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A Big Brother Speaks Up In Defense of Kid Sisters


Teenagers who take a traumatic view of having a kid brother or sister constantly underfoot might take a leaf from the book of 19 year-old TV and recording star Paul Petersen. Young Paul, whose ten-year-old sister Patty also plays his television sister, Tricia, on "The Donna Reed Show", insists that he's just plain lucky to be working with her "because it gives us so much more time together." "Instead of resenting her endless questions as seems to be the case with many of my friends who have younger sisters," Paul says, "I thrive on it. After all, what better boost could a guy have for his ego than this constant reminder that he's growing up and can share the fruits of his maturity with someone younger." Because of this unique situation of working together, Paul has even more problems and responsibilities than most big brothers. At the studio, he is her disciplinarian, listens to her problems, supervises her lunches and serves as mediator in any work problems that develop.

"I suppose, because of this, I take a greater pride in her development, both as a human being and as a performer, than I would in an ordinary brother-sister relationship," Paul muses. "I wouldn't be normal if I didn't, on occasion, point out a little boastfully that I helped her do this or taught her to do something else. But then, I should think any other big brother or sister would feel the same pride, if it's only from giving some menial advice that's always called for in a family relationship." One thing he insists he never does, and that is to take a firm, parental hand as some big brothers are prone to do. "I try to encourage big-brother idolatry so that she will accept my help out of respect," he continued. "In the normal demands for sibling discipline, I try to avoid picking on anything but major infractions. With the smaller things, I try to handle it with the most casual of reprimands."

"I don't always want to be a crutch for her, nor should any other brother or sister assume that responsibility. For that reason, I purposely encourage her to make decisions on her own and to develop a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Primarily, I try to set a good example. And I might add, by so doing, I'm also correcting a lot of my own faults. For example, working with her on the set, it narturally falls on me to supervise the food she eats and her table manners at lunchtime. This means I can no longer indulge myself in French fried potatoes and Cokes, a particular gastronomic passion of mine. Instead, I order well-balanced meals of nourishing foods. And I might add, I feel a heck of a lot better for it."

Nevertheless, he admits there are times he wishes she could be a little less unbending in holding him to the example he sets. Like, for instance, in the matter of little white lies. As a case in point, he recalls the time he glimpsed a particularly attractive new girl at the bowling alley. "She was a gas," Paul said, dreamily, "and I really turned on the charm. She responded just as I hoped she would until something prompted her to ask, 'How old are you?' To play it safe, I stretched my age a bit, thereby removing myself from the category of a teenager. Patty, overhearing the conversation, took it upon herself to set the girl straight. And that ended that little romance," he reflects, sadly. "But not my love for the nicest kid sister any fellow ever had."

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