Stop making so much noise!
Just wait ‘til your father comes home!
Everything I ever needed to know about power, politics, and people I learned from the little bundle of joy that my mom brought home for my fourth birthday.
At first I was ecstatic. A real live doll! It cried and ate and made the cutest little faces.
Then it began to cramp my style. Mom wouldn’t take care of my every little whim. She wouldn’t go outside with me. She wouldn’t make me a sandwich. She wouldn’t read me a book. The baby needed her! And I was a “big girl” therefore I could either wait patiently or do it myself. Myself!?!? What was she talking about??
I decided to have a long talk with my grandmother. She would fix things.
But she didn’t! She thought the baby was so sweet and cute and she wanted to hold him every time she saw him. Of course she still thought I was sweet and cute…no pretty, but the baby was little, not “big and helpful” like me! I could help my mom so much if I would be a big girl.
So my first lesson was about power. My baby brother had it and I’d lost it, all in one fell swoop. If I wanted it back I had to be kind, helpful, and independent. And I had to do it with a smile…the first lesson in politics.
The next two lessons were about timing and manipulation, both essential to politics. I figured out that my brother wasn’t really too much trouble if I was observant and timed my most important requests for when he was asleep. Thankfully he did a lot of that. He was downright boring for the first six months. And a little tear or pouty lip and the phrase “you love him better” worked wonders for a while.
Then a little past six months he became the love of my life! He could laugh! And I could make him do it better and more often than anyone. Apparently he thought I was hysterical. Back to a position of power! “Watch this, watch this…” and my parents and grandparents would watch us like they had bought a ticket for the privilege.
My adoration of my brother lasted until he learned to walk. Then he was into my things and he wouldn’t stay put when I told him I was going to read and he no longer thought I was the funniest person in his life. And we still had to take him everywhere we went, even though it took three people to make sure he actually stayed with us.
When he learned to talk my life turned upside down. As soon as he could utter a thought he started disagreeing with mine! There were years when mom could have played a record over and over that simply said, “Stop arguing!” We even hit each other sometimes, but I really didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted him to admit that I was right! “did too” “did not” “it is SO!” “is not” “Do-Do bird!”
Ah, the ultimate insult. I had learned at school that the do-do bird was not only a big ugly thing that couldn’t even fly, but it was extinct! No longer existed! That was my ultimate weapon. “You are ugly, dumb, and no longer exist in my world until you say I’m right.” Yes, I was a brat.
After five years of entertaining mom with our personality clashes she got even with both of us by adding another boy to the household. But that worked to my advantage. I was suddenly back in power as the older sister who knew all about babies. And I was also the consoling older sister when my brother suddenly became aware of how much attention the new baby was getting!
The next few years brought us even closer together as mom not only cared for our younger brother, but had another one the next year. It was quite some time before the three of them became “the boys” and got along and turned against me. In the interim my oldest brother became smart, funny, and skilled in lots of ways that I just couldn’t seem to manage. I learned that there were different expectations for girls vs. boys, and that my parents, grandparents, and other relatives viewed our positions in life quite differently. Lots of lessons learned during those years.
I finally decided my oldest brother was a pretty good friend and I quit calling him do-do bird. It took longer to make up my mind about the other two. They were getting old enough to be opinionated and bothersome, but at least they were arguing with him, not me. And I was soon a teenager who couldn’t have cared less about having brothers.
I’ve learned to love and appreciate all of my brothers, but the first one is still special. After all, we spent the most time together. We have the most in common and share the strongest memories. David turned out to be a great thinker. He loves to read and observe and ponder. I value his opinion. He is also funny and a bit sarcastic like the rest of us and I still love to make him laugh. He is great at fixing things. He has given me more joy and heartache than I ever thought possible. I think I’ll keep him.
Happy Birthday to the best birthday present I ever got!