By Kelly Gilbert
As a child, my house was filled to the brim with Barbie Dolls, tea sets and enough princess dresses to make even the biggest Disney fanatic sick.
Shoved in the corners of our quaint playroom were Polly Pockets, stuffed animals of every species, and if you looked hard enough, sometimes you could find traces of my mother’s makeup that one of us girls had stolen and then hidden for safekeeping in the mess.
Despite the abundance of toys to choose from, that never stopped me and one of my three younger sisters from arguing over which toy belonged to whom.
The arguments would often erupt into full on screaming matches and even tug-o-war style war tactics all in an effort to steal back the toy that was rightfully one of ours.
But as my sisters and I continued to grow up, arguments in the playroom seemed to become less important. Instead, the pressure of serving as the oldest of four girls pushed its way past toy room banter and to the surface of my priorities.
As the oldest daughter, I soon took on the title of designated babysitter by age 14. Gourmet Mac and Cheese chef came the following year, soon after I could add personal chauffeur, and even referee when things amongst them started to get out of hand.
At the time I begrudgingly took on these roles each time my parents asked me to, all the while mumbling angrily under my breath as I agreed.
In the midst of my teenage angst, I looked at my little sisters as my weekend-plan-ruiners, or three of the world’s best patience-testers. Never once did I consider them to be much more than that, until the day came that I wouldn’t be living at home anymore.
As I packed my bags for Sacred Heart University, I realized that simply taking along picture of these three little pains in the neck wouldn’t be the same.
Who was going to bother me until I lost any ounce of patience left in my body? Who was going to steal my clothes and then deny it for weeks? Who was going to sneak in desert before dinner with me?
I had truly taken each of their unique personalities for granted while I was just a hallway away from them, and I was sad to say that I would miss their annoying-ness just as much as I was going to miss New York bagels.
Being their older sister has taught me so much more than any textbook, or professor could.
I credit the many years of being frustrated with them as an important gateway, which taught me patience and to work under pressure. Being responsible for them for so many years proved that I could handle more than just worrying about myself.
Not only that, but I learned to multi-task during my many years of babysitting my sisters, and also how to simultaneously serve as both a mentor, a referee, and a friend.
The lessons that being the oldest of four girls has taught me has stuck with me throughout my college years, and has most definitely helped shape me into the reliable, responsible, and empathetic woman I am today.
So, I suppose, next time I go home to New York to visit my family, in addition to grabbing a bagel, I should thank each of my sisters for being the most difficult yet lovable little humans I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.