My dearest Jessica,
It’s hard being eleven. I know that. I know sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but I do remember what it was like. The hitch is that, in addition to remembering what it’s like, to be eleven, I also know what it’s like to be the mom of an eleven year old.
I wish you had the perspective to know that you will miss this. That the day will come when you’ll look back on the days when you could sit on the floor and play with play-doh with your sister and wish that you had enjoyed it more. Wished that you hadn’t gotten stuck in an argument over who got to play with the little cup, and then devolved into a screaming match that resulted in you being sent into your room. Again.
I wish that you could hear me if I told you this now. I wish that I could wrap my arms around you and somehow make you see how much I love you and how much your siblings love you. I wish that I could guarantee that you won’t ever feel as though things are unfair and that you have an bigger burden because you’re stuck being the oldest.
I wish you could see yourself thru your siblings’ eyes, and know how badly they want your approval and your attention. How sometimes, when I see one of them trying to get your attention and failing and resorting to just bugging you to get a reaction, I don’t want to step in. I want you to turn around and give them what they need. Not to fight with you, but to play with you.
I know it’s hard, because you are so much older than they are. Three and a half years older than your brother, and seven years older than your sister. You are in a very different place, mentally and psychologically, than your two siblings. You are stuck right in the middle – not a grown up and not a little kid either. You have all the responsibility of being older and more reasonable, and none of the privileges that go along with it. You don’t get to lay down the law, institute rules and expect compliance. And it is unfair, I do expect better behavior out of you than I do out of your sister. Age appropriate, I tell myself, but it’s cold comfort to you.
The facts are that being the oldest kid is a pain sometimes. I know that, I’m an oldest kid too. With great power comes great responsibility, and you are in a position of enormous power right now. Your opinion of them matters more than almost anyone else. They look up to you and love you and want to be you. And when they can’t – they’re going to do their best to get your attention any way they can. I can’t change that, baby girl. You have a relationship with them that’s going to have to be independent of me. I can’t always step in and save the day.
You are such a wonderful big sister. From the very first day, when you plowed into the hospital room and ran past me to get to your new baby brother, your love has been a constant for them. You are responsible and loving and one of the very best parts of their lives. As much as they bug you, you have never not had their backs when it really mattered. They are incredibly blessed to have you, and you are equally blessed to have them.
Even when they won’t let you have the little play-doh cup.
I love you always,
You can follow Melissa at her blog: MelissaAnneCohen