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March 26, 2010

The advantages and disadvantages of being second oldest

We were just sitting around dinner chatting with our daughter and telling stories about our lives when we were younger. I joked that I had an older brother to make all the mistakes so I didn't have to.
My older brother skipped school and was going through the woods, and got poison oak all over his face and it swelled up like a balloon. He got punished in two ways for that one. Once from my parents and once from the poison oak. I did not have to skip school after that.
My older brother rolled his car because he was playing with the radio. I learned a big lesson about paying attention while driving. And I wasn't even driving yet!
The disadvantages? Well, going all the way back to elementary school, my older brother and I were good friends with another pair of brothers. We were almost inseparable. Until the older two went to Junior High School. Everything changed. I lost my buddy to other more 'grown up' activities and other friends from other cities. It was a time of transition from playing in the neighborhood with all of our friends together, to going off into the greater world and making new friends. The disadvantage of being second oldest was really that I experienced his growth from a viewpoint of being left behind. I was jealous of the adventures he had and the new friends and the interesting school subjects and activities he did. Then a couple of years later I went too and forgot all about the wait for my turn. I met new friends and my world expanded beyond the neighborhood. I dissected frogs in science class, started learning a foreign language and joined the play and did wrestling. And met girls. This was a huge time of learning for me.
My daughter then told us stories about her and her older brother. She is the second oldest like me. I found it interesting that she talked about wanting so badly to be part of her older brothers group of friends. And she did play with them for the most part. I think this is one gift her older brother understood. They did a lot together. And as I recall, did not really fight more than a few times throughout their entire lives. My older brother and I fought a lot. But I wanted to hang out with him and his friends too.
Then finally my older brother went away to the Air Force and I had two more years of school. I watched his newest adventure with great interest and a little envy. At the same time I was looking for what I would do next. He showed me the advantages of going into the military.
I don't really think there were many disadvantages to being second. I think overall I benefited from my brother's foreshadowing. Good and bad, my older brother was enemy, friend, mentor, and example. He led the way by age and action. Sometimes I followed and sometimes I learned and forged my own way. But always, I had an older brother to look at and observe and see what was to come in life.
My older brother got married right before me. I went to his wedding. He got married in May, I got married in June. I was 20, he was 22. And believe me, when he went through a divorce five years later, I watched and learned from what he went through and it influenced my attitudes toward marriage and life.
Now, later in my life, I don't follow my brother. I don't look at him to see what is coming next. I'm sure that age has changed the dynamics of our relationship. I'm sure that the passage of time has leveled the age difference again, like when we were in elementary school, where age did not matter so much. Both of us are married and have grown up children who are married. We have both become empty nesters. Even though I don't see the age difference between us like I used to, I find I still respect and admire my older brother. And that's one advantage of being second oldest.

Posted by carl1236 at March 26, 2010 10:22 PM | Journal in a Jar