Sibling Seniority

By Madeline Crowley

As a busy high schooler, by the time 9:30pm rolls around every night, I’m home from practice, freshly showered, and working on my homework after a long day at school. If you visit one door down the hallway from mine, you will find my brother, who is being asked to comply with his generic bedtime routine of simply putting pajamas on and brushing his teeth. Coming from a whiny little sibling like mine, at the age of nine, I hear complaints such as, “but that’s not fair” or “why does she get to do that and not me?” when he is asked to turn out the lights for bed and I get to stay up. Of course he doesn’t understand the extent of our age gap yet, so my parents counter with the same argument everytime; I’m just older so I have different rules. In that case and many others, I feel lucky to be my family’s oldest child. However, seniority definitely does come with its downfalls. If you are the middle or youngest in the family, hopefully some perspective from the oldest child will help you understand your family ties. 

As the oldest, some days you’ll feel like the family’s privileged child and others you’ll just feel like your parents’ test run. If you are your parents’ first born, it’s good to remember that they are learning to parent you at the same time you are trying to navigate growing up. So in a sense, you are raising them in exchange. Normally this will cause disagreements between your mom and dad because they will have differing ideas about rules and expectations for you that have never been brought up before. But by the time you have passed through a stage in your life the younger siblings will be moving onto it and they will already have set in stone the expectations for the next kid. Simply by existing you have made your siblings life easier because you have shown your parents what it’s like to raise a kid. 

Growing up with only younger siblings has really made me into the person I am today. To start, having my little sister to play with and then eventually an even younger brother that we both enjoyed dressing up and tickling on the daily, made my childhood so special. Naturally, I became a leader for both of them. They would admire everything I did which helped me learn to set good examples at a very young age. It started with copying my kids’ menu orders at restaurants and the way I colored in between the lines but I was mainly desperate to teach them good manners and when to speak at the right times! The word my mom has used to describe me many times, “nurturer”, can for sure be accredited to the older sibling nature. As the oldest, we like to provide for our siblings and family, take responsibility that others can’t, do chores and work that nobody else is asked to do, and have bravery to try new things that feel undiscovered. Sibling seniority has provided me with the valuable life skill of knowing how to create my own path. Since I didn’t grow up following an older sibling’s footsteps, I will have learned to be courageous and take more risks in life. Additionally, I believe I have developed a very protective nature over the both of them even if I don’t admit it to myself. This will be a trait that I have within me when it is my turn for motherhood and is even a trait that pops out when I’m around people I care about. A mother-like nature is by far one of the most noticeable and valuable traits of an oldest sibling. 

Babysitting on a night that you wished to go out or pretending to be calm in a stressful situation just to comfort your younger siblings is a pain that only an oldest child would understand. So, while it is occasionally a thorn in the foot, I am more than grateful for the perspective that being my parents first born has given me for life.