A family dynamic is determined by a lot of things - obviously the parents, and the entire setting and context but birth order really factors in. Some couples know exactly how many children they want, but parenthood is a surprise in some form or another for all.
Whether that’s realizing a couple is happy with two kids when they previously thought they wanted a big family or an unplanned pregnancy, there's a lot parents can’t know. And there are some things a parent can’t predict or really understand that a child has more insights about, especially when it comes down to what it’s like to be their child and grow up in a certain family.
That’s more true for first borns than any other - they’re typically laden with expectations of responsibility and stoicism, so there’s a lot that they might want to say to their parents but feel like they can’t. Well, that might be an impossible discussion to have with your own parents but part of the Internet’s existence is solely for venting to strangers. That’s a lot of the Internet’s reason for being, actually. We can all learn from these complaints and statements of appreciation that are deeply personal and yet impersonal in their delivery to us, the audience.
20 Make It Alright To Ask For Help
Being expected to be so strong has it’s pros and cons. One first-born explains his situation:
"Oldest Male, two younger sisters. I've had to learn to be self sufficient to a point where I [didn't like] asking for help - parents had their hands full taking care of the other two and I wasn't about to be a burden. It's definitely made me the generous man I am today, plus the usual watchful protector stuff."
These kids grow up with a very firm understanding of empathy, but they’re also kids, too. You have to have the room to fall and know your parent will be there to pick you up, not always taking care of the younger ones.
19 Things Like Money Are Awk And Unavoidable
There's certain unavoidable truths, like that couples that are older are usually more firmly established. That absolutely extends to finances, and kids born quite a bit sooner than their younger siblings may grow up in a very different lifestyle than the rest of the family’s kids. It’s hard not to be envious when that affects your life so much.
One full grown first born explains that a “disadvantage [w]as my parents were poor when I was going into college but by the time my littlest sister went my parents could afford to pay her entire way. Either that or they like her more. Time shall tell ."
18 The Benefits Are Huge
For all the burdens, the life advantages of being a first born are just huge - your entire world view is shaped for the better, even if it’s not so glamorous or fun in the moment. One first born explains the many life skills being the eldest imbued them with - "helped me learn empathy, how to trick people into doing what you want (mwahaha), how to babysit, how to be a teacher and explain things, how to keep secrets, watching my younger siblings grow up was very rewarding, and probably many more”.
Being a firstborn in your family makes you a leader growing up, but also one out in the world.
17 But We're Not A Third Parent
That said, there’s only so much a first born can take on. They’re still a child, whether they’re five years older than their younger sibling or fifteen years their senior. And above all, they aren’t the parent. One firstborn significantly older than their siblings explains the huge stress this level of confiding causes:
"my mom constantly asks me for parenting advice/treats me like a 3rd parent instead of another kid. This may be me being dramatic but it stresses me out like crazy and really jars at me sometimes.”
The child may not be a child anymore, but they’re still the parent’s child. And doling out parenting advice just isn’t in the job description.
16 Seeing How The Sausage Gets Made Is... A Mixed Bag
Parents can be blunt - sometimes a little too blunt. "I was the oldest of 5 boys, and my mom was always very up front with me that she was just learning how to be a parent - that I was her "guinea pig". This didn't make me feel better when she made any decisions I didn't like, but it definitely helped me put myself in her shoes and think about what I'd say to my son, years down the road, when he wants to go to a party in high school.”
There’s a lot to be said for leveling with your kid, but forcing them to distance themselves from childhood too soon just isn’t fair.
15 There's Extreme Independence
Being a first born is a whole different ball game when you’re also the first generation of your family in America - not only are you leading your younger siblings, you may be better assimilated than your own parents and lead them as well. "I'm a first generation [in America], so my parents weren't ever really able to help me with things like cultural and social expectations in the US and some smaller things like homework. We also never had much money. Advantages: I was put into a lot of situations where I had to figure things out on my own, so I became pretty independent at an early age."
14 The Toughest Situations Can Be Good
There’s something to learn from even the hardest situations - "I have always lived with my grand parents since my mom knew that me and my step-dad didn't have a good relationship… I love my mother [...] and step-father is no longer in either of our lives. My grandparents paid my school and I was able to go to a private one while my brothers could not…. I have a very bright future and my brothers don't care much about theirs. My grandparents taught me how to be a smart and understanding person… although it's been real hard I am a better man for it."
13 Life's Not A Race But We Are Winning It
When you start out ahead, you usually end up ahead of your younger siblings - "I was first to have a child, first to graduate from college, and all that stuff. In school, I was a good kid so I think it annoyed my brother because people expected him to be just like me and he wasn’t. I think that I tried my best to lead my brother and have him learn from my mistakes. We talk often about things - especially now he's got his first kid and I have three. He seeks my advice more than anyones and it feels good to be looked up to."
12 The Family Names Do Get Complex
When families prioritize handing down names, the eldest is definitely going to be the recipient of a heavy, but rich, legacy. "I'm the oldest (and oldest son) and thus received the name that has continued to be passed down in my family. I'm the fifth, which is a drag because a lot of websites don't have suffixes up to the fifth they usually stop at four. Anyways it just led to me being a bit more favored by my grandfather than my brothers.” Yeah, there’s logistics that go into being the fifth of anything, but it’s an amazing tradition to be a part of.
11 Parenthood Isn't So Tricky
Being the eldest can de-mystify some of the most intimidating situations - "Slightly interesting side effect: When my wife was pregnant with our first child I told her that I hoped it would be a girl. Having three younger sisters I just feel like I know how to raise a girl. Since I don't have a younger brother I have no idea how to raise a boy. Things will be interesting soon as my second child should arrive within the next month and it will be a boy.”
There’s this odd deja vu that comes from semi-raising your younger siblings in whatever sense and how that informs your own experience.
10 But There Are Lessons To Learn
Especially if your parents are still figuring it out when they have the first kid, there can be a sense of instability and haphazardness in life. That kind of messiness can breed resilience and the versatility to adapt to anything life throws your way; but not everyone is satisfied with such a difficult upbringing, compared to a traditional and conventional childhood with established traditions. One first born reminiscences on being their parent’s first pancake:
"I also feel a little more [botched] cause my parents weren't really good parents to me. I grew up fast and without and role models, or close family connections."
9 And No Precedents To Follow
Some first borns relish being looked up to, while others mourn that they had to be their own best role model in the family. An eldest son explains that making your own way can be rewarding, but also lonely.
"I had no one to look up to.... No one to show me how to beat a boss in a video game, I would just do it. No one to give me a heads up on how cliches work I just had to trial and error. No, 'what to actually expect from college', I had to jump in cold water."
8 There's Less Fun To Be Had
And then there’s the dynamic of interacting with younger siblings: "If I fought back I got in trouble because I was supposed to be the mature one. He was too young to be an equal but was too young to know he wasn't my equal. This made him very disrespectful. He got a bit better once our lil lil bro came about and he felt the shoe on the other foot. I also got stuck babysitting and life guarding people I [disliked] so they could have fun while my fun got canceled for them.”
Siblings are, in some ways, equals but there’s expectations that the eldest will always be the bigger person.
7 And More Energy Spent Protecting
Some first borns truly embrace their role as protector and take the safety of their younger siblings more seriously than some parents, because every slight feels huge. One older brother explains that, “That being said, no one got to mess with my little sister. I once, literally, held a boy up off the ground against our garage door and made him apologize to my sister. I even shouted at my grandmother when she was being overly harsh and unfair with my sister (in hindsight, it's a lucky thing I'm still alive).”
6 The Younger Kid Always Has It Easier
Whether the eldest child “breaks in” the parents for the younger siblings or the littler siblings just get more experienced parents, eldest siblings grow up in significantly different ways than the youngest.
Their rules are usually stricter and their parents are usually more high strung - this may make for a bigger rule breaker or a kid concerned with not worrying their parents.
"I am six years older than my sister. I'm also a male. I was such a troublemaker during my youth that I think my parents simply compared my sister's somewhat tamer escapades with a certain blasé attitude. She never really got in trouble."
5 Your Parent Compares Their Childhood To Yours?
One eldest daughter explains her complex relationship with her mom, as a daughter and also perceived competition: "Also, because I'm older and a girl (she was first born too), she competes with me. She has admitted she's jealous that I had better parents. She simultaneously kind of idolizes and thinks I'm perfect, but also judges me and thinks most of the decisions I make are wrong. She also is extremely resentful of the older sibling role I play and has accused me of trying to raise my brother. And finally privileges I got at older ages my brother often got at a younger age."
4 But There's More Time To Be Full-On Spoiled
While some first borns grow up in a sort of isolated disciplinarian environment, the eldest children born to families craving to spoil a kid will get undivided attention. That means more gifts, more quality time and more money to spend. Some first-borns can think back to very sunny, generous early years. As one eldest remembers,
"I'm 5 years older than my sister, so I was basically spoiled [...] my parents/grandparent gave me no boundaries."
If the eldest is also the first grandchild, oh boy - that’s a whole bunch of time alone in the spot light, soaking up all the perks.
3 The Eldest Remembers The Rough Beginning Years
Not every upbringing is so solid and comfortable, especially at the beginning. The eldest child is, naturally, older so their memories of early years are more concrete than the baby siblings. Those ugly realities may be long since passed or non-existent to the younger kids, but not so for the eldest. This can end up to be pretty tough when those memories aren’t very positive: "As the oldest I'm the only one who was old enough to remember my parents splitting up; bad relationship with my mother because of it. Not really close to my siblings because I spent most of my high school years trying to avoid staying at home."
2 And When The Parent Was Still A Kid
Some siblings are separated by decades and generations, resulting in having been raised by significantly different people (even though they share the same parents). Besides the discomfort of being mistaken for your sibling’s parent, there’s the
"Huge disadvantage - my mother was in her 20s, wasn't financially or emotionally stable, and [was not the best] mom ever. Now my siblings get her in her 40s when she's got money and knows how to be a mom.”
This position as a much older sibling may lead to a very intense bond with your parent, but there’s still a lot of fun missed out on that you can only watch from the sidelines.
1 It's Rough If The Family Falls Apart Later On
Being the eldest is obviously a mixed bag - there’s the burden and pride of certain standards, the fulfillment and frustration of being an early parent and there’s the trade off of being a mentor who didn’t have their own older sibling to lead the way. Then there’s the intensely complex guilt and feelings if you had more time with a parent or relative than the younger siblings. One eldest child can’t help but think of their privileges without feeling angry for their younger siblings lack of the same time together:
”I had 9 years with my dad and feel guilty that my sister wasn't able to [grow] up with him. Makes me angry with my dad."