Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On Mothering and "Big Sistering"

I'm not a mother, but I love reading mothering books, magazines, and articles. Over the years, as I have helped other mothers in their homes, I have gleaned so much from watching their triumphs and mistakes. And, of course, my own mother has taught me more about Godly, unselfish mothering than anyone else ever will.

As I had no older sisters, Mom was the person who played house with me as a little girl. Mom read me stories and sang songs with me. For some of the younger kids in our family, they had sibling playmates and companions as Mom was by then, busy homeschooling older ones, but I feel blessed to have had my mother as the main friend and role model in my life as a girl.

Growing up with eight younger siblings has given me a bit of a mother's perspective (I think - I guess I won't know till I am a mother!). Not only did I have to learn to fill the role of mother to my little siblings with "owies" and messy diapers and phonics lessons they couldn't understand, but even now I feel much responsibility to my siblings as a role model and example.

When I was about ten, I loved to draw, and so all of my little sisters did, too. The thing that frustrated me to tears was that they would copy everything that I drew. Day after day, I would pull out my pencils and markers and start drawing, telling myself that this time I was going to draw something entirely new that my sisters wouldn't copy. But without fail, they watched every line and squiggle and copied the same picture onto their papers! It didn't matter if it was hummingbirds or people or trees or houses. They always copied me!

They thought I should be happy that they liked my drawing ideas so much. I thought that there was nothing more frustrating than never being able to be original and unique. If I had drawn a really beautiful flower bouquet and went to show it to Mom, those little sisters were always standing right beside me holding out theirs' saying, "See, we did the same thing!"

The day I drew a picture for the neighbor lady who we were going to visit and my sisters copied it exactly - colors and all, I burst into tears and wailed, "She might think I copied your picture! She might think that I draw the same as a six year old! And I'm ten!"

Far beyond the days of marker pictures and fights over forts in the woods, I would prefer to believe that what I do will not make a huge difference in their lives and how they live as adults. After all, certainly they will blaze their own trails and develop their own convictions, and make their own decisions. It's too frightening to think that they are going to copy me in many ways!

But, again and again I am reminded that they DO copy me. They wonder what I would do in situations and do accordingly. My younger siblings have developed so many of my interests and passions. So much so, that when I am taking up a new interest or hobby at times I ask myself, Do I want my siblings to be doing this, too?

One of my younger sisters was recently retorting to another family member with something that didn't sound...uh, kind or respectful or nice in anyway. Ugh, I thought to myself, Where on earth does she learn to say things like that?! I was preparing to open my mouth and tell her what was wrong with what she said, when with horror the thought hit me, I bet she learned that from me. She sounds like me!

Often I do things without fully calculating the results for myself, let alone for a handful or more of siblings following in my steps!

The potential results of my actions (or inaction) are scary indeed. Responsibility, not only for my own life, but for lives which follow mine.

1 comment:

Laurel said...

That moment of horror is oh so intense when it's your words/tone of voice comming out of your own children's mouth. Thank you for sharing your lessons, Mary. Having had no sisters and being the younger sibling, I appreciate hearing about your growing up years (and besides that, they're your growing up years!).