First born

June 22, 2021 4:29 PM

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A child wearing a striped shirt sits next to a baby outside. Photo courtesy of Jens Johnsson on Unsplash.

A child wearing a striped shirt sits next to a baby outside. Photo courtesy of Jens Johnsson on Unsplash.

Are you the oldest of your siblings? If you are, do you have a large amount of pressure put on you, especially by your parents? You might think that the order in which you are born doesn’t matter, but it does! Birth order only illustrates a small part of who we are, but personality shifts exist between siblings. Expert Frank Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel states, “It's the roles siblings adopt that lead to differences in behavior. And parents tend to reinforce these roles, whether they realize it or not.” If you look at facts about firstborns on the internet, you get things like “Firstborns are bossy,” or “Firstborns are independent.” 

In my family, these stereotypes have been true for many generations. My grandmother had to sacrifice her education and was only able to finish middle school because she was the oldest and had to take the responsibility of helping her parents with her 13 siblings. That is a lot of responsibility! Although I don’t have thirteen siblings, I have two that can be a handful. I have a younger brother who is in 5th grade and a younger sister who is in kindergarten. They are so spoiled, and sometimes I can get kind of jealous because I have a lot of responsibilities. For example, I wanted to go to school, but I decided it was best to stay remote because I have to pick them up from the bus stop, and if I went to school that would mean I would have to run to get home. 

My parents are also harder on me than they are on them about my grades, especially my mom because she didn’t complete school. Since I am the oldest and the closest one to being in high school where my grades matter, she is always making sure I understand what I am learning, mainly when I was transitioning to a new school. Just getting into the school was tough. To get into BLA (Boston Latin Academy) I had to take a hard exam, and I made it harder for myself by putting a lot of pressure on myself. All of it was because I was thinking about how I needed to do well so that I could get into BLA and be an example for my siblings.

Last year was the first year that I was at BLA, and I was still getting used to all the new difficult expectations. I have always been a straight-A student, but that term I got my first B. You might think a B isn’t a bad grade, but I am just not that good with change especially after so many years. At my previous school, we didn’t have many science teachers, and I only had science for a year so science class at BLA was very hard for me to get used to, which was the reason why I got a B. 

Before I saw my report card, I was excited for my mom to get home so that I could show her. Usually, I would get all A’s and my mom would tell me about how proud she was and how it was great that I was doing so well in school. This time was different, though, because as soon as I saw my grades, the excitement changed to embarrassment. At first, my mom didn’t say anything about my report card, but I could see that my mom was a bit disappointed. After a few minutes, she told me that she was proud of me and that I should try my best to do better so that my grades could be high and so that my siblings could see from my example. After that, she began to tell me how my siblings look up to me, and I should remember that I am a role model for them.

I was so frustrated because I tried so hard to get my grades up by doing extra credit projects, asking questions, and studying more, but it wasn’t enough. I felt jealous of my brother because his grades were lower than mine, but my parents weren’t as focused on his grades as they were on mine.

Looking back at that moment, I don’t feel that jealousy or those feelings I did before. I have learned that my grades don’t define who I am and that I can be myself. 

Even though sometimes I feel pressured, I always have an amazing time with my siblings, especially when we are on vacation when we go on road trips! My favorite trip was when we went to New York. It was two summers ago, but I remember the trip like it happened yesterday. We went to the Bronx Zoo and had an amazing time. We saw so many animals, and it was so great to see the excitement on my siblings’ faces. The park was huge, and we weren’t even able to go around all of it in one day, so we had to do the other half of the zoo the next day. The park had a scavenger hunt where we had to find specific animals around the zoo, and my siblings and I were so competitive. Unlike the other families there doing the scavenger hunt together, we all split up and made it into a challenge. My sister went with my dad, my brother went with my mom and I went with my aunt. Obviously, I am older, so I had to go easier on them (I forgot about the scavenger hunt mid-way through). On the way home, we were sad that we had to leave, but I spent the entire four hours watching movies and playing games. 

We have fun all the time, not just on trips. Every Friday we have family game night. It is so much fun and we have a blast. We spend hours playing games and fighting over monopoly. Game night is a way of getting all of our competitive energy out. It also gives us a chance to just forget about everything and just spend time with each other having fun. 

Moments like those are the best part about having siblings. It is so great that I am the oldest because I can see my younger siblings grow up. Being an older sibling could come with a lot of pressure, but there are times where having younger siblings can be a lot of fun so I wouldn’t trade my siblings for the world! 

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