Us eldest siblings get the raw end of the deal
When I was eight, I spent an entire school term at show and tell entertaining my class mates with stories about my made-up family.
Every week, for about twenty minutes or so, I’d climb the class room platform and regale, what I thought was a captive audience, with the adventures of my ten brothers and sisters, (four of which were older brothers), until the day I painted a “family portrait” when my mum helped out in class. I was busted.
Several “meetings” at my perplexed teacher’s desk then ensued - I had secure, loving parents and a stable family life, why hadn’t I just told the truth?
Reflecting on this twenty something years later, I’d just assumed my willingness to lie was a product of being an enthusiastic reader; I’d always loved a good story, add to that the joy of a captive audience week to week, and I was probably just having a great time.
But Bryony Gordon’s piece in the Telegraph today about the relationship between siblings, specifically sisters and good health made me realise there was always something else to it – I’m the oldest child.
Being the first born is a tough gig. Right from the word go, you’re lumped with the role of family “guinea pig” – it’s up to you to pave the way for everything.
From the first time you’re allowed to buy your own clothes, borrow the family car and have a party when your parents are away, to what marks you get at school and even, serious relationships – your parents watch you like hawks.
The second, third and fourth child other the other hand, have it easy. Not only has the older child shown you the ropes, your parents are also more relaxed and by the time its your turn to ride a bike, drive a car or go to a party on your own, they’re practically booting you out the door.
Being anything other than the oldest child also means you’ve always had someone to set an example, even in the simplest of things and you’re also probably going to be smarter.
A good friend recently boasted about her clever five year old niece who can now read and write with almost the same mastery as her elder brother, who is two or three years older, because she was forever “copying” what he did.
The upside of all of this though, is actually having brothers and sisters.
The Journal of Family Psychology study that Gordon refers in her article, suggests it’s mostly our female siblings that make us more motivated, secure and happier people. But speaking as someone who has a great relationship with both (one) sister and (one) brother, I don’t think gender comes into it at all. We’re all better off experiencing life with people who not only share our family responsibilities but also a common upbringing too.
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