Ever since college, when I was introduced to the theory of birth order in relation to behavior and family dynamics, I have been intrigued with the concept. In families of three, like mine when I grew up, the oldest is typically the responsible one, the second child is the trouble maker, and the third is the bookworm. This seemed to be true for my family. I was the oldest, with two younger brothers and I am sure everyone had the perception, as I did, that the birth order theory rang true for our particular family.
When I was twelve years old, my family moved from our home of nine years in New Zealand and lived at my father’s parents house back in the U.S. until our family could get established enough to get our own house. So, we lived in my grandparents’ cosy attached rec. room, while my grandmother, grandfather and uncle who is only five years older than me, lived in the main part of the house.
Life went on for us kids as we adapted to our new life. My brothers, as usual, would always play together, finding something to build with or get in trouble with outside, while I would find some sort of solitary activity to do inside. Never anything remotely against the rules, for I was the oldest, therefore the responsible one.
I took my responsibility very seriously, especially on the day that I noticed that my youngest brother who is eight years younger than me was in grave danger, well, that’s what I thought. My brothers, who were always thinking about how to substitute things when we didn’t have the money for the real thing, had created water balloons by putting water in sandwich baggies. That wasn’t the danger though. The problem was when my other brother, the middle child, the one who seemed to get into trouble the most, was chasing the baby brother around with a small piece of wood with a sharp, rusty nail in it. I think the intention was to pop the make-shift water balloon that was in our little brother’s hands before he got the chance to throw it.
When I caught a glimpse of what was going on, I became enraged. I was sure that my little brother was going to get sliced up or even stabbed with that rusty nail, and possibly catch an instantaneous raging case of a tetanus infection. I marched my responsible self outside, found an extra, partially filled bag of water and with a mother-hen like impulse, intending to protect the little guy, threw it towards the middle brother, with some added words of wisdom, I am sure.
Now, I am not a good aim, nor have I ever been one. That bag of water flung through the air, completely missed both brothers and then continued on in a direction that I had not planned on, only to smash through my grandparents’ house window! Apparently, that’s how you can get the rambunctious brothers to stop messing around with rusty nails, because we all stopped in our tracks instantly. I bet my brothers were about to faint because their sister, the one who took her role to heart, and almost never got into trouble, did the unthinkable and ultimate no-no and BROKE A WINDOW!
What came next, was even more surprising for me and my brothers. Almost instantly, my uncle rushed outside yelling, “DAVID!!!” (perhaps the obvious first impression)… Nooo. “BEN!??”… Nooo. “Laura???”. To my brothers dismay, instead of reading a riot act right then and there, he quietly turned around and went back inside, I am sure stunned as all heck. Everyone must have been stunned because I don’t remember being reprimanded at all, which I am sure bothered my brothers beyond belief, that I, their not-as-perfect-as-everyone-thinks, sister got away scott free with breaking a window, a window that wasn’t even ours!
To this day, my brothers are amazed with how I got away with it, and with how people’s reactions were not what they were expecting. They still scoff at the situation, disappointed that people viewed them as the obvious ones to make that mistake. We all know that if it was either one of them who had broken the window, someone would have been in big, big trouble.