Latest update: May 11th, 2014
Cousins On The Same Page
We are two first cousins, firstborn boys and close buddies. We are both almost 16 and each of us has younger brothers and sisters. The reason we are writing this letter to you is because we feel that we are not treated fairly. In short, our parents expect too much of us just because we are the oldest. It’s always “You are the bechor and need to set an example…” or “As the oldest, you should know better!”
We also get stuck having to watch over our younger brothers who then become leeches and hang on us when we don’t want them around.
Our dads expect us to go with them everywhere. Like our younger brothers many times get to stay home on Shabbos while we must always go to shul.
When our parents need to go someplace, they rely on us to babysit. When something gets broken in the house, somehow it ends up being our fault. “Why didn’t you stop your brother (or sister)?” or “Why did you make them wild?”
Our parents read The Jewish Press and we sometimes hear them discussing your column, so we know they will read this if you print it. Maybe it will make them try to understand us better. We would love for them to realize that even though we’re kids we still need a life. They often say they “need some privacy.” It would be great if they could recognize that we can also do with some privacy.
There is also a lot of pressure on us to do well in school and to get top grades. Sometimes we talk about how great it would be if we were only children. Our homes would be quieter, we wouldn’t get blamed for everything, and we’d get to have lots of time for ourselves.
We’ve asked our parents to send us to a yeshiva out of town, but they seem to have made up their minds to keep us at home, as if they don’t trust us to be away. At least we get to go to camp in the summer, but those weeks go by very quickly.
Just sign us Joe and Moe
Dear Joe and Moe,
How lucky you are to have one another as close friends! Believe it or not, your younger siblings often wish they could trade places with you. They look up to you and consider your position as the eldest to be an enviable one.
Baruch Hashem your parents were blessed with children. Many childless couples would like nothing better than to become parents, and many parents of one child would love to be able to give their only children a brother or sister or more, but Hashem may have other plans for them.
It’s not easy raising children, and it’s not easy being children. While you may be having a hard time understanding your parents, you can be sure they often have difficulty figuring you out as well. The teen years are probably the hardest on everybody, since you are caught between being a child and being a grownup. Naturally you would like nothing better than to have your independence and to do your own thing, but at the same time you are not quite ready to go it alone.
Your parents have the awesome responsibility of guiding you in the right direction and protecting you from hurt and harm. If they are reluctant to send you away, you can bet they have good reason for it. Every parent hopes to make the right decisions and choices for their children whom they love more than life itself. As you get older, you will gain a better understanding and appreciation for all of this.
If you feel burdened by the chore of baby-sitting your younger brothers and sisters, speak to your parents about your feelings. Having a grownup discussion in a calm and respectful way may get you surprising results.
At the same time, keep in mind that for every time you help your parents out you are earning a double mitzvah: one for doing a chesed and one for kibbud av v’eim. And I’m sure you know that every mitzvah you do creates a malach, one that becomes your own personal guardian angel to help you out in life in unforeseen ways.
Right now the years may seem like they’re dragging, but before you know it you will be full-fledged adults. The role of a grownup comes with serious responsibilities that your parents want you to be well prepared for. That’s one reason they want you to do well in school. All the studying and learning you do now will come in handy in the future.
When you sent this letter out, it seemed like winter would never end. But suddenly it really feels like spring. Even as you look forward to summer and a change of scenery, remember to thank Hashem every day for everything you have – including a mom and dad who love you and work hard to provide you with all your needs.
Hopefully your parents are reading this and will smooth the way for an open and easy communication and better understanding between you. Good luck!
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