As the Older Ones Leave

My older brother left for college when I was going into eighth grade. Neither of us knew that was when I would’ve needed him most.

Anyone who has had an older sibling leave the house knows that it’s not easy.  It’s hard to fill the gap. Advice isn’t as easy to come by.

Sophomore Phoebe Gariepy used to share a basement with her older sister Naomi. They moved to Maine when Phoebe was in seventh grade. They were best friends. They would go to the beach, go hiking, or just hang out in their rooms. They were inseparable. Because of this, Gariepy grew up faster than she normally would have.

Naomi is currently attending SMCC. According to Phoebe, she still comes home one or two nights a week, living out of her car or at her boyfriend’s house the rest of the time.

Phoebe and Naomi remain close, but Phoebe has to plan their time as if they’re friends rather than siblings. Naomi tends to act more independent than she did before leaving. She still has moments, however, when she acts like a teenager.

She said, 

“I think the hardest part of having my sister go away was not being able to just go in her room after school to tell her how my day went and not being able to make her food and take care of her.”

“Occasionally, when she has been gone for weeks at a time, I’ll get sad and sleep in her bed for a few nights,” she later added.

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Peter Hyde (top) with his siblings on a visit to see their older sister Natalie (middle left) at Gordon College. Peter is the oldest child in the house when Natalie is away.

Other teens, such as Junior Peter Hyde, take the departure better. Hyde is now the oldest child since his sister Natalie left for Gordon College. He said that he definitely feels like he has to fill the role of the older sibling now that she’s gone.

“I’ve changed a little bit. I’ve gotten more responsibility and such so I’ve grown accustomed to it,” said Hyde.

Hyde has four younger siblings. His youngest brother, Matthew, is just six years old. Being the second oldest, Hyde has always had to take care of his younger siblings.

TA Theater Director David Hanright said that he expected to see a change in his children’s behavior when their older sister left. However, he didn’t see anything in either his youngest, Allie, a junior at TA, or his middle child Eli, when their older sister Abbie left for Northeastern University.

“Both Eli and Allie thought it was cool when Abbie went to college,” said Hanright. “Abbie came home almost every weekend… Allie couldn’t wait to try to take over her sister’s room. Eli could have cared less.”

He also said that the household atmosphere hasn’t changed much because only Abbie is gone. Eli is living at home and working as a partner at the HUD Gaming Lounge. The three siblings still get together whenever they can. They’re pretty close as siblings, but very different in what’s going on in their lives.

The Hanrights are an example of a family that has handled the transition very well. This isn’t, however, always the case. In order to soften the blow, here’s some advice from Steve Debenedetti-Emanuel, a columnist for Land Park News.

•It’s okay to be caught up in your own feelings, but remember that the other people in your family will probably be upset too.

•Quality time together can help ease the transition. Parents should encourage this.

•Before the departure, it’s important to talk about any changes that will occur.

•Actually dropping off the older sibling can be helpful.

•Strong feelings are to be expected. Recognize that.

•Parents should encourage the younger sibling to contact the older one.

•Regular visits are a great idea.

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