From left to right: Great-great grandma, great grandma (with me on her lap), grandma, dad.
From left to right, rear: Grandma, Great-great grandma, great grandma
Front: Mom and me
When I was born, I was the first grandchild AND the fifth generation on both sides of my family.
As I prepared to write what it means to be the oldest in the family – and considered all the grandmas who loved and spoiled me, I grew amazed that any bully or abuser was able to crumble my self esteem the way they did. But that’s another story.
This is about the unique position I hold in my family. For one thing, I was the child my parents experimented on. (and, yes, I know I ended my sentence with a preposition. It just sounds more natural. And I’m a rebel like that). Because they were so hard on me it caused all sorts of problems in my soul that only God has been able to heal. No parents are perfect, so don’t be judging. Mine were young, hard working, and talented. I learned a lot of good stuff from them. They were excellent providers and very open to my tomboy antics. I would never be able to survive a child like me. It was like I was training to be a stunt double or something.
Which brings me to my next point. Being the oldest meant that I was an influence on the younger kids. A bad one. I was always thinking of something to get into. If there was a place I wasn’t allowed to be, I was going to sneak in there, AND I was going to drag the others along. What would be the fun of taking on such a dangerous mission with no audience? Or cohorts to share the punishment should we get caught.
I was there to stick up for the younger kids, but I would also pick on them like nobody’s business if I got bored. At least the ones who were close to my age.
I taught them to make clover necklaces. I drew pictures for them and entertained them by singing or putting on puppet shows. I organized neighborhood parades, my own library, baseball games… I wrote plays and rounded up the kids to perform them. (even the ones in my neighborhood. I was the oldest there, too). We formed a singing group. None of us could really sing, but it was fun anyhow.
I was the first teenager in my family. I had long hair that the little kids liked to brush. I gave them piggyback rides and told them spooky stories. I played guitar for them and took them on long walks.
And then they had babies. I dived right in to love them, too. I went to their ball games. I took them skating and swimming and climbing around on the playground. I bought them huge cookies and ice-cream.
I watched all of the younger folks in my family grow from babies. I have memories of them that they do not have of me. I developed an attachment to them and an affection that they don’t necessarily share.
I have seen them go through many phases…good, bad, and ugly. I’ve observed their talents flourishing. And in a way, this being older thing has been quite lonely.
But it’s also sort of like scaling a mountain, overcoming the rough terrain, (but please note that it was rough. There was a lot to overcome. You had to become stronger, better, bigger, deeper as you went) and make it to such a high spot that you can turn around and see everyone coming up next.
It makes you more understanding and patient. It helps you not to panic when the particular phase they’re going through is an ugly one. You’ve been there. You know what a phase looks like. Just up around the bend is something better. If you’ve already experienced something, it’s easier to love somebody through it.
Of course, I was the first one to get wrinkles and gray hair, too. And to become a grandparent. That is some scary stuff right there. To think I’m a grandma and I haven’t even gotten parenting down yet. (smile)