I bet a lot of people can relate when I say responsibility falls on the eldest child the heaviest. I’m the oldest of four children in my family and I can really say this is true for me. I’m not saying this applies to all firstborn, but in my perspective, this ‘role,’ among my many others, is the brunt I have no choice but to carry on with. It’s something I can never escape. Others might have greatness thrust upon them, well, I had being the eldest on my shoulder the moment I was born. There are a few pros and cons when it comes to being the first child, but recently, I’ve found out, I’ve used up all the pros when I was younger and I’m left with nothing but the cons.
- You’re always the BOSS.
- When you have as many or more siblings as I have you can relate when I say you can get away with pretty much everything when you want something with, “I’m the oldest right? You HAVE to listen to me.”
- Parent’s guinea pig.
- Every parent out there was once a single person with no children. That goes without saying, and not all of them buy into the marketing crap about manuals on how to be parents. Some believe that parenting is just instinctual and goes along with every twist and turn of it. Therefore, hello, first child. That’s why there are pictures of small children clad in weird costumes outside, and it’s not even Halloween. But also, we are given much more because of this trial run. Of course, they are more equipped when it comes to the next ones.
- No hand-me-downs.
- Never had any problems with these. Everything you want and everything you need will, and always will be, brand new. EXCEPT when you have older cousins, and your aunt just insists you have their hand-me-downs. Poor you.
- Undivided Attention.
- Who doesn’t want to hold the new baby, or the new grandchild, who doesn’t know his/her name? Even relatives from far away will always know the first child’s first name. People would be calling me by my first name when we have family reunions. I don’t even know who they are. They just keep pinching my cheeks and saying my name. When I got a bit older, there was a lot of times where my mom would greet this person I have never seen before in my life and they would know my name, compliment me, but they would just nod when my mom introduce my sisters. It’s clear they would never remember their names except for mine.
- Get Anything We Ask For.
- The eldest child usually has more leeway. I got later curfews, more permission to go out and a bigger allowance up until high school. All just because I’m ‘older.’ There is a three-year gap between my sister and I, so my allowance was always double compared to hers.
- Holy Grail of Advice.
- Since we got there first, the eldest child’s opinion and pieces of advice always matter. Especially to the younger ones. Knowing what’s already in store for them sets my word apart from other opinions. When I talk about my experiences, my sisters always listen. It just gets a bit annoying when they constantly need my advice on EVERYTHING. And they start to copy everything I do…
- Leadership Abilities.
- The eldest child is often thrust into the limelight so early on they develop leadership abilities. They are often seen leading a group instead of just blindly following. They tend to be more outspoken when it comes to ideas and then try to make everyone’s ideas combine into one so they could make it work. I’m always the one thinking of the ‘short plays’ we can make when its someone’s birthday. I used to collect a fair share amount of money just to buy our dad a really, really big birthday cake when I was 11 or 12. I sought help from my sisters to make a huge anniversary card for our parent’s anniversary and then put all our names in it.
- Epitome of Being the Ultimate.
- In other words, always show a good example. That’s what I always need to do. Don’t make mistakes. It feels right when my mom or dad would tell my sisters, “Why can’t you be more like your older sister?” Of course, it feels like a chest stab when I sometimes hear the opposite. “Don’t be like your sister, what she did was wrong.” I was always compelled to defend my actions with logic…or sometimes sarcasm, even though I knew I was really wrong. Just so my sisters won’t see me in a bad light.
- Gatekeeper for your younger siblings.
- “Take care of your sisters.” That’s the last thing my mom or my dad would always tell me when we leave for school, when they call me up on the phone, or when they are going out without us. So naturally, when boys hang out with my sisters, I investigate. When they don’t do their assignments, I shout at them until they do. And when they make a pretty big mess out of everything, I help them clear the mess and then go tell my parents who broke the vase. Hey, not EVERYTHING has to fall on me right?
Now that you’ve read (or hopefully skimmed?) through my pros, the next parts are my cons. These are sometimes the opposites of the pros, and some are the extensions.
- As you get older, the attention becomes divided, this is inevitable. The cuter and smaller babies will come. But of course, the responsibilities for you never stop piling up.
- “Ought to know better.”
- Oh, how I hated these words. My sisters and I were playing, and then we didn’t stop when we were being called for dinner. When my mom finally went up the stairs and dragged us down to eat, guess who had received a mouthful of “You ought to know better?” We were all there, we were all playing, the four of us, but I was the only who got shouted at. The eldest child is expected to be the mature one as soon as the younger ones messed up. Even if, the eldest child is, without considerations, still a child.
- You’re supposed to know everything. – (consequences of being ‘you’re older!’)
- There will come a time when you’re being asked something and you don’t know the answer to it. There’s a new subject being taught in the lower grade and your sister is asking you for help. Cause you know, you’ve been there, you’re supposed to know about it right? WRONG. When you can’t answer, it’s either you dismiss them by saying you’re ‘busy and go disturb other people’ or face embarrassment and tell them, “I don’t know, try googling it?”
- Responsible for everybody’s mistake.
- The “Where were you?” syndrome – Oops, your sister broke your mom’s favorite perfume bottle when you were sleeping in your room, across the house. When your mom comes home, she sees it and asks you about it. When you say that you don’t know, that it might have been your sister, that it was not you…The great and mighty question that WILL make you feel responsible for it is, “WHERE WERE YOU?!” As if I should have been on my sisters’, four of my sisters, watch 24/7.
- The Messenger when parent’s fight.
- Has anyone ever experienced this? Usually, when my parents fight and they need to let each other sign or tell something, it’s always the eldest child who they look for. No one cares if that particular child has bags of homework to do, or exams to study for. It is absolute that I should be the messenger because ‘I’m the only one who can do it. My sisters are either too young (they’re not), too irresponsible (maybe if you give them more responsibilities), or too busy (how about me?).”
- Help with the family – financially or not, at an early age.
- I don’t think this is an understatement. The eldest child is pressured to help around the house. They feel guilty when they’re the only ones who can see their parents suffering, so some children sacrifice their childhood just to provide or at least babysit or make dinner for the family.
- Surrogate parent.
- When one parent is sick, or both are not around, the eldest child is to stand in their place. It’s not a command by their parent, it’s just something we’re compelled to do.
- Bearer of all commands.
- Just like the messenger bit, its like I’m the only one they see around the house. As soon as my dad gets home, he orders me to get him a cold drink of water. My mom orders me to reheat the food, then both of them orders me to get them this and get them that.
- Pressure to live up to parent’s expectations.
- This is the pressure to become absolutely flawless. You have to become perfect. “Remember you are an example to your sisters, whatever you do, good or bad, will set as an example for them.’ This is what I have to listen to every once in a while.
- Nothing seems to satisfy your parents when it comes to you.
- Remember that undivided attention? When you have brothers and sisters, it will be divided until you are left with almost none. So you fight for attention, and since they’re expectations from you is so damn high, you always have to be better than the best.
- Superiority Complex.
- When everything is placed on your shoulders and you know you’re handling them pretty well, or at least well enough, you can develop this complex. But this is a bad thing because you might overshadow your siblings. As we grow up, it’s not anymore about bossing them around and dismissing them when they need me. Its becoming more of an adult situation. They need respect and encouragement too. I hate making them feel inferior to me while also accomplishing my obligations as the eldest. I sometimes hide my achievements, so they won’t have to feel like failures when they don’t achieve something to that degree.
- Take care of the siblings all the time.
- This is kind of a trade-off. In one hand, I’m always in the know. I know what’s happening with my siblings’ lives and they tell me all their secrets. But at the same time, it’s also bothersome. It’s not like I can take care of them ALL THE TIME. I have a life too. And no one seems interested in taking care of mine. When my dad calls, he makes sure I KNOW where my sisters’ whereabouts are before we go home after school. He rarely asks about my whereabouts, I HAVE to tell him myself. The life of the responsible, eldest child is hard.
- Always expected to ‘understand.’
- This is the best and worst part of being the eldest child for me. I am always expected to ‘understand.’ Understand that I have to make sacrifices when no one wants to do the job. Understand that I have to suffer for someone else. Understand that I have to take care of everybody while my siblings only take care of their own lives. For example, there’s a huge pile of dirty dishes in the sink that needs washing. We’re almost all grown-ups now and my mom asks one of us to clean it up. Of course, no one wants to waste their time doing it. So no one reacts, until I give up and do it myself. Sometimes, I don’t even have to wait to see if someone wants to do it, because I know I’ll eventually HAVE to do it myself. Once again, I have to ‘understand.’
The thing is, with being the eldest child, all of this comes with the position. Its only up to you whether you will agree to it or not. I have seen some firstborn who are lazy and uncaring towards their siblings and their families. I guess these are the ones who gave up on the responsibilities and the expectations. All of this falls to the next person in line. The second child. I wrote this as a guide for those who are like me, tired but not complaining. We didn’t know it came with being the eldest, but as we grow up, we slowly realize that it’s both a blessing and a curse. Also, it feels nice to see them on paper, all laid out. This feels like what we’ve been doing all alone has a purpose. The eldest children are the independent ones, and a lot of people are dependent on us. In other words, THEY NEED US. 🙂
Thanks for reading,
- Are you the eldest…? (kamalkaur.net)
- Importance of Sibling’s Birth Order (exweirdo.wordpress.com)
- Yearly Photography With Siblings (kareensatorre.wordpress.com)
- What it is about being the oldest child? (mjmconblog.wordpress.com)
- Is it better for children to have siblings? (bbc.co.uk)
- Yearly Photo Op With Siblings (kareensatorre.wordpress.com)