I could feel the sister's presence one day as if beckoning me to tell a brief part of her life story. "Tell the people," I heard. "Appreciate those who may not have been their blood mothers, but acted like moms to them." She didn't ask to be put in that role, she was forced to be. A father who was out and about doing what he liked to do best, gamble, drink, and chase women, she had no choice but to be there for siblings since mom was busy with many duties including: farming, cooking, cleaning, working small jobs, and other things. What was a daughter to do, but help? The sister had not finished school as a result of assisting mom with all the children. She also brought some with her when she got old enough to move and cared for them through their last years of school.
When the dad came to the household drunk, angry, wild or all three, he disrespected his family including being abusive to his wife in front of the children. His eldest daughter had acted like a dad too. Telling her siblings what to do, how to do it, and threatening to discipline them if they didn't act right. When he saw her behavior, he would punish her. She wasn't fearful of her dad, but she also wasn't crazy either.
Although some siblings hated the idea that the eldest children are given some parental power in their families, keep in mind, they didn't want or ask for it. As one sibling put it, "I would have very much preferred to be a child, but mom and dad put the burden on me, so I had no choice, otherwise I would have got whipped."
Nicholl McGuire also maintains a blog that deals with many family issues here.