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Yesterday when leaving for his Cub Scout meeting (with my heart in a puddle on the floor because his cuteness in his uniform is THROUGH THE ROOF), John V told me he had to go hug Levi and Kailey before he could leave. Then he kissed Mitchell and said, “Mom, take care of Mitchell while I’m gone.” After he left, Kailey came in with a shy little smile and said, “Mommy, John came to hug me. He hugged me before he left. He hugged me, Mom.” And I was reminded of the power in the hands of the oldest sibling. Whether consciously or without realization, many have wielded it for evil, but those who have reined its influence to do that for which it was designed, their siblings will forever be better for it.

I was blessed to have an older brother who by conscious decision, blessed and loved his younger siblings. All five of us. And this is even more of a tribute to his character when you know that at the times we were born he was the normal ages of 3 and 5, but then he was also 10, 14, and 17 with a brand new baby sibling in the house. I remember being young and hearing him say that he would never be too old to play Legos with his brothers, and he spent countless hours driving younger siblings and including all of us with his friends or on his outings without complaint. Let me tell you, all five of us will attest to the sway that the oldest can have with that level of love and commitment to his siblings. In our eyes he achieved life success right there and could pretty much do no wrong. Did we fight? Yes. I mean, I will not be Batgirl. She is RIDICULOUS. I will be Batman and y’all can figure it out and please don’t make me have to start crying. (I’m sure the fighting was really never my fault, right?) Not so much when we were older. I don’t really remember squabbling past early teen years and never as adults, but when we were younger we spent a good amount of time hugging in the corner (one of my mom’s favorite disciplines), and I even remember him apologizing on his hands and knees with some combination of pretzels and grapes coming out of his nose. Boys. He and I were born completely and totally different in our emotional needs and what made us tick, but he proved to me that even though different I was important to him. So gradually all the other faded away and we were left with what my dad and mom had always promised us.

My parents put a great deal of emphasis on sibling relationship. They reminded us often that the choices we were making as kids would determine our future with our family. That we would grow up, no longer live in the same house, and what we had chosen to invest in our siblings would then begin to reap dividend. It could be great if what we deposited was great, or we could be left with a large pile of regret if we sowed strife and hurt and unforgiveness. They reminded us that our friendships were important and God-given but that they would change while our family would remain the same people with whom God created us to walk through life. Homeschooling was an invaluable tool in this process as it prevented us from avoiding our difficulties with each other and forced us to reconcile differences, work on our weaknesses, and spend large quantities of time together. I know the lessons learned about commitment even when communication was difficult have been a priceless blessing in my marriage. Even our friendships were often with other families where there was much sibling interaction. I remember for years only being happy doing overnights with friends if my brother was there too. He sponsored the world’s most fun senior road trip to Lake Tahoe (woohoo!), and was involved in countless other hilarious teen endeavors.

One of those family friendships turned into my marriage. When my relationship with John was beginning, I remember Kyle’s opinion carrying as much weight with me as anyone else’s. He had spent time with John when it was “just the guys.” He knew who he was with his guard down and I definitely sought his counsel and opinion before making my decision to go forward. Kyle and I spent a few years where we both still lived at home and were each in our relationships with our future spouses. Priceless years of late night talks and sibling advice. I remember at the time just being so grateful he wasn’t gone. The Lord knew I needed him there. What a blessing to have him help me become the woman and wife I needed to be.

Much of this comes back to the design I talked about last week. One of the unchangeables we are given is our siblings. In adoption as well, those are people and relationships ordained by God to be in our lives, to make us into the men and women we were made to be. They are not just people we endure for eighteen years but a part of our purpose. If we do not learn the things He meant for us to learn from them, grow in the ways He intended for us to grow through them, and hear the things He wants us to understand about life and others because of them, we miss out on a priceless treasure. And often I think the future opportunities to learn those lessons are much more difficult and at a time when we are much less moldable. And none of this subject today even touches on the influence the oldest has on the atmosphere of the household and how all the other children obey and listen. As a wise woman who saw me with all my little ones at gymnastics once said, “Train the oldest. He’ll train the rest.” Truer words were never spoken.

All this flashed through my mind in moments as I thanked John V for loving his siblings so well and reminded him how very important he is in their lives. And I will continue to tell him how precious my brother’s love is to me and that he has that same golden opportunity with Kailey and each of the other siblings God gives him. And I believe he will take that charge entrusted to him and make deposits that will be giving him compound interest for the rest of his life. And in Heaven he and Kyle and many other “oldests” out there will maybe get to see a little glimpse of the impact they had, our imperfect thanks to them will become eloquent, and God will say, “Well done. You have taken what I gave you and returned it to Me with interest many times over.” No, you cannot overestimate the power of the oldest.

I love you, Kyle. Thank you.

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