It’s so much easier for me to teach Sam how to relate to Jamie. As an eldest child myself, I often understand the position Sam is in. I naturally see their relationship from that perspective. I can talk to Sam from experience and reason with her in the way an Ate is expected to think, act and be. Often times when I leave the house, I “pin the responsibility” of peace and order on Sam. “You’re the Ate, so make sure Jamie doesn’t cry for me okay?”
Sam takes it very well, and at 5 she seems to know her role and place by heart. And we’re lucky she’s a super duper sweet big sister, and she naturally thinks about Jamie and cares for her. I can see that years from now, Sam will naturally look out for her baby sister like any Ate does (or should). Jamie is going to be in good hands with her.
At the same time, I think… someone has to watch out for Sam too. And who better person to do that than Jamie.
When we talk of birth order, the responsibility often comes naturally to an eldest child. The younger one isn’t normally in the picture. In fact a lot of the time, not much is expected of the younger ones. They’re often the ones that can get away with a lot more things by virtue of their birth rank.
But Jamie in school doesn’t act like a youngest child. Her teachers have said that while she is the youngest, she’s also the most independent. In fact she sometimes finishes her work faster than some of her classmates and so she’s asked to help the others when she can.
I kind of like that set-up where the younger kids step up and take more responsibility and care for other people outside themselves. I know of a friend whose middle child helps the older one with her Math. I love stories like that, and how both girls are humble enough to teach and learn from one another. That’s how they can take care of each other, and I want that in my family too.
For now, I find moments where Jamie can build her responsibility over Sam. Usually it’s the other way around, but with Jamie’s budding independence and ability to do things on her own in school, I don’t see why we can’t translate that into something she should be doing first and foremost here at home.
So occasionally, I have Jamie give Sam a bath.
Well, I have her help at least. And it teaches Jamie what to do for herself rather than just sitting like a princess all the time and waiting for things to happen for her.
Jamie loves to brush and fix herself. So I have her do that for Sam too.
It works out because Sam is often too busy to want to stop and brush her own hair. So Jamie plays a part in Sam’s grooming. And it helps me too, even if it’s not always a perfect brush.
There are other smaller instances that I purposely assign to Jamie instead of Sam. I feel it also builds her confidence, and teaches her how to relate to her sister in a different way. She’s not always the one looked out for; she can look out for herself and for someone else. At night, it’s Jamie who reminds Sam that she needs to put on lip gloss so that their lips don’t dry out while they sleep.
There’s no question in my mind that Jamie loves her Ate Sam. Even if they fight (everyday!) and someone is always in tears, I know it’s just a part of their growing up together. Jamie adores and looks up to Sam and learns a lot from her sister too. My hope is that that in the future, Jamie will also teach her Ate and continue to help her out as she will surely have her own talents and strengths. To me, their birth order doesn’t (shouldn’t) matter. As they grow up I want to avoid the issue of egos where just because Sam is older, she can’t learn something valuable from her younger sister. Each will have something to bring to the table that the other can benefit from, and become a better person because of it. On a deeper level, it gives them both the opportunity and the responsibility to actually take care of each other in the truest sense of the phrase.