I’m standing in front of my three kids, cell phone ready to snap their picture, as my oldest laments, “Why do I have to be in a picture with THEM again?” “Them” being his two younger siblings. I have exactly four pictures of myself and my older brother from my birth to my college graduation. Even though we now are close friends, I wonder if he had known what I was thinking growing up as the youngest sibling if we could have developed our relationship sooner. And I hope my oldest can see that his younger siblings are more than just toy stealing, attention grabbing, adorable imps. They are potentially his future best friends.
From a youngest child turned mom of three, here is some advice for oldest siblings.
-Be generous with your youngest sibling. Lend her your clothes, your stuff, your books. Chances are she will ruin them anyways and you will just get new ones.
-Sure, the oldest sibling often gets the tougher punishment and greater responsibility. But you also got to choose to play soccer when you were 5 whereas youngest siblings must choose whatever fits in the schedule. Just an FYI, I wanted to take an art class, not play soccer.
-Youngest siblings know we will always have an “out” as the baby of the family. It’s the consolation prize for getting wrong-gendered hand-me-downs.
-Remember that you were the only one who enjoyed time as an only child. You were the one who made your parents, “parents.” Not even the extended curfew enjoyed by the youngest sibling can beat that.
-Let us win. Just once. We will never forget it. (We will make sure you never do, either).
-We know we piss you off by rooting for you favorite team’s rival. We know you get mad when we crash your play dates. We know you wanted to sit next to Mom. You’re bigger and it’s all we’ve got.
-No matter what the oldest child does, younger siblings will probably try it, too. This is to both a) annoy you and b) compliment you. Even those youngest siblings who don’t admit it admire at least one thing about their oldest sibling. If you look closely you’ll see us striving to mimic it.
-The oldest child has responsibilities that the youngest never will. But any youngest sibling who has tacked high school can attest to the responsibility of living up to the oldest’s legacy and while striving to make her own path.
For years, I thought my oldest sibling didn’t like me. Or that he didn’t really see me. While we became close friends after he left for college, it wasn’t until having my own children that I understood what it must be like to be the oldest child. The responsibly and the privilege are both enormous.
But, I would say the same thing about being the youngest child, which leads me to suggest that we have more in common than either of us realized.
As for the middle child, and I love my sister dearly 9#firstfriendbestfriend), that is for another essay.