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.