on being a sibling

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Anna got in trouble.

I was visiting the grands and Anna had one of those one-more-time-and-it’s-a-spanking situations. And it happened one more time.

She had been having trouble with her two younger siblings. Being bossy and demanding, then hurty feelings when they didn’t want to play with her. When it came time for the spanking I asked if I could be the one to administer the spanking (while quietly telling her mother that I really wasn’t going to spank her at all; I had something to tell her about siblings). Mom and Dad agreed.

Anna and I share the same role in family order. Oldest daughter (Anna, me), younger sister, youngest brother. The crowd of three.

We went to her room, Anna crying. I shut the door and hugged her, turned her around, patted her bottom three times and said, “That’s your spanking. But I want to tell you something. Let’s sit on your bed.”

Her bed, the bottom bunk, is wrapped in blankets hanging from the upper bunk’s slats. It creates a kind of tent and behind all the hanging blankets is the perfect hiding spot. And so we crawled in and there we were behind hanging blankets and at least a hundred stuffed animals and pillows, in a quiet safe place, talking.

Here’s how it went down:

me: Anna, did you know that you and I are the exact same in our families. I was the oldest sister, then had a younger sister, then a younger brother, just exactly like you.

A: No, I didn’t know that.

me: Well, it’s true and I think I can tell you why you are having so much trouble with your siblings.

A: Okay.

me: It’s because you are being

A: Mean.

me: No. Bossy. They don’t want to play with you because you are bossy. You want to play your game, in your way, at your time. And they don’t want to be bossed around so they quit the game and go to play together and it hurts your feelings.

A: How did you know that?

me: Because I was the bossy oldest sister in my family and I remember my sister and brother never wanting to play with me, and it hurt my feelings.

A: What did you do?

me: Well it took a lot of time, but I learned to play what they wanted to play. You see, all I ever wanted to play was horse show with our bicycles. I liked to pretend my bicycle was a horse. I had a little course, used crushed cardboard  boxes as jumps to ride my bike over, even petted the handlebars and said ‘good girl’ to my bike-horse after completing the show. It was my favorite game. They never wanted to play horse show. They wanted to play tricycles and policeman. So, what did I have to do? I had to give in and play tricycles and policeman.

A: Did they ever play horse show?

me: Not very often. But it’s the only way to not be so bossy. Get into their game, how they want to play. I think you will be much happier, because you and I both know, it’s no fun being bossy.

A: Zannie, I think you just helped me.


Sitting behind those blankets, I could feel Jesus. He was there leading and guiding the conversation. I wasn’t planning on telling her about horse show, or the hurt feelings – things I haven’t thought of for years. But when I started talking it all came back and she listened. The kind of listening when it gets really quiet and still, and you are listening as almost a stranger to your own words coming from your own mouth. It was a moment. A moment that I could have missed, but caught.

Today I am thinking about being labeled the bossy one, and still it kinda stings. But I am also thinking that grown up siblings are not so far removed from the little children siblings we used to be. I am still the oldest sibling, and at 63, I believe the happier sibling me is when I give in to the game I want to play, and learn how to play what life game they find important at the moment.

Anna, I think you just helped me.









top photo: l to r: Case, Caroline, Annabottom photo: l to r: Caroline, Case, Anna

4 Responses to “on being a sibling”

  1. Rhega

    Oh, Suzanne, loved this. I think you both just helped a lot of us.

    • Suzanne Matthews

      Thanks, Rhega! Always love to see your name on my screen!

  2. Katie Taylor

    Suzanne, I love this! I just had a similar conversation with Mary because I too am the oldest. We seem to have these conversations often now that John and Anna can think for themselves. No one wants to play with the boss! Your post has helped me! :)

    • Suzanne Matthews

      Thanks, Katie. I am so tired of being the boss! Will someone tell me how to undo this label?!


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