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Ties That Bind

By Julie Grenness

Do you ever read Family Circle magazine? Everyone in the photos looks glossily pretty and well-groomed, the children are perfectly adorable, and well-behaved, and every meal is an absolute delight of pristine food presentation. Not a burnt offering in sight.

What is your family circle like? In mine, I learned early about the ties that bind sisters or siblings. If there is a first-born daughter, she assumes the mantle of a junior queen, born to rule and boss everyone born later.

Yes, in the family circle, we all acquire knowledge of the theory of the pecking order. Hen A pecks Hen B, and Hen C comes along to really add the flair of the last-born in the happy family. (!).

For example, on rainy winter afternoons, we were expected to play together in such hyperactivity of Monopoly, or quiet card games. We are all aware Monopoly is one big mother-trucker of a board game, where true sibling rivalry tends to emerge.

An eldest-born sister is always the banker, acquires the best properties and wins every encounter. My big sister took Monopoly way too personally. She grew up to terrorize real estate agents, as she dabbled very successfully in the property market as investments.

Well done. Monopoly gave her effective big sister life skills. It was the ties that bind us to be dominated by Hen A, or should I say Hens A? I know quite a few big sisters in other family circles, all born with very bossy britches. A family expert might say it is the big sister’s birthright.

The second-born sibling comes into the world to be a pushover and a peacemaker, as well as a giver. The last-born sibling is adorably condoned, so delightfully naughty, totally spoiled by the parents. These adults take the most baby and childhood photos of their youngest babe, who gets the most excuses  because they are "little." It is really their last chance to muck up parenting in the family circle.

So, if my little sibling was not winning at Monopoly, her face grew cross, and she would tip over the whole board, so no one won. The eldest sister then enforced domination, and compelled us to let her win at cards — and life!

What do we learn when browsing the family circle, peering in disbelief at everyone else? Never mess with anyone’s big sisters, leave them alone and meander down your own path. Maybe you can overcome barriers to the family circle as you age.

My sisters live some distance apart. Now, there is perfect peace and love for bossy sisters far away.  Motto: no one can buy their sisters, in the ties that bind, and it's probably just as well.

— Julie Grenness

Julie Grenness is a poet and writer in Australia. She’s a former teacher who now tutors and mentors young people.

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