Monday, May 5, 2008

It is As I Have Suspected

My whole life I have suspected that being the oldest child bites the big one. And now, I have the proof.

This MSNBC article only serves to confirm what I already knew: oldest children are pushed harder, they get less help and more is expected of them than their younger counterparts.

While I am sure it is no coincidence that the majority of Presidents and highly successful people have been oldest children, it is also, in my experience a tough row to hoe. Since I was 8.5 and my sister was born, it has been "set a good example"; "don't upset your sister"; "could you please talk to your sister?" My parents would never admit it, but now they don't have to (ha--I win!)

Sometimes when I look at Sam, I feel so guilty for putting her in that position. Being the oldest is incredibly hard. Even now, years later, when I should be an adult about things, it makes me crazy to see the things that have been handed to my sister that were never handed to me.

My family would say it was because she needed special help and, without delving too deeply into the subject, it is perhaps true. But it is also true that she has had an enormous amount of hand holding in areas where I was basically told "sink or swim." I swam because I could, because I had to. But it sucked.

Now that I am facing making my precious daughter into an oldest child, I am scared. I will never tell her to set an example or expect more out of her than I do out of my other children. At least I hope I won't. But he will be new, all shiny and precious in his neediness, while her toddler ways are far more trying and far less cute.

I had hoped in having my children close together that I would not doom them to the same fate as me. Case in point: 8.5 year old me was feeling pretty neglected with my newborn sister. I went to my mom (on the advice of some hippy dippy "big sister" book they pawned off on me as a consolation prize) and told my mom I needed my "love cup filled." Could anything be more pathetic?

Instead of filling it, however, she rolled her eyes and walked away. Now granted, my mom was no bastion of comfort parenting. She was not about to win any mother of the year awards with that one, but still, I can maybe understand her motivation. 8.5 seems not that cute when you are holding a newborn in your arms. But 8.5 years later when that newborn is the only 8.5 year old in the room, she is sure looking cute.

While this may sound like a diatribe against my insensitive independence-agenda-pushing-just-because-it-suited-their-own-needs parents, it is not meant that way. Exactly. It is more meant as a warning to myself. Sam is still a baby and she still needs me.

It is also meant as a permission slip for my blog audience. If you EVER catch me telling my daughter she needs to "set an example" or "take care of her brother," please feel free to slap me. Or just show me this post.


Brigid said...

On that note - one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten was about discipline when they get older. It's the "If I didn't see the whole event happen EVERYONE is in trouble." It's so easy to blame your older child for fights - my husband has learned the hard way that our sweet adorable baby girl often operates under the radar antagonizing her older brother. It also keeps you from wasting time figuring out who started things. :)

Kristi said...

My sister and me are close in age (19, not 17) months apart) and luckily I was never told to "set a good example" for her, so I think having your kids close in age will pre-empt you from ever saying that to Sam. I am still bitter, however, that after years of being told we had to wait until age 10 to have our ears pierced, my sister was somehow able to get hers pierced at the same time I did, when she was a mere 9.