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My Belief Is...
“Did I bring the right things…? All I have is a rope…am I making the right choice…?” Sean thought. I never really thought my brother would run away. He had threatened to in the past, but never had. I guess this time was just the last straw. This very true story is how I came to believe that being older is not merely a responsibility; it is also similar to parenthood. Children look to their parents for guidance, just as my younger siblings look to me.
It was the day after Sean’s birthday party and the day before his actual birthday. Outside, the air was warm and the sun was shining, though dark clouds were beginning to appear in the distance. I was alone in the house with my sister, Sabrina, and brother, Sean. Mom and my youngest brother, Shane, were out, though they were due back within the hour. Mom had left each of us with a lengthy list of chores to accomplish before she got back, such as vacuuming, washing, loading the dishwasher, cleaning our rooms, etc. She had also given each of us that universal you-had-better-be-done-before-I-get-back-or-you-are-in-big-trouble look— that one reserved exclusively for mothers.
Well, Sean was unhappy with this request, under the impression that because it was his birthday tomorrow, he was exempt from cleaning up from his own birthday party. So he disappears into his room, his sulky mood quickly developing into a full blown-I-am-so-angry-I-could-fry-eggs-on-my-forehead fit, that one when his face turns tomato red and his eyes get all bloodshot. He gets mad for a lot of reasons. Sean later recalled that “everyone was being mean to me. Mom assigned chores. Shane was mean to me.” He was also told to remake his bed, but this is an apparently difficult task for an almost 10-year-old. Sean soon came stomping down the stairs with a face as red as a ripe tomato and fists clenched so tightly I could imagine that his white knuckles were actually his bones.
Whenever I see any of my younger siblings in this kind of mood, I try to come up with reasons why they are this angry or upset. Was someone mean to them? Were they just scolded for something they did or did not do? Are they frustrated with something? For Sean, it could be any one of the three. This particular time, he was frustrated, and more than a little angry.
“I hate that stupid bedcover! And, tomorrow is my birthday. Why do I have to do the work?”
“Sean, did you finish making your bed?” I asked, using what I thought was my calm-down-now voice. Apparently not. Too sharp.
“No! It’s so dumb.”
“Well, go upstairs and finish,” I ordered, this time in my do-it-now-or-else voice. I did a good job this time.
“I can’t,” he wailed—no, really. “It’s too hard. Why can’t you do it?”
“No. I can’t!” he argued, his dark eyes beginning to glisten with tears.
“Yes, you can, and you will,” I countered. “Right now.”
“Noooo! It’s too hard. The cover won’t go on right.”
“One…” I began.
“I… I can’t,” he whined.
“Three. I’m calling Mom. She sooo won’t be happy; this is the third time this week I’ve had to call her about you.”
“I don’t care. I… I’m running away!” Sean proclaimed.
Like I had said before, I never really thought that my brother would run away. I felt terrible when he said this, because it seemed like it was my fault he felt the need to run away. Maybe things would have been different if I had been a better big sister. What if I had helped him to make his bed? What if I had tried to encourage him to make his bed on his own without making it seem like a command?
After Sean’s rather alarming declaration, things basically went downhill before they went up, as bad events tend to do. He grabbed his shoes and ran out the door. I finished dialing my Mom’s number, told her what had happened, then hung up and ran after Sean. I found him at the end of the cul-de-sac tying his shoes. He jumped up when he spotted me and barreled full tilt down our neighbor’s lengthy driveway. Being older and much faster, I managed to catch up with him quickly and wrap my arms around his quivering frame. I gave him my usual pep talk about how smart, handsome, and just plain great he is, then led him home.
This episode does not necessarily make me an expert, but it did lead me to realize how much my younger siblings count on and look to me for help and guidance. Many children of the world, if not all, treat their parents in very similar ways. Each word I utter, every step I take, it’s all taken directly to heart, contemplated, and—in most cases, not all—repeated. I think that a better way to handle similar cases is to look at Sabrina, Sean, and Shane not as annoying little parrots and copy-cats, not as bothersome tattletales, but as children who require a figurative parent’s hand, my hand, to guide them. I like being an older sister because any mistakes I made, I can make sure that they don’t make as well.