Appreciating what Older Siblings Can Teach Younger Siblings

My oldest brother is eight years older than me. You’d think that we couldn’t be close with that kind of age gap. But we always were. And as it is with many younger siblings, I looked up to him. Yes, as most firstborns, it seemed like my big brother could do no wrong. He got into the prestigious college, was an All-American soccer player, and later, became a teacher and coach. Difficult to be out-done. But growing up, he never made me feel inadequate—like my grades needed to match his or that I had to be as good at soccer. Yet, I wanted to anyway.

No, we didn’t always get along. After waking him up in the early morning with my thundering voice, he’d pin me down and perform “typewriter” on my chest. It hurt. But later that same day, he’d carve out the time to take his much younger, annoying sister in the backyard to teach me soccer. He’d line up cones in the grass and show me drills to do when I was all alone. When he went away to college, he’d call me up and badger me by saying, “Did you touch the ball today? You have to touch the ball every single day to get better.” It was simple—he cared.

I never felt like I was being dragged to his soccer games or other activities. I simply loved watching my big brother. His dedication to everything he did became contagious.

When it became my time to attempt to shine, I got into a decent college. No, I never became an All-American soccer player, but my brother helped me find my way through the watching of his actions. I likely never would’ve become a teacher if it weren’t for him. By simply taking the time, he proved that that’s all we really need to do as siblings. And I hope my son does the same for his little sister.

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Yes, my kids are little now at five and three, and they fight daily. But my daughter already looks up to her big brother. Since she was an infant, she’d crawl around the house following him—in awe of all that he could do. We have a video of her as a baby, just sitting on the carpet, belly-laughing at her big brother kick a ball around the room. And it continues today.

The other evening, my son, like a typical firstborn, took out a math workbook just for fun (he didn’t get those genes from me). My daughter, still learning to recognize her numbers, climbed up to the kitchen table to join her big brother. At first, he didn’t even notice his little sister. But then, he started pointing to the numbers and said, “One, two, three, four.” He became her little teacher in front of my very eyes. The math workbook was no longer about addition for him, but about making time for his little sister—guiding her.

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There are times when my son can’t be bothered by his little sister, but at that moment, he chose to take the time for her. Today, it’s math. But in the future, he could be helping her with soccer, reading, or riding a bike. Like my big brother, he’s already teaching her stuff. I can only hope that he continues to create the time for his sister, showing her the way, the same way my big brother did for me.

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