Being the eldest child is definitely the best
‘Shotgun front seat’
You know all those pieces about how first borns are more intelligent, more focused, and more likely to succeed? Well I certainly do, as I have read them all, probably. Every time I read another, I diligently save the link and send it to my three younger, inferior siblings. It is best I encourage them to read, because I am more intelligent, more focused and more likely to succeed than they are, and without me I’m not sure where they’d be. Happy, I guess.
Because I’m also pretty bossy and competitive. It’s not my fault. When your parents give your younger, sweeter, meeker siblings an easier ride, then it turns you monstrous. Which is unfortunate, as it also makes you less lovable. But you’re resilient, because you know that if you stick with it, being the eldest child is the best. You shall inherit the earth. Also all your parents’ money.
I have realised that there are many other advantages of being the first born.
You learn stuff first
I got the scoop on Santa, after twigging that Daddy’s writing was THE SAME as Santa’s. It was satisfying to spread the message after dark on Christmas Eve, huddled around the tree. They cried, but I think they were relieved.
Everyone thinks you’re cool
It is uniquely satisfying to hear the hush fall over your sibling’s chattering friends when you enter the kitchen to rootle in the snack cupboard. And sure, you ham up the resting bitch face a little, and you could probably have been a little friendlier when one of them ventured a “hi”. But they allow you this power. And you revel in your own pseudo-mythology.
You are a benchmark
Yes, it can be exhausting being the pioneer. And sure, testing the “boundaries” of your parents’ patience is a thankless and sometimes punitive task. Literally: when I got really drunk at a family party on Christmas Eve aged 14, and fell down the stairs into my father’s boss’ feet, Mum and Dad didn’t speak to me until Boxing Day. Now, my sister comes home absolutely shitfaced all the time and they just L A U G H. But you know you are more responsible for it, and on some level, the angst and the stalemates and the groundings probably prepared you for something.
Calling “I’m the oldest” shuts down all debate
I always got to be the character I wanted to be on Crash Team Racing. I always got to sit in the front seat. I always got to choose what we watched on Sky. I always got first dibs on the youngest’s discarded food. I always got the best room on holiday.
Sometimes, your parents endorse the hierarchy, out of a sense of propriety. Sometimes you will enforce it – for you are authoritative, a maverick, a leader of siblings and men.
Getting put in charge when your parents went away
Have you ever ordered your siblings to unpack a dishwasher and then re-stock the cupboards with crockery? I have and it was fucking fun. The best bit was the youngest one was – at the time – so desperate for my approval, that she asked what else she could do to help. I lived like an empress that bank holiday weekend.
When you get older, you are the ringleader of a far more fun group
To some extent, you have always been a gang. But as children, your parents could seduce one of your number with a well-placed threat (“if you don’t tell me where your sister put it, I’ll pick you up from that party. In the people carrier”). Now you are adults (almost), you are a clan. Your loyalty to each other is stronger. Your parents both love and fear this.
You can teach them all you know
Standing up for your little brother and sisters is really fun
Perhaps it is a waspish put-down; perhaps the blood is roaring in your ears while you tell some fiendish little upstart not to dare touch your little sister again. Defending your kin is tribal and animalistic and the first time you really realise what love is.
You could tell your siblings anything and they would listen to you
I told my sister she’d turned blue. She believed me. I told my sister her eyes had gone literally square so she’d leave me to watch Skins in peace. She believed me.
Fine, it didn’t make me a good person. But now we laugh about it.
They listen to you when you have good advice, too
You can (try to) stop your little sister from making the same horrible errors as you do without a modicum of self-interest. You care purely and sincerely about her.
Watching them become people is so much fun
You remember when your brother used to eat acorns in the garden. At that point, you suspected he was of subhuman intelligence. Now your brother is so clever that you – periodically – trust his advice over your own. He is also the funniest, quickest person you know. You remember when your sister used to cry whenever she was alone – now she’s fierce and self-possessed and you wish you had been that determined when you were 17. And you remember when the baby was born and you were pissed off because you were 11 and didn’t need another sibling and then you met her and she was the cutest thing you had ever seen. And now she’s 14 and has a filthy sense of humour.
Watching your siblings grow up and develop complicated, interesting personalities is the privilege of the oldest. You remember it all.
Younger siblings keep you young
My sister taught me Snapchat. Thanks, hun.