Why Older Siblings Are The Unsung Heroes Of The Pandemic

Why Older Siblings Are The Unsung Heroes Of The Pandemic

An older brother helping his younger brother with his homework.
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Today, as I sat with my kindergartener during yet another hellish attempt to navigate her online classes complete with multiple tabs filled with YouTube videos, Google docs, classroom meets and school centered apps I felt my patience (and my sanity) slipping away. Quickly after announcing, “I’m DONE! We will try again later!” my oldest swooped in to save the day.

This was just one of the many times this past year that he has jumped at the opportunity to help his younger siblings complete their online school work. He’s been incredibly intuitive when it comes to noticing when I’m at the end of my rope. He has literally saved the day on more than one occasion and I could not be more grateful for him.

As he helped her navigate between video clips, sound out words, and type out phrases to complete her assignment, I realized that if it hadn’t been for him, there is no way I would have made it through this year of intense challenges, especially those that came along with e-learning. I consider myself pretty tech savvy, but I don’t hold a candle to the instinctive way my oldest son is capable of putting out the multiple fires that pop up on the various devices they need to access throughout the school day. He’s truly gifted (as many of our kids tend to be in this regard) when it comes to computer/technology programs and the multitude of potential malfunctions that may occur, because he’s been exposed to these kinds of programs ever since the day he was born. For him, this is second-nature.

For me, a lot of the ways kids learn and complete assignments these days is like a completely foreign language made of hieroglyphics and emoticons. When I was in 3rd grade, we were practicing cursive letters by piling shaving cream onto our desks and drawing them out with our fingertips. We carried the “1” in math and weren’t allowed to use calculators at all. When he was in 3rd grade, he was learning computer coding and how to make powerpoint presentations and record podcasts. He does math in a way that I imagine astronomers calculate things like the speed of light and the space-time continuum. They are encouraged to play around with scientific calculator features to help them understand how to use them. Something I wasn’t permitted to or expected to even own until my freshman year of high school. It’s a different kind of schooling, and I was not prepared to be the one responsible for executing the lesson plans at home, all day, every day, for an entire year.

Cue my little savior. He embodies pride when he is able to help his siblings, but more than that, he is able to communicate the lessons to them in a way that is easy for them to understand because he speaks their language. And he had just learned these things in the last few years, after the educational system did a complete overhaul on how it delivers math, reading, and science to children. He has patience because he knows what it’s like to be frustrated when you can’t sound out a word, but he also has tricks up his sleeve to help his younger siblings push past their mental roadblocks because he learned those recently, too.

If it wasn’t for my oldest having some knowledge and experience of the lessons but, more importantly, the programs used to deliver them, my younger kids’ homeschooling experience would have looked very different this past year. With a lot more meltdowns… and a lot more profanities.

I think these older kids deserve a serious shoutout for stepping up to the plate, being a role model to their siblings by showing them compassion, patience, and support and encouraging them to grow and learn. But also for being little heroes to parents everywhere who are struggling to find time and energy to work, clean, cook, and complete the million other things they were suddenly forced to do entirely at home, while also trying to make sure their little pupils are still getting a semi-decent education. Even if it’s happening in a very different place and a totally different way that anyone could have ever imagined it would.

My oldest son is the true unsung hero of our family’s shit-show pandemic experience, and as soon as this is over and things are back to some quasi-normal I’m getting him a pony (or, more likely, a new gaming system because let’s face it, kids these days don’t want pets, they want new technology-charged gadgets) because damn if he doesn’t deserve that … and so much more.