Birth Order

Caroline Blanchard - Senegal

April 23, 2013

When I arrived in Boussoura on October 2, 2012, the Souare compound was a fully functioning family of 9. One dad, two moms, 2 little girls and 4 little boys all under age 11. I wanted more than anything to be a part of this family.

For the first month, I wasn’t. I was a floating nothingness who didn’t belong at all. November came and it started to click. We all became used to each other and more comfortable. I slowly was becoming part of the family.

I was getting exactly what I hoped for. I became a daughter and a sister. But it took my mother in America to realize the greater effect of me becoming a Souare. I wasn’t just an addition; I changed the chemistry of the family.

I altered the way the family functions just by wanting to play a bigger role. As I became more of a daughter, my host parents entrusted me with more responsibilities, which I happily accepted. However, I didn’t realize that the responsibilities that I was taking on were previously belonged to my 10-year old sister, Mari. And now not only had I replaced her as a working body but as the eldest daughter.

I messed up the birth order. For the past 5 months I have taken away from her everything that goes along with being the oldest child. Now I’m not the oldest child in the US, so I don’t know all the perks, but being the oldest is a big deal. My baby sister learned to say “Kadidia” before she learned “Mari.” Now I am called on to do minute chores. Her mom invited me to go to Guinea instead of asking her. My younger host siblings run to me when they are hurt or sad. Instead of being the one Ousmane and Aissatou fully look up to, they divide their attention amongst the two of us, and it hasn’t been a very even split.

Her role in the family was not fully developed when I came into the picture. I came in and completely bumped her out. She isn’t the floating nothingness that I was in October, but she doesn’t have the same standing that she did before. And when I leave in a month she is going to have the challenge of rediscovering her niche in the family, and I can neither help nor understand that process nor will I be here to watch her do it. I always knew that my host family would have a lasting impression on me but I never imagined that I could leave an impression on my family, let alone a negative one.

Caroline Blanchard