Making Room at the Table
by Kikanza Nuri Robins
come from a large family. I am the first girl, but I am the second child.
It’s hard being number two, whether it’s in your family
or in other aspects of your life. The number one child has the studio
photographs and every page in the baby book completed. Number two children
get more relaxed parents—which often feels like disinterest. We
get hand-me-down clothes, are lucky if we can find one or two candid
snapshots of the first years of our lives, our baby books have our names
in them and that’s about it.
Second children often have to work hard to create a sense of place
in their families. I compensated for my second-class status by being
my brother’s opposite. My brother was the golden child in our
family. He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family—smart,
verbal, charming and cute, with two dimples and a huge engaging grin.
He was my mother’s favorite then and he still is. I didn’t
smile much. Although I was just as verbal and smarter than my brother,
I didn’t talk much either. People who know me today have a hard
time imagining me as a quiet child, but I was. My brother was loud,
flamboyant and irresponsible. I was quiet, bookish, nonassertive and
Family time at our house was spent singing around the piano, reading—together
and alone—and playing cards or board games, which I hated. We
played Old Maid, Go Fish, War, 500 Rummy, Chutes and Ladders, Candy
Land®, Checkers, Life® and Monopoly®. I hated them all because
we didn’t really talk or socialize while playing and I rarely
won. Whether I was playing with the family or just with my brother,
I never paid enough attention to the game. I am very visual and easily
distracted, so I often missed the strategic moments that would make
me a winner. This was one of the reasons my brother won. He paid attention.
The other reason is that he cheated. He cheated and I could never prove
it. So all I could do in my defense was to quit in the middle of the
game or to accidentally (on purpose) knock the board over, so at least
I wouldn’t have to play anymore that day.
When I did that, my brother would yell, “Mom, make her play with
I would scream, “He keeps cheating!”
And my mother would offer some meaningless platitude like, “A
quitter never wins and a winner never quits” or the equally useless
advice, “Be nice to your sister.” And life would go on.
I never learned to beat him because I wouldn’t pay attention and
I wouldn’t stay at the table.
Kikanza Nuri Robins is a Presbyterian minister of Word and Sacrament
whose ministry is her organizational development consulting practice.
She lives in Los Angeles with two Chartreux cats---Manifest Justice
and Munificent Concordance.
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