I’m the oldest of six, and am now 71 years old. My earliest memories of being a big brother are from when I was perhaps 4 years old. Diana was 18 months younger than me, and like any two year old wanted her way and knew how to say “No” if she didn’t get it. I’d be playing with a toy and she’d grab it away. I knew that if I hit her, I’d be in very big trouble. Little boys were NEVER allowed to hit girls, but it was OK to hit other boys when necessary. If I grabbed my toy back, she knew she was safe from being hit. To try to get it back she’d bite me on the arm. I mean real bites, drawing blood, leaving two sets of teeth marks on my arm. At least she never took out an actual chunk of flesh. Mom would take her away, give her what was not yet called a “time out”, and then later, or the next day, she’d do it again. Finally Mom cured her of it by biting her back. Mom actually bit her hard enough to make marks on her arm. After a few times of that Diana did learn not to bite me any more.
Throughout junior high school in Des Moines I was frequently the object of complaints from my sisters, and particularly Diana, since she was similar in age. For two reasons, being a boy, and being a year and a half older, I was allowed to do many things that she couldn’t. My friend and I could take the bus alone at night to go to a movie downtown, and even stay all night for a midnight triple feature science fiction show, full of flying saucers, the creature from the black lagoon, giant spiders, and so forth. We would take the morning bus back to deliver papers. She felt discriminated against, of course, and just knew that it “wasn’t fair”. Even when she was two years older a girl wouldn’t have been allowed to do the same things had she wanted to.
When I was in high school I was heavily involved in electronics in general, and ham radio in particular. I built almost all of my own equipment from separate components, which took lots of time to do. My brother Irv was exactly six years younger, so when I was 16 and he was 10 I was SURE he would want to learn about all the cool stuff I did and do the same as I did. Well, though he was slightly interested to be around sometimes when I was talking on the ham radio to someone far away in England or Texas or somewhere, he had no real interest in putting parts together, soldering them, building things, or learning much about the how it worked and why. After a few months I gave up on that idea. I learned that the younger siblings need to follow their own paths and not necessarily my path. I was reminded of this later with my children.
We all make our own way, often following the steps of those who’ve gone before, but often going off in a different direction, exploring new things. Actually, it would be boring if people didn’t go off in their own ways to explore new things. Here’s to doing our own exploring.