Written by Kelly, #3

I have always been one of the “older ones” in my family. Much to my dismay, I am not actually the eldest. But as the years…and decades…have passed I have slowly become less put out by my ranking. Yes, I know, I have issues.

However, despite the injustice of my 3rd place spot in the lineup, my place among the “older ones” was never questioned. No doubt this was due partly because the largest age gap between any of the siblings occurs between me and #4. Mom and Dad opted for some breathing room, and there’s a four-year gap.

Fortunately, my parents heard toddler-Kelly’s pleas for a subordinate — I mean..ahem…”younger sibling” — and kindly obliged. The four-year difference between me and Keegan served as the distinction, the dividing line between the two “litters” of Thomas children — and yes, we used the term litter. My status as an older one was secure.

The First Litter

To no one’s surprise, I was one of those kids who desperately wanted to be a grown up. When I was four I asked my mom if I could wear makeup and red nail polish (Sorry, Daddy), and was disgruntled when told to wait another ten years.

I ordered ginger ale at restaurants because for some reason it came in a glass cup, and I lorded my sophistication in front of my siblings as they sipped Sprite and root beer from the more plebian plastic kids’ cups (for the record, I don’t actually like ginger ale — I’m just that vain. Again, I realize there may be issues).

And of course, I wholeheartedly embraced the role of big sister, taking it as my cue to dispense sage advice, which naturally I had in abundance.

What nobody told me, however, was that as I grew older, so did my younger siblings. It happened slowly at first. Keegan would be allowed to stay up to watch an “older kid” movie. Abigail would try on one of my blouses and it would somehow fit her.

All five sisters

When I left home for college, Keegan inexplicably entered high school. Now, those of you who have paid attention realize that a four-year age difference should have tipped me off to this sequence of events. And yes, intellectually I realized he would be a high school freshman, but I was still thrown for a loop.

Even more astounding was when Abigail, six years my junior, followed in his footsteps two years later, and so on and so forth. Suddenly the number of “little ones” was dwindling, and there were ever fewer placeholders to separate who was an “older one.” We were all becoming grown-ups — or at least relatively so.

Kelly, home from college, with Abigail

There was a period of adjustment. When I left for college, I only came home every few months on break, and with every return, things would have shifted slightly. Keira no longer needed a car seat. Kathleen stopped having a bedtime. Declan had read the latest Harry Potter book.

At first, I hated it. I missed my chubby snuggly toddler-siblings. I missed reading them stories and having them wake me up with kisses and cuddles.

When they were little…

But, eventually, I discovered a whole new joy. Kathleen has written before about having a team of “ready-made best friends,” and — as with most things she does — she’s nailed it.

I miss smothering Keira with kisses, but I love our regular 7:30 wakeups with coffee (Keira sticks to chattering and foregoes the coffee) when I’m home.

I can’t boss Keegan around nearly as easily as I could when we were younger, but having him come spend an unexpected weekend in Boston with me because his schedule freed up has almost made up for it.

Keegan, Kelly, and Bridget spending the weekend in Boston

I can’t remind Abigail of her bedtime anymore (we had less of the “kisses and cuddles” relationship when she was younger — but that’s for another post), but that’s a good thing since I needed her to drive out to the airport last weekend at 1 am to pick me up when my flight home was delayed. She jumped in the car and didn’t even blink.

It may blow my mind that Aidan is about to be a junior in high school, but I can’t dwell on it too much because I’m too busy laughing at his latest snapchat of himself singing -badly- along to Taylor Swift.

Kathleen was right. There are fewer “little ones” in our home anymore. But there are more best friends waiting.

I would say though, they weren’t necessarily “ready-made.” These friendships are there because we were raised to cultivate them.

Age gaps aside, we were taught to always make time for each other — whether or not it seemed “cool.”

It’s why we have photographic evidence of Keegan as a burly 18-year-old daintily sipping apple juice out of a pink teacup next to a beaming 8-year-old Keira.

Keegan, Katie, and Keira

It’s why as a teenager Brendan let six-year-old Keegan follow him into the “big boy” locker rooms and hang out with him and his hockey teammates.

It’s why I knew I would marry my now-fiancé after he took the time to talk chess and Quidditch over Skype to Declan, who was 11.

It’s why we text each other before job interviews, playoff games, and first dates (ok…that one is just me, and Bridget does not appreciate my romantic quips).

So yes, I do have an impressive squad (almost literally) of sibling best friends, but they weren’t ready-made, it’s because we were raised to never take each other for granted.