My name is Dalene because I was first born and intended to be named after my father. Being female made that a little trickier, but I’d say they managed just fine.
Oldest of six. One of two daughters. My little sister followed me after just 14 months. And then there were boys. My mother used to dress my sister and I as one might dress twins. My sister in pink or red. I was in blue. Which suits me, so I have no complaint. Our names were said so frequently together, “Dalene and Jayne Anne,” it wasn’t until I was quite a bit older I realized we were not two halves of one whole, but rather two distinct, separate beings.
I am still blessed or plagued–depending on how you choose to look at it–by the effects of birth order. I call it a “responsibility complex.” It was ingrained in me that I needed to behave in order to set a good example for my younger siblings. I wasn’t perfect, but this most likely kept me out of some trouble I might have otherwise gotten into had I not taken this charge rather seriously. Now it only serves to make me feel responsible for things that are not my doing and which are beyond my ability to fix.
My sister and I were often left in charge of our younger brothers. We both had very different approaches to this task. Fiercely independent myself, I’m also inclined to grant others the same privilege, and tended to be more hands off. “If you’re not broken or bleeding, you’re ok.” That same refrain worked seemed to work just fine for my children as well.
I wonder to what degree being oldest contributed to said fierce independence. It, too, is both a blessing and a curse. It provides me strength and confidence to do what I must, but also a reluctance to ask for or accept help when I truly need it.
Now both of my parents are gone, I also feel a responsibility to stay connected with my siblings and help us stay in touch. I need to do better at this. I mean well, but here it is again nearly 11pm and I’ve put off reaching out to them one more day. I will do better tomorrow.
[Day 29 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]