I Have to Wait HOW LONG?


Son Jake, now 11, just received an iPod for his birthday. It was a gift from his grandparents, and was sanctioned by us, his parents, but, sad to say, it has caused much consternation in the sibling department. Unfortunately, even as Jake opened the sneaky little package, his eyes growing wider with every tear of the tape, Hayley, age 8, sank lower and lower into the unavoidable, age-based inequity angst that comes with being number 2 in the birth order.

Jake’s reaction to the gift? “Wow, an iPod!!” and smiles all around. Hayley’s reaction? “What?! He got an iPod?!?!?” accompanied by a snarling lip and the unmistakable moistening of the eyes.

Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like the on the verge of tears, it’s so not fair, pouty, little sister face to suck the joy out of giving, receiving, birthdays, holidays, average days, and life in general.

As Mom, I ushered Hayley into another room, away from comments like, “Now you can have every CD you own in your pocket!” and “Hey, that thing’s so small you could hide it in your hair!” We hugged, I wiped her eyes, she frumped on a chair, and I asked her what she was feeling. She said, of course, that she wanted an iPod too, and since she’s only 8, she’d have to wait more than 2 years to get hers. I just nodded and sympathized, not telling her that in 2 years and iPod might be about as good as a custom-colored paper weight, compared to the direct-to-brain music downloading devices that are surely now in robust rapid development somewhere in the Japanese heartland.

My profession that, being number 2 myself, I understood her plight, provided a little consolation, but for my part, it wasn’t exactly honest. Truth is, my poor older sister never quite got to enjoy the spoils of being firstborn, mainly because her whiny little sister (moi!) would never take “wait” for an answer, and ended up receiving just about all landmark electronics (phone, stereo, way-cool portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, etc.) at about the same time as she did. I was the middle child, but no problems there; if you spin it just right, you end up getting everything.

Thankfully, Grandma and Grandpa defused the situation by confessing that they didn’t know that Hayley wanted an iPod, and promising that they’d give her one for her ninth birthday. This instantly eliminated the tears and shifted the upper hand back to the little sister, who can now say, “You were 11 before you got an iPod, and I’ll get mine when I’m only 9!!!” to which her brother inevitably replies, “That’s so not fair!!” and calls me.

I, in turn, masterfully change the subject by explaining that, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, a guy who receives an iPod from his grandparents to keep him occupied on his trip to outer space, would, if he was travelling at the speed of light, actually experience the enjoyment of his iPod for a relatively shorter period of time than his sister, who, receiving an iPod 2 years later, would be an old woman (and life-long iPod owner) by the time her space-hopping brother returns. So, while the astronaut would be well-travelled and far younger than his sister by virtue of his light speed travel, he will have less to show on the iPod front, and that will pretty much suck for him.

End of story. Thank you, Albert.




  1. Andie said,

    April 8, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Awesome photo!

  2. Andie said,

    April 8, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    As for the theme of this article, sad but true. My younger brother was only 1 year younger, and we got everything at exactly the same time…

  3. Lorraine said,

    April 9, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I can remember when Number one child, Daniel, had his braces on for YEARS (seriously about 3 years!). Number 2, Rebekah, (22months younger) had had hers on for about 9 months when the ortho started making noises about hers being able to come off soon! Mother (me), stood behind daughter who was still reclining in chair, frantically shaking head… Ortho picked up signal … and the desperately whispered “Not before Daniel…” He changed his comment to “We’ll check again in a couple of months.” Then suggested We make the same time for both! He took both sets off at the same time so that even though Daniel got the “I only needed my on for less than a year” routine at least he didn’t have to suffer the indignity of still being the metal mouth while younger sister was flashing her great smile!
    Better still was Number 3, Joseph (2and a half years younger than Rebekah) who can still tell me exactly when the older two ever received any significant gift and when he didn’t! (Did I mention that he turned 30 last October??)

  4. scheirmad said,

    April 9, 2009 at 10:03 am

    The worst was when my parents discovered that my grandfather had an old violin at his house, and they were going to give it to my older sister as she played the violin. Well, when I took up the viola, Mom & Dad had the bright idea of restringing the old violin with viola strings and giving it to ME. My sister never said anything, but it really had been promised to her, so it was SO unfair.

    I graduated from the violin/viola when my Dad was in a music shop one day (think drums and guitars) and surprisingly happened upon a real live viola for just $300–a steal! So there I was again, getting just what I wanted, when she had to wait all those years. How longsuffering is that!

  5. Monica said,

    April 9, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I love the photo too! All I have to say is that my brain hurts after reading that last paragraph. Physics is not my strong subject. 🙂
    I don’t think I ever had those types of squabbles with my sister (she is 7 years younger than me though which could account for that). That is not to say that we didn’t fight constantly though. 🙂

  6. scheirmad said,

    April 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I’m glad you like the photo! I snapped it at last weekend’s Polar Expo at the MD Science Center, where Craig was exhibiting his Antarctic habitat. That’s Jake and Hayley wearing an Antarctic parka!

    Talk about my brain hurting, I had my share of brain pain at that Expo. I went to the University of Delaware table, where the tech guy talked to me for 5 (seemed like 20) minutes straight about their South Pole neutrino tracking project. After all that high level and super abstract information, I could barely walk in a straight line. Poor guy, when he was finished talking, I said, “Wait, why are neutrinos important again?”

  7. Andie said,

    April 9, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    Bob had a same age stepsibling, and he always got the *wrong* present–they gave what Bob had asked for to Alex and vice versa. Nothing a few decades of therapy can’t fix!

    • scheirmad said,

      April 9, 2009 at 8:01 pm

      Ouch! I never got the wrong present, but at some point my grandparents started giving all three of us the same present, just in different colors, and always with a holiday-appropriate sleeve of Russell Stovers chocolates. Of course I always thought, “Don’t you know ME?!?!” but I always was the dramatic one!

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