The Legend of the Sister Slave12:06 PM
Well, I could say, “Not true! I’m as lazy and independent and self-seeking as the best of them!” My first thought was to produce a chronicle of my days—the hours texting, emailing, blogging and fiddling around on the internet as much as the most shamefully teenagery teenager out there. But that would be embarrassing, and it’s nice to be considered self-sacrificial enough to be thought manipulated.
While thinking those thoughts and reading through the comment, my soon-to-be-off mother came down with instructions to put cheese on the thawed casserole, bake it for 30 minutes at 350 and pop in some crescent rolls while the oven was hot. I answered a question posed to me on child-training (which I deferred to my mother’s example because goodness knows I’m no expert). Daniel Franklyn interrupted thirty minutes later to inform me of his accident, and while running upstairs to find the Kid-N-Pet stain cleaner (which squirted on my wrist because I’m that clumsy), the casserole timer went off. Then, sitting down again to work on this post, I heard the baby scream.
My life is incriminating. I cannot hide the fact. I am not normal.
Neither am I abused. Now and then I come across pitying diatribes against the shackling of older sisters to their younger siblings—“I think it’s shameful what the parents are doing to them”—“They need a chance to be children”—“There should be only one mommy in the house.” The concerned ignorance, which lacks no sincerity but only good timing, I do not know what to do with.
I think this arises from two points modern and fashionably selfish people do not understand. (I say “fashionably” because the Me-First Society of Selfishness made it so. And I’m no exception, by the way, but by God’s grace.) Firstly, when “large” in regards to household size comes to a grand total of three or four, there is going to be a disconnect of understanding how to run that household in comparison to, say, our shocking number of nine. The disconnect happens because common sense knows only pocket-sized families of one boy, one girl and then leaps to the Duggars. Everything goes back to the Duggars. Anything else between is roundly misunderstood, attacked for lacking the privileges of small families and attacked for being too similar to a family of twenty.
What you have just stumbled across, friends, is an introduction to the Large-Family Economy—You Lose Out if You Don't Pitch In! In that economy, all hands are on deck—not because of emergency but because of necessity.
I wonder at this idea being so foreign. As far as I know, the examples of helpful daughters have never extended beyond changing diapers, throwing a lunch together and slicing her brother an apple. What else are we expected to do?
“Mother! Johnny wants some apple juice!”—as she pops another bon bon in her mouth.
“Can’t you do it, dear?”
“Oh, I’d love to, but in order to preserve my childhood and prevent the responsibility of your children falling on their big sister’s shoulders, I must refuse and finish this chapter. Maybe tomorrow I can pour Johnny a bowl of cereal and perhaps read a book to Janie. That doesn’t seem too mother-ish.”
Sorry, Mom. She justed reached her quota of helpfulness.
Big sisters may operate in a buddy-system so frowned upon in today’s society, but most of us just pitch in because we’re there. Some of it isn’t even sacrificially unselfish—it’s a matter of survival to tie little brother’s shoes lest we be late for church—a matter of keeping sane to pour a cup of juice to quiet a red-faced, squawling baby. Some if it is unselfish—we get dinner on the table so our sick mother can take a nap—we cuddle the baby so Middle Sister and Mom can work out problem 23 in math unhindered. But most if it’s just regular life.
Abuse? Not really. There’s no checklist we must finish, no set schedule we must stick to, no particular child assigned to our care. We’re not raising children up in the way they should go. We’re just helping out—what any decent person would do. Why not brush the little one’s teeth if we’re bumping elbows in the same bathroom at night? Why not read a book if the baby crawls in my lap? Why not offer to make lunch if I’m hungry and in need of a hot bowl of macaroni-and-cheese myself?
We live together, as a big, homeschooling family. That’s what we do. It’s life. We love it.
Actually, people everywhere know the value of mature teenagers. Anyone ever employ a fourteen-year-old babysitter? I held a babysitting job for several months, all day Thursday, once a week. No one thought anything of it. I was old enough, mature enough and responsible enough to do so.
The same goes with my kindergarten volunteering. I am totally at the disposal of the children and the teacher, in a much more concentrated fashion than were I living normal life at home. Nobody cries foul there. People praise me, even, for doing what comes naturally for a (somewhat) capable sixteen-year-old.
The problem, then, is not the age but the context. The minute my helpfulness takes action in the home—the moment my interests turn homeward—that’s where the cries of manipulation start. For who in her right mind could ever love her home? But there is one thing that must be said:
I may be only sixteen, but I am not a spoiled princess. I can set that good book down for five minutes and transfer a load of laundry into the dryer. I can take fifteen minutes out of my schoolday to build a train track to occupy the baby so others can finish their work. It’s really not that difficult. Seriously. And some of us love our siblings and consider it like hanging out with best friends to take a break from geometry and chase after a giggling baby.
Then the question we must ask is when does childhood end and womanhood begin? Eighteen? I like the idea of suddenly taking on adult responsibilities and an adult constitution while sleeping soundly on the night of my eighteenth birthday—but it sounds too good to be true. Maturity takes hard work. We stifle girls when they are trying to grow up but are given nothing but odd jobs around the house to do. We stifle girls when they want to become women but cannot until they have extended their childhood selfishness to an abnormal age.
If I am about the things of a woman, think like a woman, act like a woman and desire to do the work of a woman—cannot I put away the things of a child and just finish the process? Sixteen is high time I started putting away my petty selfishness and helping around the house. I don’t do it enough. Fulfillment is not found, for some of us, in pursuing our own desires. That’s a lesson every girl of every age should know.
Furthermore, I am not my own. I am a slave—not to my parents, not my siblings, not to my home—but to Christ Jesus Himself. I am a follower of Christ, a handmaiden of the Lord. Dying to self is not a nice option for mature Christian adults. The Holy Spirit is just as alive and powerful in my immature sixteen-year-old soul as the most seasoned Christian mother. He enables me to love what I do, to care about my family, to sacrifice my desires to serve the needs of others. This is something every single Christian, of every single of age, in every single situation, is required to do. That is Christianity. That is the epitome of love.
And that’s what being a big sister is all about.