The worst thing about the holidays is having to spend time with your family.
I can’t speak for my siblings because we don’t really talk about important stuff like this, but I can talk for myself in saying as much as I love my siblings, and I truly do, the most difficult thing about being around my family is I am placed in all the roles I have been slotted in my entire life.
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In our family we all have roles. I’m the uncoordinated one, the fat one, the one with the volcanic temper, the dreamy one, the one who is a Pied Piper to kids and canines.
I am 52, 53 in three weeks, and whenever I’m around my siblings, I’m still placed in the roles I had when I was 3 and 13. My siblings see me in those ways still and take every opportunity, with knowing smiles, to stick me back where they think I belong with every action I take.
The uncoordinated one, though, was the only sibling who played a college sport. The fat one was never considered fat by anyone but his family members, even before he lost 20 pounds during the past couple years. The fuse on that infamous explosive temper has lengthened considerably in recent years. And the dreaminess has fueled a career.
As for being a Marty Poppins to kids and a Dr. Doolittle to animals, the truth is I’ve always found children and animals to be a lot more genuine, and a lot more fun, than most adults.
Still, it can be infuriating to have some of the people who know me best think I’m still the person I was in elementary school. Then again, it is hard to fight such perceptions, because those same people know me so well, which may mean they’re right in some ways.
Such thoughts probably keep me from totally breaking from such roles, not only in my siblings’ minds but in my own.
I have friends who have similar dilemmas with their siblings, and for some reason it seems to be stronger in big families. It may be easier in big families to just categorize brothers and sisters and keep those family members in those roles for a lifetime.
There has been much research in recent years into how birth order affects personality and sexual orientation. I’ve found the birth order conclusions to be mostly on the money, at least in regard to my family … and the sexual orientation findings to be terribly off target, particularly the stuff regarding the chances of homosexuality going up with each birth of a child of one sex.
But as both the last boy and a middle child, I have many traits assigned to such children by experts on such matters, as do my siblings regarding their birth order.
I was thinking just that as all the siblings, along with assorted spouses and children, ate dinner together this summer. I, of course, was placed at the end of the table, with the kids. When I wasn’t overeating or entertaining the children, I was daydreaming about various things, including what my dogs were doing.
Even if I hadn’t been doing those things, my siblings would have said I was anyway.
Bret Kofford teaches writing at
San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His opinions don’t necessarily reflect those
of SDSU or its employees.
Kofford can be reached at Kofford@roadrunner.com