When I first met the 12 year old boy down the street, I found him to be quiet, pensive, and sweet. He was so tender towards his younger sister whom he often had the responsibility of supervising when both were hanging out in the cul-de-sac where Mr. Steve and I, Miss Julie, live. His 6 (now 7) year old sister was respectful of his authority. They got along quite well.
Then I saw another side to their relationship and perhaps his character. Nearly a year after that first meeting, my husband and I know more about each other’s families, living routines, schedules, activities, and personalities. We’ve had some fun activities together outside of the neighborhood as well as the opportunity to bless them with gifts, treats, etc. Kinda fun for us two older neighbors of grand parent age! (If our own grand kids only lived closer, eh? We rarely get to see them as they live several states away . . .)
One recent weekend afternoon, both H and E were staying on our side of town while visiting E’s Dad with their biological Mom. In other words, both boy H and girl E have the same Mom but two different Dads. H spent alternate weekends with his biological Father; E was virtually always down the street on Saturday and Sunday as her biological Mom and Dad often spent weekends together. So the two kids have the same Mom, 2 different Dads between them plus H has several half-brothers and sisters as well. The 2 kids seem to have adapted as well as can be expected with additional visits to some combination of biological grandparents sprinkled in over their weekends too. Somehow even with all of these adults in their lives, E then H came to develop a relationship with my husband, Mr. Steve. He taught H how to ride a big skateboard called a land paddle and raced E up and down the street on said land paddle as E provided the some pretty good competition on her pink 2-wheeler! “Want to race?” was all she said and off they went down the street and sidewalk, respectively.
Last weekend, the two children had spent the day with Mr. Steve in an EAA Young Eagles Introductory Flight experience while taking plane rides in a 4-seater Piper Archer. This was their second time riding in this airplane with Mr. Steve as the pilot. They each got to experience 3 flights on Saturday, a special lunch, and a mini ground school instruction. What a treat for each one of them! Well the extra banks and turns were a bit much for E’s tummy but overall they had a great time. I received them sitting on our patio at our home afterwards as they shared their stories of the day’s events. The kids had dozed off in the car on the 30-minute ride home from the airport; H was still tired and E was acting a bit “wired-tired.” But their “parents” weren’t home yet so hanging out with us would extend a little longer. That’s when I noticed some other dynamics of the relationship between this brother and sister that I had not seen before. Natural dynamics, of course. And yet perhaps a window into some of the stress they might feel when tired from more than this type of day’s events.
H was usually tender with his younger sister. This particular Saturday afternoon, H was relentless in his questioning of his younger sister on a trivial matter. I tried to change the subject and he returned to his chiding her shortly thereafter. Was there more to the stress of the moment than meets the eye? Surely he must get frustrated from time to time with the antics of a sister 5 years younger than him. I wondered, does he ever tire of his supervisory role and have enough time to just be a kid, be himself? Probably yes and possibly no. H is a very serious, thoughtful young lad who largely hides most emotions and speaks in somewhat measured speech at times. He is sure to correct himself to give the right response to a question. He’s the kind of kid a trusted adult male would do well to engage in playful wrestling or other physical stuff yet I get the idea it would be more horrifying than fun for him. Maybe he gets some of it with the land paddling with Mr. Steve? I hope so. I just wonder if there’s an outlet for what the heck he might be thinking or feeling inside. Does he feel loved? Does he have a place to let go or speak his mind freely like his little sister does (kind of all the time!)? He speaks of his babysitting responsibilities in the vernacular of that of a parent. It’s possible that the parental figures in his life expect this of him, to pseudo-parent her not just be a babysitter. That’s a lot of responsibility for a 12 year old boy from a broken home, at the beginning of so many other changes to come in his life as he matures into a teenager and young man. He takes this responsibility seriously. This particular day it was kinda wonky.
My Mom tried to put this type of responsibility on me for my 2 younger brothers but it didn’t work. They wouldn’t listen to me! They wouldn’t listen to our babysitters either when my Mom (a single parent of three children along with a serial dating and drinking problem) had to leave us alone to go to work or couldn’t find a babysitter. I do believe she did the best she could to manage our difficult situation with the tools and life skills she had. The when she left us alone, however, all hell broke loose at home. We were probably out of control. Such is the way children under stress behave when the consistent routines that they need erode, when there’s no one in which to confide, when there’s no outlet for the hurt burning inside a tender heart living inside a broken home. I wish I could have been more like how H is to his sister than I was to Mike and Rob. I yelled a lot. My Mom yelled a lot. There’s more. Surely us kids were struggling with the changes in our lives that were decided by the most-trusted adults in our lives: our parents. We hardly ever saw our Dad and then he moved out of state when we were teenagers; we never heard from him again for a couple of decades. Probably our best aspect of consistency/security was living in the same house all of those years. But inside those doors was a lot of hurt and anger that made it harder for me and my brothers to relate to one another as a family let alone find our way after entering adulthood. I wish I had known the love of my Heavenly Father back then. It would have made such a difference!
H occasionally talks about the Bible with Mr. Steve. I love that. My husband had the insight to give H a student Bible as part of his Christmas presents this past year; we gave E a children’s Bible too. Steve and I both try to weave spiritual topics into our conversations with H and E as we play in our yard, sip endless bottles of water, and chase our old pup Elle. But is it enough? Are we being intentional in our teaching as my beloved use to instruct young families at church to do with their children? All four of Steve’s adult children are walking with the Lord today. What an incredible testimony and tribute this is to the parenting, the love, the Biblical teaching, the mentoring that Steve and his ex-wife poured into their lives. All four are also successful in their respective occupations, one is married with two children of his own. As we get to know H and E, as they continue to come around and knock on our door on a Saturday afternoon, please join us in praying how to best love on them in a Christ-centered way. We desire to encourage and support their parents as well and be a special kind of older friend to all of them that the Lord has ordained for this season of their lives.
As I think about H in particular, some scripture references have come to mind that I hope I get to share with him sometime soon.
Colossians 3:21 (NIV)
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
If H is required to act as a pseudo parent/babysitter at times, these verses and passages speak to the authority and loving relationship of a Father to his children. They provide instruction which is tempered and guided in the manner described by the verses that surround each passage. (Hotlinks are provided to each chapter by clicking on the verse.) If unrealistic expectations have been placed on H to regularly care for his younger sibling then perhaps he still can learn to temper his tone with her as supernaturally guided by these verses and the Holy Spirit. Does H know Jesus as Lord and Savior, know the guidance that can come from the Holy Spirit? We are not sure. This is an area we need to explore further. With the possibility that the relationship of his Mom with E’s Dad is a tenuous one (as they have been apart for extended periods of time in the past), we cannot assume that we will always see H or E several times per month indefinitely. Each day is an opportunity to build our friendship with them and introduce them to Jesus Christ.
Romans 12:10 (ESV)
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
This verse speaks to the relationship of brothers and sisters in Christ, our eternal family. I love the idea of showing honor, deference to the other party. The older brother, just like the child’s Father or Mr. Steve as an older male Father-figure, have an opportunity to help build the worth of a young girl as Christ sees her, as her husband one day will see her someday in marriage. An important part of her identity comes from interaction with the older males in her life. Her older brother’s joking, teasing, and correcting behavior all have their place in good fun along with complimenting, encouraging, and supporting the younger, female as she grows up. We know from God’s design for the roles of men and women in marriage that the woman is to respect her husband; the woman must also receive respect in addition to being loved and cherished. To show honor is to show love.
Matthew 6:33 (Amplified)
But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.
Our Heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask anything of Him. He is ready, willing, and able to give us the best help possible! This is important to keep in mind when we are trying to figure out what to do, what to say, what decisions to make, how to think, which way to go. Then what about an unruly little sister or brother? Oh vey! I offer this verse as a reminder to pray, to seek the Lord for His wisdom as we interact with all of the other people in our lives. (How I wish I knew this and could take back all of those mean words I screeched at my brothers so many years ago!) Figuring out relationships is soooooo hard on our own sometimes! Our Lord will comfort our angst, guide us, and bring forth the best outcome for both how we want to come across and how we hope our brother, our sister in Christ will respond. We must stop ourselves, pause or take a deep breath for a moment, and ask for our Lord’s help. He will do so. This type of prayer also honors the Lord as well!
Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
The Lord is faithful to see us through everything including the ups and downs of our relationships with others. He cares deeply about our relationships with the members of our immediate family (as well as the body of Christ). What a privilege it is to be in a position to mentor a loved one who seeks and respects our authority or influence in his or her life. H has managed this big responsibly well despite the challenges of his own young life. This process of mentoring happens naturally with younger siblings who look up to their oldest sibling, to older cousins with younger cousins and so on, when handled well. The love between brother and sister in particular is a special kind of fellowship unmatched by any other in our lives. Our brothers and sisters are the first friends we make in life, the longest friendships we may ever have in our lives. We can find mutual hobbies, games, sports, ministries, and other activities to share together despite differences in age. We can encourage our siblings in following their dreams, the unique ways that the Lord has crafted their giftedness, and even in his or her silliness if younger than we are! When it is safe to do so, let them be! We want the happiest, most fulfilling life for our friends, right? Such is the desire of our Heavenly Father for each of us on each day and each hour we shall live, until the day comes when He will return in the ultimate fellowship with all of us.
After all Jesus was once a brother too you know . . .