People always wondered why my siblings never called me ‘Ate’ and simply just call me by my name. People seemed to be quite disturbed about that and I could never relate because it didn’t bother me as much. Maybe because I grew up without the relevancy of that name, because my mother taught me how to be an older sibling without being labelled. I don’t know. But now I know for sure, that being an ‘Ate’ is so much more than what lies behind the label.
When people ask me how it’s like being an Ate, I always react quite puzzled. Because to me, it’s like being asked how it’s like to be Esther/Babsie. It just became part of me and I think, I can speak for everyone, that it’s something that you can’t just shake off. The beauty of it, though, is that it’s nothing you’re born with it.The beauty is that you can slip into that role and work on it and become the best Ate in the world. You can always and always become better at that. When I think back to the times when I was first confronted with being the older sibling, I realised that I can’t be selfish because the way I live will automatically have an effect on the younger siblings.
So there, the first sacrifice: my wants.
I think, when you have younger siblings, it starts with giving and sharing. And the older you get, toys turn into wants. You might want that pair of sneakers but you know that your sisters needs new books for school, so what do you automatically do? You invest in your sister’s education and buy her the books. The beauty of it is, that it doesn’t become a dilemma to you. The wants of the others go before your wants and that’s okay because #AintNobodyGotTimeForSelfishness.
The second and most common sacrifice of an Ate, might just be setting your emotions aside and being strong for your family, siblings or friends. And I can tell you, it’s the most difficult one. Because you have that role and because you’re your parents’ little helper, you will have to encounter a lot of pressure. Sometimes life drags you into situations that you cannot control but have to deal with. There’s no time for living your life under such circumstances because you are needed. Even when you feel down, frustrated or angry, there’s no way out but deal with situation and pray that things will eventually get better and have the Lord settle it for you. In trying times when you notice everyone has lost their strength, sometimes you need to give them more of your strength, even though it drains you as well. That’s just the cycle of living in a family, you give what others ran out of. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough, very tough, but at the end of the day you love and you want them to be happy, right?
With that I think the hardest sacrifice would be my needs. You know, it’s not easy being an Ate for three younger siblings and I am beyond blessed to have such supportive and hilarious brothers and sisters. However, sometimes I do get the desire of not putting everything on hold for them. It’s only human to have your own needs such as going abroad and living your own life. And that’s when I learned how to be patient and relying on God’s perfect timing. Sometimes your family needs you more than you need them and that’s okay. That’s when you learn to find the balance of satisfying your needs and staying the strong hold for your family. And I’ve learned that patience and gratitude are the attitudes to keep you sane. I can’t tell you how often I’ve already thought about ‘when is it my turn?’ or ‘why do I always have to do that?’ and I can tell you this, it won’t bring you further.
Lastly, I think when being there for someone, regardless if it’s family or not, is the sacrifice of time. You can sacrifice your money and all that, but time is something you cannot get back. When trying to find time for friends and quality time with your loved ones, it’s not always easy. Nevertheless, you want to find the time because they deserve your time. Whenever I have moments of impatience and frustration, I know that I need to hold on a little longer because I know that through every hardship and sacrifice, the Lord won’t leave me with empty hands.
Throughout the years I had my fair share of struggling to balance everything out and I can tell you, I’m still not a pro at that. But what I’ve learned is that you can draw boundaries. Sometimes giving and giving and giving can get draining and frustrating. And before that leads to getting a grudge and being done with sharing love, you need to fix your boundaries and not let yourself get into the field of feeling taken advantage of. It’s okay to be heard saying that you’re tired and have had enough. As I’ve said, being in a family and having friendships going on – it’s a cycle of give and take, being strong for the ones that need it which also means asking for support and strength from others when you need it. Even if we want to (and it’s one of my secret wishes), we cannot be 24/7 superheroes. That’s just the reality of it all.
Since we are God’s children, He always provides which brings me to all the blessings I encountered while being an Ate. It really isn’t enough being an Ate within your family and we’ve learned sharing is caring. Hence, being an Ate in the community has become such an empowering and humbling experience to me. When you invest your time in people, their desires become your desires and you wish all the best things in the world for them. And being a witness of God blessing them, is one of the best feelings in the world! Of course, when their desires become your desires, their hurts and pains also become yours. It’s something that just happens and it’s inevitable. Yet, it is one of the most humbling experiences when people open up to you in such a vulnerable way. That only shows that you mean something to them and that you’re accountable to them too.
So, the role might mean a lot of sacrifices, but at the end of the day, the Lord’s blessings are what matter the most. That’s why I encourage you to count your blessings whenever life gets too much and the world weighs on your shoulders. Being an Ate already gives you a purpose in life, so don’t be discouraged or afraid – you got this!
Yours candidly, Ezzy
*More about Ruth:
The book portrays the love and loyalty of human beings in working their way through tragic circumstances to participation in the community of the faithful people of God. The key is responsible and loving decision-making: Ruth’s loyalty (2:11), her generosity (1:15–17; 2:2, 7) and her willingness to take risks for the sake of righteousness set in motion a chain of beneficial events, while behind the scenes God blesses each step in the developing drama. Ruth is so frequently designated “the Moabite” in the book that the audience of the story is constantly reminded of the universality of the embrace of salvation. (URL:http://www.usccb.org/bible/ruth/0)