Earlier this year a package from our friend Pam arrived on our doorstep. Inside were two toddler-sized NASA spacesuits with accompanying hats and a DVD. Oscar had been expressing with increasing regularity a serious interest in space generally and NASA specifically. Pam, a resident of Florida and not far from the Kennedy Space Center, couldn’t resist. The boys put them on immediately, dumped whatever bins they felt would best serve as rockets, and began to play “space.” The afternoon’s soundtrack went something like this: “Five-four-three-two-one: BLAST OFF!” They played together for quite some time without incident, Edgar, at two, picking up on his brother’s cues and imitating what he heard. Up until recently it has always been Oscar asking for the suits, and Edgar following along.
This week, however, brought a new twist and a notable role-reversal. Edgar asked for the spacesuit first. He put it on and chose to enter the “stratosphere” this time via his Sit-n-Spin. Oscar watched Edgar, then decided that he, too, wanted to wear his suit. And he followed Edgar’s lead. Edgar directed the play, Oscar appeared to be okay with that, and peace reigned throughout the galaxy.
Being the older of two children myself, I watch with fascination as Edgar negotiates his way in the hierarchy that is his sibling relationship. The first-born, just by the nature of his/her place in the family, enjoys a status–actual or perceived–that those who come after have to endure. And though the boys are only a year apart, Oscar makes it clear that he is older. So, seeing Edgar inspire and direct his brother is affirming. It speaks to his strength, his powers of observation, and his tenacity. And those may be just the qualities they’re looking for at NASA . . .