Being the first-born child in the family is already a big responsibility, but now add on being the first grandchild, niece, and cousin. I was the first child born in my family who made my parents a mom and dad, my grandparents a grandma and grandpa, and my parents’ siblings aunts and uncles. There’s a lot of responsibility, struggles, and joy that comes with being the oldest, and I’m going to tell you all about it.
My Mom Has a Vision
My parents met in their sophomore year of college at Franciscan University. When they were close to graduating, they decided to take a semester apart to discern the path God was leading them on. They prayed about marriage, religious life or single life, hoping God would give them a clear answer.
My dad tried to clear his mind during that time, seeing if he was being called to the priesthood or fatherhood, and realized God placed marriage and having a family in his heart for a reason. My mother also was considering religious life and prayed for a clear answer from God.
To my mother, at first, having a child was scary, not wanting to go through the pain of pregnancy or giving birth, and the worry of having to raise a child. All valid reasons that I have inherited from her as I think about my future. She needed a sign from God to help her confirm her path.
Praying one day at the portiuncula at the university (replica of the chapel St. Francis built), she was gifted a vision. She saw a little girl and knew it was hers and that she was meant to be a mother. As you can guess, that child was me and my parents married and had me 5 years later.
Being Spoiled…and I Don’t Remember It
You can imagine that being the first and only child in the family resulted in me being spoiled, and you’re right–BUT I DON’T REMEMBER! There are so many pictures of me at my birthdays, Christmases with mountains of presents, and being held and loved by everyone (such good times).
All I know comes from stories I’ve been told, and I was told there was always someone over the house wanting to see me and take care of me. The visitors didn’t stop, and even increased when my siblings were born.
Becoming a Big Sister
At 4 years old, I was begging my mom for a little sister and my dad really wanted to have a son, so we each got our wish and my mom had twins. I was so excited to be a big sister and was automatically really good at it, too. I shared well, helped my siblings, led them, and played with them. As kids we were playing and making up games. We always got along and had fun with each other.
When I started growing up, becoming more of a teenager, our dynamic started to change. We still got along great but had many petty fights over clothes or toys. Once my siblings went through high school, we suddenly were all on the same level of maturity and started to develop more of a friendship amongst each other. Rather than just being around each other because we lived together, we wanted to hang out, go out to eat or play board games together. I have always had my older sister duties to fulfill, but as we’ve gotten older, I feel like I’ve been working overtime.
The Job Description of an Older Sibling
There isn’t a job description for being an older sibling but if there was it would look something like this:
- Older siblings come with many responsibilities as well as benefits. We require employees to be available 24/7 in case of emergencies ranging from 5 AM flights to the airport to late night taco runs. Older siblings will be setting the groundwork and guiding siblings that come after them. Pay may come in the form of occasional compliments, food and drink, or hugs.
- Driving anyone and everyone who needs a ride
- Listening to the problems of everyone
- Encouraging others to share
- Planning/hosting gatherings
- Passing on knowledge and information to help younger siblings
- Telling siblings the truth about everything
- Born First
- Gets the first and last slice of pizza
- Able to make younger siblings do what they say
- Never having to get up to grab anything
- First to choose anything
- What you say (usually) goes
Personal Struggles with Being an Older Sibling
We pave the way for our younger siblings, if we want to or not. Our actions as the eldest child have effects on our younger siblings, whether it shapes how our siblings act or how our parents treat our younger siblings. Knowing my actions and choices affect them, I tried my best to set a good example growing up.
I realize now that I never thought of myself as an independent person and based most of my decisions on how it could affect my family. For a while I tried to be a model daughter and sister, and it seemed like whenever I messed up the world ended. I found out recently these are all symptoms of high functioning anxiety and I have been working on reducing it as I’ve written in previous blogs.
However, being a model sister isn’t necessarily what my siblings wanted. What they needed was a sibling who told them the truth about life, how I went through hardships and heartbreak, someone who talks through the mistakes I’ve made rather than hide them, and someone who is open to listening and helping them with their issues.
I tell them my experiences not just to warn them about what to avoid, but to help them form their own opinions and make their own decisions. Whether they choose to follow in my footsteps or take a different direction, letting them know they can turn to me anytime is what’s most important.
Siblings by Chance, Friends by Choice
I’ve been sharing a room with my sister for about 14 years and counting. She’s been my roommate forever, and I can barely remember a time we didn’t share a space. It’s been fun growing up together, sharing clothes (my choice or sneakily), doing girly sister things every so often. This relationship formed over time as we grew up together and became not just sisters but friends.
My sister likes to quote this line from a Disney Channel show called Liv and Maddie where the sisters would always tell each other, “sisters by chance, friends by choice.” And while this started off as a joke, it turned out to be true.
No matter what happens in our lives we are always there for each other. It didn’t take me too long to realize my siblings are actually my closest friends and I won’t have any other friends like them.
If you are the eldest sibling let me know your stories and struggles – I’d love to hear them! Any younger siblings out there can also let me know about their older siblings and how they were as you grew up together. I feel blessed to have a good relationship with my siblings, but if you are struggling and need help, let us know and we would be happy to help you.