoiled, and it is hard not to take things for granted.
The little sibling can be a blessing or a great hindrance to their older siblings. You are capable of making the older siblings life complicated or sweet.
Young lady, I want you to know you can boost the confidence of your older brother. If you cherish his protection you can encourage chivalry in his heart. Sisters often prepare their brothers for their future marriage. You can either habituate them to tantrums and ungratefulness, or your can make their job a pleasure.
Sometimes younger siblings will belittle their older siblings to lift themselves up. You don't seem naive, or childish if you are rebuking your older sibling, criticizing their mistakes or telling them what to do. Babies of the family can be really bossy. This does not benefit anyone. It usually stirs up that older sibling to be more strict, or it can actually make some cow to your wishes (depending on personalities).
It is possible to be meek and humble without being naïve or childish. In fact, your obedience or humility will prove your maturity and even convict your older siblings to greater heights.
You may have to work hard at communicating with your older siblings. You might have to let them know you desire their attention. You might have to initiate. This is a sacrifice, but it's worth it! You might expect your older sibling to be the encourager, the mature one – when in fact, God has planned for you to step up and encourage. Older siblings are human. We need you as much as you need us. Little notes from my younger siblings makes my day. We can be lonely too, you know? We can crave attention. Sometimes we older siblings forget to communicate how thankful we are for you younger siblings. This morning while doing devotions one of my younger siblings woke up and I could hear him singing as he got out of bed. It blessed my heart to hear him so cheerful. If I do not let him know, he may never realize his attitude effects me (his older sister). Day by day you might be being cheerful for your family's sake. You might be the peacemaker. The encourager. And it is easy to become discouraged after continuous days of giving, and no-one seems to notice. Dear friend, your efforts are not in vain! They are noticed. They are helpful. Even if no-one thanks you. God is using your service. Your attitude effects your older siblings. Your attitude effect those who have authority over you. God asks that you obey them and submit yourself. This is profitable to you.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:7
You also might have to take the initiative to learn lessons not expected of you. You might have to outgrow your parents or older siblings little expectation and take on responsibilities. Often older siblings are shouldered with tasks out of necessity. You aren't expected to help with the cooking. You aren't expected to get a job. You never were asked to do the laundry or clean the house. To drive your mom to her appointment. Maybe your older siblings are burnt out? Overtaxed. And you simply never noticed how you could be a help, because no-one expected you to.
You have the opportunity to either be a taker or a giver. A blessing or a hindrance. Also remember, even if you are the “baby” in your family, there are usually younger “siblings in Christ” that are watching you. You are a testimony of what the baby of the family should be. You are an influence. God specifically put you in your family, exactly where you're at on the totem pole, for a specific purpose. It's your calling to be the baby. Be faithful friend, He will use you.
“Say not you cannot gladden, elevate, and set free; that you have nothing of the grace of influence, that all you have to give is at most only common bread and water. Give yourself to your Lord for the service of men with what you have. Cannot He change water into wine? Cannot He make stammering words to be instinct with saving power? Cannot He change trembling efforts to help into deeds of strength? Cannot He still, as of old, enable you in all your personal poverty “to make you rich?” God has need of thee for the service of thy fellow men. He has a work for thee to do... 'Whatever He saith unto you, do it.'” George Body, Daily Strength for Daily Needs, p.110