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Why Large Families are UNFAIR to Oldest and Middle Children While FAIR to Youngest Children, Part 1/3-OLDEST CHILDREN
Some Endure Hell While Others Endure Bliss
Introductory Metaphor -A boy enters a dark forest. It is so dark, there isn't even a glimmer of light shining through. He starts to leave; however, there are thundering footsteps coming ever closer. Unaware, the boy is kidnapped and carried into an even darker forest. He is then sold into what seems to be neverending servitude from which there is no reprieve at all.
For the purpose of the hub, the working definition of large families is 6 or more siblings per household.
Large family life can be quite difficult and onerous for parents and children involved. Parents are often unable to financially provide for a large number of children. They also cannot simply give all their children the prerequisite, individualized care, love, and/or attention the latter need. In large families, it is impossible for all of the children to have their individual needs met whether financially or emotionally.
In large families, there is differential treatment of children by their parents based upon their individual birth order. There is no such thing as equal and/or fair parity within the large family system. There are children who must become adults very early in life. Others simply coast along, having quite a prolonged childhood and adolescence, often into adulthood. A few just disappear into the family canvas. Parents of large families have certain and unwritten expectations and/or roles regarding their children based upon the latter's ordinal birth order position.
Oldest children in large families have it the hardest. Oldest children regardless of family size are in a difficult and quite arduous situation. They are held to a much tougher and stricter standard than other ordinal birth order positions. However, in large families, this situation is quadrupled. In large families, they are on their own very early in life. They are oftentimes not nurtured nor played adequate attention to after they reach a certain age. It is the parents' contention that oldest children do not need such as much as the younger children in the family do.
Oldest children in large families tend to be discarded in favor of their younger siblings. They are considered to be just there according to their parents. Parents of large families feel that it is totally unnecessary to nurture and show any type of affection to their oldest children. In the parents' eyes, their oldest children do not need such attention and/or affection as they are no longer babies or young children.
Many parents of large families consider such displays of affection towards their oldest children to be "babying" and/or "mollycoddling" them. Oldest children in large families are expected to MAN or WOMAN up as soon as possible. In other words, they had better grow and toughen up, grin, endure, and face the responsibilities that life has to offer.
Average parents of large families see their oldest children as adults, not children. They expect their oldest children to be adults very quickly. In large families, oldest children oftentimes receive the least affection by their parents. They are strongly exhorted that they are no longer children and to assume adult responsibilities. It is quite common for oldest children in large families to assume adult duties and/or obligations in early childhood.
Oldest children in large families can be classified typically as parentified children. The phenomena of the parentified child occurs among oldest children in large families. While their counterparts in medium and small sized families have normative childhoods, their childhoods are spent raising younger siblings. This is due to the fact that parents of large families have more children than they can effective raise by themselves. It is quite customary for the former to assign childrearing responsibilities to their oldest child.
Oldest children in large families do not have individual lives. The concept of me or free time is absent in their lives. They are constantly at the beck and call of either their parents and/or younger siblings. The needs of parents and/or younger siblings are first and foremost while their own needs are last or next to last. They have to endure continuous interruptions and/or intrusions from parents and/or siblings, always requesting something of one kind or another. They are expected to BE THERE and/or ON 24/7/365. They frequently overextend themselves for their families. They are told that is part of their duties as part of the family dynamic. Their status is put upon, overused, underappreciated, and/or just plain unappreciated.
Whatever oldest children in large families achieve and/or accomplish is either minimized, trivialized, or just ignored. Parents of large families view them as adults who should not have to be praised or congratulated for a job well done. Such parents contend that their oldest children should be beyond the level where they need constant positive reinforcement. They figure that their oldest children should possess sufficient self-motivation and/or sense of purpose to achieve, not depending upon them to be emotional coaches.
This means that oldest children in large families must often or not be their own support system since their parents are unavailable. They learn early in life that although they are always there for their parents and/or younger siblings, this is seldom, if ever,reciprocated by the parents. Naturally, their parents are tending to the younger children in the family as they need more parental love, attention, and support. An oldest child once conveyed to me, " I was ALWAYS there for my parents and siblings but my parents were HARDLY there for me."
Oldest children in large families oftentimes have year round part-time jobs to either give them the extras or most likely to supplement their family's income. Some even discontinue their education altogether, working full time to help support their families. Many oldest children in large families do not complete their education because it is imperative that they work. Tertiary and/or other higher forms of education are beyond the reach of many average oldest children in large families.
Oldest children in large families have to give up their personal aspirations and goals in order to assist their parents and/or finish raising younger siblings. It is not unusual for them to remain home while their younger siblings are busy embarking on their individual lives. Many oldest children of large families do not live their own lives as their lives are dedicated to their parents and/or siblings. They are seen as the be there and/or go to people if there is a problem.
Oldest children in large families are taken for granted. They are not considered to be individuals or children in themselves. They are a useful commodity to their parents and/or younger siblings. They are only valued if and/or when they fulfill a stated purpose. When they no longer serve and/or fulfill such a purpose, they are simply discarded and not acknowledged.
Many oldest children in large families leave home at the first opportunity. They see leaving home as a chance to obtain the freedom and individual that they did not have at home. At home, they were mired and incessantly inundated with adult responsibilities and/or obligations in one form or another. So escape from home is their first taste of freedom and the ability to live a semblance of a carefree life.
In Part 2/3 of this hub, how and why middle children in large families are treated quite unfairly, even ignored will be addressed at length.
© 2013 Grace Marguerite Williams