The Ups and Downs of Being the Oldest

The Ups and Downs of Being the Oldest

By Vanessa Palencia

There’s a polaroid picture of the first time my mother and stepfather brought my baby brother home and introduced him to me. My stepfather is holding my brother in an upright position, and I am kneeling down leaning slightly away from my little brother with a forced expression of happiness on my face. However, the tight-lipped smile and eyes full of disapproval predicted the lifelong sibling rivalry that was to come.

Not too long after my brother started walking, I started passive aggressively —okay, aggressively— throwing him out of his crib, thrusting him in front of the horrifying vacuum cleaner, and forcing him to sleep on the bottom bunk so that the mice could get him first. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing all of this because I wasn’t very fond of my new baby brother.  I didn’t like that my mother stopped coming on field trips with me because of him. I despised that we could never stay at The Jungle (a play place located in California) for too long. I was annoyed that he always got his way because I was older and I should have known better. Little did I know that experiencing these negatives of being a first-born was just the tip of the iceberg.  

The Downsides to being the Oldest:

  1. You are expected to be perfect because you are their ‘role model.’

  2. You are held accountable for pretty much everything because ‘you are older and you should know better.’

  3. You were the guinea pig. Thus, there were probably a lot more restrictions placed on you than any of your siblings. And you probably went through the most painful things ever, like having to introduce all of your friends to your mother just so that your mom knows who to go after in case you go missing during your movie night out.

  4. There’s so much responsibility placed on your shoulders. And so much expectation. It’s literally crushing.

  5. Magic gets spoiled for you a lot quicker. What do you mean there’s no Santa?!

  6. If it’s date-night for your parents, you’re the babysitter. No ifs, ands, or buts.

According to Psychologies magazine, “…first-borns are the only ones who experience having their parents all to themselves, then having to share them. For this reason, they’re thought to be anxious, emotionally intense, defensive and prone to jealous rages.” However, there are a few perks to being the oldest. I can’t recall how many times my mother would have to leave me home alone with my brother and leave me in charge. Of course, she would divulge too much information for a child to handle. Like that one time she went on this long rant about what we should do if someone broke in. I spent that hour with my brother in the corner of the kitchen with only the kitchen light on, holding a knife while my brother was holding a pan. Nevertheless, it equipped me for the role as the oldest sister, which was to protect and lead the way.

The Upsides to being the Oldest:

  1. You could sit in the front seat way before your siblings could.

  2. You had first dibs on pretty much everything, including rooms whenever you moved.

  3. You were able to stay out later with your friends because you were of age first before your siblings.  

  4. You were able to pave the pathway for the other siblings to follow. You’re welcome!

  5. You were almost always in charge. *insert wicked laugh here*

  6. You are the leader. Whatever you do, your siblings (and their friends) will follow. Life is sweet.

There’s always going to be ups and downs to everything in life. It just so happens that as the oldest sibling, you experience that rollercoaster ride first through the relationship with your siblings. Even though I no longer live at home, I know that I still need to lead by example. I may not have to babysit anymore, but I know that, should the situation arise, I am in charge. The responsibilities of the oldest child never stops.


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