Who’s the Boss? | Tips for Oldest Children, Part 2

Notice to younger siblings: Please do not throw this blog post in your older sibling’s face. Forward them the link, if you like, but don’t tag them in public on social media. Take it easy on them. Some of us “oldests” have trouble finding our role–as I’m sure you know. 😉

Last time I wrote about how oldest children are born to lead, and a great way to do that is to set a good example.

Today I want to talk more about that concept of leadership. There are lots of different ways to go about it, and not all ways are equal.

Oldest children have a reputation for being bossy. Most of the time we’ve earned it. The urge to tell others what to do and how to do it just seems to run in our veins.

But, fellow oldests, your siblings don’t need a third parent.

(Okay, I’m referring to most healthy families here. If a family is so dysfunctional that the oldest child has to step up and be a “parent,” then they’ll need more help than my little blogs posts can provide.)

The parents have the right to issue an order and expect it to be obeyed–no questions asked. The oldest child has no such right.

Even if your parents go on a date and put you “in charge,” I guarantee your younger siblings won’t appreciate your acting like a parent. And they’ll be quick to tell you so.

Does “You’re not Mom!” or “I don’t have to obey you!” sound familiar?

Although your siblings instinctively want to look up to you (even if they don’t realize it), you’re still “one of them.” So why should you boss them around?

As an oldest child, you can’t just be a dictator. You don’t have the authority. It’s not your power.

Your power comes when your younger siblings want to listen to you.

When you can suggest (not command) something, and your siblings figure it must be a good idea because you said it, that’s a position of power.

As I’m sure you know, that is no easy position to reach. But it’s not impossible.

You get there by gaining your siblings’ trust.

You have to be worthy of their trust, and you have to prove your worthiness over and over (and over) before you can expect them to willingly listen to you. It’s a long process to gain and keep trust.

But it’s worth it.

So don’t be bossy like everyone expects you to be.

Oh, it might work for a little while. Your loudness or pushiness might force them to do things your way right now.

But over time, they’ll just think you’re a know-it-all. And who likes a know-it-all?

Instead, give in to what they want to do. (Not always, but often.) You can still say things such as, “I’d like to do this.” But don’t be rigid on the little things.

Let your younger siblings make choices. You’re not the only one who can have a good idea. Let them live without feeling like you’re looking over their shoulder all the time, ready to holler, “Not like that! Don’t do that! Do this!”

Prove to them that you are on their team. Here’s one way to do that:

Don’t Belittle Them

When they’re trying to tell a favorite family story or family joke, don’t interrupt to correct up the details. (Most of the time, those details don’t matter.) Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t make a fool of them or steal their limelight.

When they’re scared of the dark or spiders or thunder or dogs, don’t act like they’re stupid. Talk to them in the darkness; don’t mock their nightlight or make creepy noises. Hunt down the spider and get rid of it. Sit with them while you listen to the thunder. Stand close to them when the scary dog walks by. And don’t cop a superior attitude when you’re being their hero. Act like it’s the most normal thing in the world for you to help them. Because it is.

Don’t act like their accomplishments are nothing. Cheer when they hit the home run. Say, “Great job!” when they’re talking about their good grades. Be impressed when they show you the latest project they worked hard on (even if you think it’s silly).

When they get excited, don’t treat them like idiots. You have things you love. So do they. What’s important to them should be important to you, as well.

Basically, try not to make them feel like a little kid. Maybe they are still little kids. But you know how you don’t like to be treated like someone too young to be important? They don’t enjoy it, either.

Do Brag on Them

Do it when they can hear you. Brag to your parents and grandparents. Even to your friends once in a while. Don’t overdo it so you embarrass them, but mention their accomplishments like you’re proud of them. Act like your siblings are cool. Because they are.

Building trust isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

Whenever you interact with your siblings, think about what you’re doing. Ask yourself if your behavior will help them trust you.

If the answer is yes, then good for you! You are living your birthright well!

If the answer’s no, then change your behavior. It’s not too late. Everybody messes up. (I still mess up, and I’ve been at this for twenty-one years.) Keep trying. Keep praying. You can do this!

Don’t try to be the boss. Be their partner. Give them every reason in the world to trust you.

Okay, I want to hear from you all! Oldests, what have you done that helps your siblings trust you? How have you messed up from time to time?

Younger siblings, what helps you know you can trust your oldest sibling? Or how do they act that warns you it’s not safe to trust them?

-Miss Darcy

P.S. If you don’t want to comment, head to my “Connect” page and shoot me an email. I love to chat about siblings. 🙂

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A Hand Held Out

My desk sits right beside my bedroom window, which overlooks our front yard. Right across from our driveway, another streets T-bones into ours. We have a two-story house, plus we’re at the highest point in our neighborhood, so I have a pretty good view of the goings-on.

Which makes for excellent spying.

Now I don’t really spy with binoculars or anything, but I do love to people-watch. So if I catch a glimpse of movement outside, I’ll pause my work and watch a neighbor unload their groceries or whatever.

(Incidentally, one of my neighbors just pulled into his driveway, and I paused my writing to spy on him.) 🙂

But earlier this week, I spied something that made me very sad.

A couple was walking down the sidewalk on the street across from me. The woman had her cell phone in her hands, texting, from all appearances. Then she stuck the phone in her back pocket. They turned around and walked back up the sidewalk.

As they reached the end of the sidewalk where they step onto the street, the man’s left hand reached out as if he wanted to take the woman’s hand. At that exact moment, her right hand went to her back pocket and pulled out her cell phone again. Soon both hands were busy tapping the screen.

And I wondered what on that phone could be so much more important than the person she was with.

Maybe it was their children who needed them to return home. Maybe.

Or maybe it was just a friend she was texting. A friend who, through the cell phone, became a third wheel on their walk.

I forgot to look for wedding rings, so I don’t know if they’re married or dating. I’m not sure which would be worse.

If they’re dating, love is in its springtime, when everything is fresh and new and special. Yet this woman didn’t want to hold her boyfriend’s hand?

Or if they’ve been married a while, they probably don’t get much time alone together to just walk and talk. Yet this woman didn’t want to hold the hand of the man who has committed his life to her?

It’s a good reminder to me. I don’t have a smartphone, actually. But I have a computer. Writing (and everything that entails) keeps me glued to the screen a lot.

But then there’s social media. I tell myself I’m keeping up with friends I don’t see much. In reality, I end up wasting an exorbitant amount of time looking at mindless stuff I’ll forget within an hour.

I live with my four favorite people in the whole world–my parents and two sisters. The people I love most. The ones who love me most. Honestly, what on this device could possibly be so important that I would rather interact with it than with my family?

I don’t want to be oblivious when those I love hold out their hands–literally or figuratively–because they want to get closer to me.

-Miss Darcy

Power of the Birthright | Tips for Oldest Children, Part 1

Notice: Younger siblings, please do not throw this blog post in your older sibling’s face. Forward them the link, if you like, but don’t tag them in public on social media. Take it easy on them. Some of us “oldests” have trouble finding our role–as I’m sure you know. 😉

I’ve been an oldest child for twenty-one years. My sissies kindly say that I’m a pretty good big sister. I’m still not perfect, and I’ve misused my role all too many times. But I’ve come to realize that being the oldest not only comes with privileges and responsibilities. It also has power.

I remember the moment when my younger sister Molly told our Bible study group that she trusted my biblical advice. That if I said something about the Bible, she was likely to believe me over even respected Bible teachers.

Good thing I was sitting down. I felt all the honor of her trust and respect, and all the weight of the responsibility. It kinda blew me away. I mean, what if I got something wrong and led her astray?

See, I’ve always wanted to be a good big sister. (I mean, really, which of us sets out to be a sadistic jerk toward our younger siblings? I hope not many.) But I didn’t fully realize the power of my role until then.

Somehow the fact that I’m older–even if by only two years–makes a difference in how my siblings view me. I learned to read first. Learned to drive first. I’ve been there as long as they can remember. There was never a time when Darcy wasn’t there–older, stronger, oh-so-much-wiser. (That stronger/wiser thing has evened out as we’ve grown, but still… It might not be much, but I’ve still had more experience than they have.)

Just by its very nature, the role of an oldest child is leader.

The younger siblings instinctively know this. Why do you think they love to say you’re not their boss? Because they instinctively feel that you are their superior in some ways, and they jolly well don’t like it. 🙂

So, fellow oldest child, you don’t feel like a leader? Not your personality type? Not your preference?

To be perfectly blunt: tough. It’s your job.

Although you may never lead anyone else, leadership of your siblings is your birthright.

Oh, you can abdicate. You can kinda let life slip by, and someone else will take your role. Maybe a younger sibling with a personality geared more toward leadership will step up. Maybe your siblings’ friends will usurp your position of admired, looked-up-to role model and supporter. Or maybe some dumb, yet popular celebrity who couldn’t care less will become the person your siblings respect.

You were born to lead. Don’tcha think God knew what He was doing when He placed you in your family?

But you can sell your birthright. Esau did. He sold it to his just-a-few-minutes-younger twin brother for a bowl of stew. He even swore that he meant it. (Yes, I know the birthright was a tangible thing in their case, but stick with me.) Later, Esau regretted it bitterly. (Check out Genesis 25 and 27 for the whole story.)

See, it wasn’t really about the stew. Or his younger brother’s petty manipulation. Esau’s birthright should never have been treated that way even in jest, let alone in earnest. The problem was Esau despised his birthright. Counted it worthless. Unimportant.

So, how do you value your birthright? You have an opportunity to lead your younger siblings into Light, and Truth, and Righteousness. (Conversely, you could lead them down a pretty path to hell. Yep, that power is yours, too.) Or you can abdicate, and your birthright will default to whoever happens to step up.

Come on, you don’t really want to risk that, do you?

About now you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. You don’t know my siblings.”

Fair enough. Your siblings are individual people. Every single relationship–and I do mean every. single. relationship.–is different. But I think general principles can be adapted to fit all manner of situations.

You know one of the most powerful ways to lead? By example.

Quit rolling your eyes. 🙂

“But my younger siblings don’t respect me enough to follow any kind of example I set!”

Wrong. Unless they are already utterly and completely corrupted, they won’t be able to help themselves. If they see you living a content, fulfilled, honorable life, they’ll secretly respect it, even if they never indicate so.

Even if they call you “Miss Perfect” or “Mama’s boy.” (There are a lot of worse things in life than being called “goody-goody,” by the way.)

On the other hand, if they see you failing, your leadership might be debased to a case of “What Not to Do.” This is not as powerful, just sayin’.

So one way to lead is to get all your own ducks in a row.

Not that you’ll be perfect. Not that you’ll never ask for help. Not that you’ll never apologize.

Knowing when to ask for help, addressing your imperfections, and apologizing when you need to are actually signs that you’re keeping those ducks in formation.

And when you’re consistently doing well at this thing called “life,” it’s easier for your siblings to respect you. It’s how you strengthen your role.

Whatever you do, don’t act uppity when you get things right.

When you do your chores and schoolwork, when your parents say “Great job,” when your siblings say “How come he gets to…?” Don’t brag. Don’t smile smugly. Don’t rub your accomplishments in their face.

An air of superiority is the quickest turn-off for a younger sibling. Just be genuine in trying to do right, and be honest when you make mistakes.

Because you were born first, all your little actions have power.

Don’t waste them. Keep your daily life following Jesus, not only for yourself, but also for the siblings who are watching you.

Okay, so I’m just getting warmed up on this subject, but I’ll hush for now. More to come soon, Lord willing. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Oldests, how have you noticed your birthright of leadership? How have you used it? Or have you used it at all?

Younger siblings, whatcha think? What makes you respect your oldest sibling? What do they do that drives you crazy?

And if you don’t care to leave a public comment, head to my “Connect” page and shoot me an email. 🙂

-Miss Darcy

Actions Versus Words

“Actions speak louder than words,” goes the old saying. And there’s truth in that.

If I tell my sister I love her, but I never spend time with her, never show interest in her interests, never give her a nice gift, never let her choose the movie, never help her with a task, never go out of my way to serve her, how is she supposed to believe that I love her?

On the other hand, if I give her the best birthday and Christmas gifts, regularly do chores for her, always let her choose the movie, always drop my own work when she needs me, but my mouth is full of cut-downs, insults, teasing, and rebukes, don’t you think she’ll doubt the sincerity of all my loving actions? Won’t she wonder why under the sun I do nice things for her when I apparently can’t stand her?

She’d think me a hypocrite with some ulterior motive. And why shouldn’t she?

“Actions speak louder than words,” they say. But maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out.

Maybe words are actions.

If we say actions are stronger than words, then we could assume that words don’t really matter that much. And if words don’t really matter, then we can let our tongues run away and spout whatever we feel at the moment. If words don’t really matter, then we can berate and mock our friends whenever they get on our nerves. As long as we do nice things for them otherwise.

That doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, does it?

Of course not. Because our words need to line up with our actions. We ought to be kind in practical, tangible ways. And we ought to make sure our words are kind as well.

Take a look at this passage from the book of Job. When disaster befell Job and all his goods and even his children were stripped away from him, three of Job’s friends came to “comfort him.” Their version of comfort was to accuse Job of wrongdoing and urge him to repent so God would bless him again.

Here’s how Job felt about it:

“How long will you torment my soul,
And break me in pieces with your words?

-Job 19:2 (NKJV)

Can you hear the pain in his voice?

His “friends” never raised their hands against him. But their words crushed him. Maybe long ago his friends had done him a good turn, and he them. Maybe their actions had proclaimed their mutual friendship. Yet here they are tearing him apart with their words.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones…” But words can torment the soul and fragment the heart.

Words have power.

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.

-James 3:5-6a NKJV (emphasis mine)

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,

-Proverbs 18:21a NKJV (emphasis mine)

Job also had this to say about his friends’ words:

“I have heard many such things;
Miserable comforters are you all!
I also could speak as you do,
If your soul were in my soul’s place.
I could heap up words against you,
And shake my head at you;
But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
And the comfort of my lips would relieve your grief.

-Job 16:2, 4-5 NKJV (emphasis mine)

Job’s friends used their words to make him miserable. They pushed his soul toward despair and death.

But they didn’t have to. They could have chosen to speak words of comfort. Words that urged his soul toward hope and life.

We shouldn’t go around assuming that our actions are loud enough to convince our loved ones that we love them. What message are our words sending?

Maybe we’ve gotten very good at guarding our tongues. Maybe we hardly ever let anything unkind slip out. And that’s great.

But do we keep silent when we have opportunity to speak a word of encouragement? Sometimes silence is a form of speaking. Make sure your silence is saying what you want it to.

One more thing: not everything Job’s friends said was wrong of itself. Their statements weren’t necessarily untrue or unrighteous.

But the right word at the wrong time, in the wrong place, or to the wrong person is the wrong word.

Words can have power coming from anyone, even a stranger. But words have the most power with people we’re close to. If I don’t know you, your insults aren’t going to hit home the way insults from my friend would.

So should we not be extra careful how we speak to those we love?

Don’t ever think words don’t matter. They can kill. Or they can heal.

When you speak, that’s just as much an action as when you punch someone in the nose.

So go love someone with your words today. (Just make sure your other actions aren’t contradicting you.)

-Miss Darcy

A Tale of Two Fish

I got my first pet fish a little over a year ago–a gorgeous blue half-moon betta with metallic aqua on his tail. I named him Caspian, after Prince Caspian from Narnia. Cass for short, or for people who couldn’t pronounce Caspian.

I had him almost eleven months before he died. (Amazing how attached you can get to a leetle fish.) I didn’t want that tank to sit empty, so I scrubbed it clean and went to the pet story that very day and bought another betta. I almost bought a red one, but apparently I can’t resist the blue ones. I came home with a dark blue veil-tail, which I named Rillian (after Prince Caspian’s son).

I guess I expected them to be almost identical. A betta fish is a betta fish, right?

But these two fish weren’t the same. They had different personalities.

Yeah, I see you rolling your eyes, but most people acknowledge that dogs have their own personalities, so hang with me a little longer.

Caspian was an arrogant little thing. Loved nothing better than to admire his reflection. If I traced my finger along the outside of his tank, he ignored it. And he hated it when I cleaned his tank. I had to chase him round and round the tank before I could scoop him out into the holding cup. (I always figured he’d work himself into a heart attack, but he never did.) He’d just sit and sulk until I put him back in his freshly cleaned tank.

He had the funniest way of turning his nose up at you. He wasn’t the sort of pet I baby-talked.

Rillian is very personable. When someone puts their face up to the tank, he swims over to say hi. He wiggles and flares his gills and follows your finger along the tank. He’s better at aiming for his food than Caspian was. And he doesn’t mind it when I scoop him out of his tank for cleaning.

Altogether, he’s more approachable. I can call him Rilly sometimes without his being insulted. 😉

So perhaps their “personalities” have to do with the way I interpret their behavior. But the fact is these two fish behave differently.

God cares about His creation so much that He bothered to give two little betta fish different “personalities,” so to speak. Two betta fish that might have died in the hatchery or at the pet store, and absolutely no one would have cared beyond the fact they’d lost a very small amount of cash.

The God who made the stars also cares about little fish no longer than my finger.

He makes them beautiful, and He makes them unique.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

-Luke 12:6-7 NKJV (emphasis mine)

-Miss Darcy

I Am Thankful, 2017

I’m gonna try to keep this short and sweet. (Here’s where you roll your eyes at the idea of me writing anything short.)

In semi-random order, I am thankful for…

  • …the stunning truth that the Creator of the galaxies considers me someone worth dying for.
  • …my priceless relationships with friends and family. I may be an introvert and a writer, but friends that exist only on paper and in imagination don’t really compare to friends who breathe the same air I do.
  • …grace. From God, from my family, from random strangers. I make mistakes. I need grace.
  • …the necessities: food and clothing. I also have a warm home, hot water, a car, modern conveniences, technology, and a host of other things. Maybe if I didn’t have these I could justify my complaining. As it is, I have no reason to complain.
  • …language, written and spoken. Communication through language is an awesome gift from God that I usually take for granted. And it would leave a huge hole if it suddenly disappeared.
  • …the Bible. I don’t know how I’d live without this Book. And it’s in my mother tongue. Invaluable.
  • …that I can write. Even if no one else reads it, writing is a deep source of joy to me.
  • …beauty in nature. God didn’t have to make the world pretty. But, oh, didn’t He?
  • …rest. Sometimes I need it desperately, and it is sweet.
  • …music. Music affects the soul in a way words can’t. Which makes it far more powerful than we think.
  • …health. So many don’t have it, and I’ll enjoy it as long as it’s mine.

Under three hundred words. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

-Miss Darcy

Aurora’s Folly, Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, I wrote about Princess Aurora from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, and how short-sighted she was. When she discovered she was a princess, all she could do was cry over a man she’d only met once. And we are so prone to be like her. When God asks us to follow Him fully, all we can think of are the worldly pleasures we’ll lose instead of the eternal riches we gain.

Yes, such behavior is foolish.

It’s also dangerous.

See, after Aurora cried her first storm, her aunts took her to the palace where she would be presented to her parents that evening. They sneak her in carefully, lest the witch Maleficent spy them. Aurora is still miserable. Her aunts give her a gold crown, symbolic of her royal rights and royal duties. She looks at herself in the mirror, puts her head down on the table, and bursts into tears again, poor thing.

So her aunts kindly give her a moment to herself before she actually has to meet her parents and the man she’s betrothed to.

And it’s then, when Aurora is weak, sad, and not herself, that Maleficent comes. She comes invisibly with a bizarre, mesmerizing ball of green fire. Aurora sits up, entranced. Then she stands and follows the dancing green ball through hidden passages in the castle up to a tower where the ball becomes the fateful spinning wheel whose spindle is to prick Aurora’s finger.

By now, her fairy aunts are looking for her, calling to her. But Maleficent’s voice bidding her to touch the spindle is more powerful, aided by the enchantment. Aurora touches it and is instantly cast into a magical, ageless sleep.

You see, Satan is a huge proponent of hitting a fellow when he’s down.

Bad guys in stories sometimes have a sliver of conscience left. Satan doesn’t.

In fact, the devil’s absolute favorite time to strike is when his victim is already weak.

Aurora was weakened because of her grief. But it was self-imposed grief. Sorrow because she couldn’t have what she wanted exactly when she wanted it.

Following God requires us to give up the things of this world. And when we pout about it, or downright refuse to do it, we put a wedge between ourselves and the God who loves us so much.

What starts as slight discontentment can fester into self-pity, depression, frustration, even resentment or rebellion towards God. All of those things can quickly distance us from our Lord.

When we are not walking close to Jesus, we are dangerously weak.

And Satan is only too happy to attack when we have drifted away from our Source of power.

It’s easy, and tempting, to think that a little complaining or a little rebellion won’t hurt anything. After all, it’s such a little bit.

But little things grow. Ever watched a bruise on a peach consume the whole fruit with rot? Ick.

But with Jesus, there is always hope.

Even if the devil has come in our weakness and cast us into a horrid pit from which we have no energy to rise, Jesus can pull us out. We need only to call to Him in repentance, and He will come and rescue us. He won’t leave us even if we have to endure certain inevitable consequences.

Still, don’t you think prevention is more desirable?

-Miss Darcy

P.S. Here are the clips of Aurora’s arrival home and Aurora’s enchantment, in case you wish to see them. It’s a mercy I never saw the latter as a young child–would have creeped me out to no end.