Being the Oldest Child
This is the third in a series of articles I have written on birth order and how it can affect peoples’ lives, both as children and as adults. People who are born oldest, in the middle, and youngest all have certain images and stereotypes associated with them. In many cases, the conventional wisdom regarding birth order may not be accurate, but in other situations it may hit the mark.
After interviewing my sister (the middle child) and my brother (the youngest child), I am now going to interview myself – yes, myself - about being an oldest child. This should be interesting.
Did you have feelings of jealousy or insecurity when your younger siblings were born? If so, what strategies did you use to receive attention?
Well, I have no memory of this, since I was only two, but I reportedly had quite a difficult time adjusting when my sister was born. My parents bought me a Big Wheel tricycle as a present, and I allegedly ran over my sister’s fingers with it. I seem to have had an easier time when my brother was born a couple of years later. However, I still hadn’t gotten used to having Cate around. I reportedly asked my parents if my sister could be returned to the hospital after my brother was born!
How do you think your life would have been different if you had been a middle child?
I would probably have had many of the same issues my sister did, although being a guy would probably have helped in some regard. My sister was not only the middle child, but the first (and only) daughter of the family. This led to the usual increased amount of protectiveness and scrutiny.
However, the oldest child also has to deal with an even more significant amount of scrutiny from his or her parents. When they have their first child, parents often have an idealistic, strict attitude toward parenting. We become experimental guinea pigs, which leads to benefits for the younger children later on.
Both middle and youngest children have a blueprint to follow. They can use the oldest child to learn what to do (or not to do, as may often be the case). The oldest child has no one to emulate and must blaze his or her own trail.
How do you think your life would have been different if you had been the youngest child?
I would definitely have been able to take advantage of laxer rules. However, I also would have been teased more. Every birth order has its advantages and disadvantages.
What advantages does being the oldest child have?
Being the oldest child can teach you a fair amount about responsibility, caution and conscientiousness.
What disadvantages does being the oldest child have?
Like I wrote before, the oldest kid inevitably receives the strictest parenting. Parents usually relax with the younger siblings, especially the youngest.
Do you feel that you lacked a sense of identity?
No, actually this could be considered one of the perks. The oldest child is probably the only one who DOESN’T have this issue. We have a very lucid conception of our place in the family.
Oldest children are sometimes stereotypically known for being cautious, careful, and exhibiting perfectionist qualities. Do you think that you fit any of these attributes?
I think I am a relatively cautious person. I do not usually consider myself a perfectionist, but I can be very nitpicky about my writing. I will often repeatedly read through and edit articles like this, trying to get every word just right.
Other stereotypes of oldest children are that they are bossy, snobby, and solitary. Do you feel that you have any of these attributes?
Bossy and snobby? I probably was sometimes as a kid. I don’t think I typically am now. Solitary? Yes. I spent many hours in my room by myself, in my own little world, as a kid.
Famous oldest children include Reese Witherspoon, Harrison Ford, Walter Cronkite, and Winston Churchill. Which one of them do you think you are most like (if any)? Which one of them would you like to be (if any)?
I don’t think I am very much like any of them, but if I have to choose, I will go with Walter Cronkite. Both of us have a strong interest in political/historical issues. As for whom I’d like to be, I'll go with Winston Churchill.
Overall, how do you think being the oldest child has affected your life?
Like my brother said, your birth order shapes your familial relationships, as well as other relationships that you have. Being an oldest child is a significant part of my identity.
Birth Order Series
- Parenting Your Oldest Child - What to Expect and Do - Parents - Families.com
- What birth order says about you (and your siblings) - TODAY Health
You know the stereotypes: Only children are selfish, youngest children are spoiled, oldest children are driven and middle kids have a Jan Brady complex. You can argue with your siblings about how true those statements are -- but experts say there are
- Why Parents Are Stricter With Older Children
If you think your parents let your younger siblings get away with everything, you're probably right. A new study concludes that parents punish older children more harshly -- and they're wise to do so. A new mathematical model supports unequal treatme
Top of the Totem Pole
Are you an eldest child? How do you think it has affected your life? Leave a comment if you wish.