Musings on the Partner System

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

My parents have ten children, and my parents believe in experiencing the world we live in.


Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash

All the years of our lives, we have done lots of traveling and exploring, both locally and internationally. In order to travel in an organized way and with some semblance of safety, Mommy and Daddy instituted a Partner System.


The basic concept of the Partner System is that the children were paired off, oldest to youngest, then second oldest to second youngest, and on it went until there was one child left in the middle, who was paired with Mommy and Daddy, or we were evenly paired off. The older of the pair oversaw the younger. They were expected to hold the younger’s hands whenever we were on a trip, ensure that the younger ate their meals, used the bathroom hygienically, and paid attention to whatever they were up to.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Why would they institute this kind of system? Well, my parents have lost several children. Yes, they found them all back - at least, as far as I know - but they’ve lost my sister at Disneyland, my brother at Denbigh (Jamaican agricultural fair), my sister at a gas station, and me at school, twice. Okay, that was more like, they forgot to pick me up from school twice. The system wasn’t perfect - after all, children still went missing temporarily. It definitely had its pros and its cons.

One such con was that if a younger sibling got into trouble or into any difficulty, the older sibling bore the reprisals as well as the truant child. The best example of this was when I got hit by a car.



We went to KFC for lunch one afternoon. We had purchased our food and been allowed to use the restroom before heading home. After I used the restroom, my partner, dutifully ensured that I washed up properly. As we exited the KFC, my sister stopped to respectfully hold the door open for an old woman who was entering the establishment. Finding my hand free from my sister’s grip, and seeing my tribe piling into the family van, I raced off to catch up. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground in pain. A car, exiting the drive-thru, had hit me down. I was scraped up and bleeding from hitting the asphalt of the parking lot. After my parents assured the driver that there was no lasting damage, Daddy picked me up, put me in the van, and we drove off. At this point, I was remonstrated for running off, and for running in a parking lot, and being hit by a car. I was promised a lashing for my disobedience. And my sister was to have a share of my punishment, because she was my partner and should not have released my hand.


My partner was not amused. After all, she had been doing her civic duty by holding the door open for the old lady. She had also apparently told me to stop, as I dashed off to get hit down. And on top of it, I got that lashing for getting hit by a car – as if that wasn’t punishment enough.


I’ve been musing on these things, and I wonder: without the lashing, would I have been cured of recklessness in parking lots? More than likely, the hit was cure enough. But the overall experience highlighted the necessity of being a good partner, both younger and older.

Photo by Christopher Sardegna on Unsplash

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