Being a younger sibling can often leave you feeling like you’re getting the raw end of the deal. You’re always the sidekick, never the hero, forever living in the shadow of someone whose only claim to their lofty status is that they turned up first. They lord it over you, boss you about and always seem to get first choice while you’re made to wait. You didn’t ask for this. You didn’t even get a choice. It’s completely unfair, right? Wrong.
Anyone fortunate enough to be born ahead of their siblings can tell you that the position of firstborn child is no bed of roses. For every positive perk there is a definite downside, and no amount of junior jealously can change that. You entitled younger children simply don’t have a clue. There is no free lunch for big brother, and these are 10 Things I’ve Learned:
1. There’s No Manual
As a child, I always felt like I was punished disproportionately for my transgressions compared to my younger brother. He would do something that I had been royally lambasted for, often multiple times, and yet always seemed to come away without so much as a slap on the wrist. It wasn’t until I got older that I figured out why this seemed to be happening. The simple fact was that when I did it, I did it first. When I did it it was new and shocking but, when he did it, it had already been done and my folks were no longer shocked. They just dealt with it. I don’t blame my parents for this perceived injustice – It’s easy to forget sometimes that your parents weren’t always parents and they had to learn – but it was pretty lame being the tester child for fifteen years. Anybody fortunate enough to have benefitted from the experiments conducted by first time parents on their firstborn children should bear this in mind next time they complain about us getting the first turn on the swings, sometimes.
2. What’s Mine Is Yours
A common complaint of younger children is the massive overabundance of hand-me-downs. While the gender gap often eliminates such re-appropriations, second-hand stuff is standard fare for subsequent same-sex siblings. What many of them seem to fail to appreciate, however, is that these supposedly sub-standard garments and gizmos were once the beloved belongings of yours truly and my fellow elder children. We liked those clothes. They were cool! We loved those clothes! Now we can’t have them anymore AND we have to watch you destroy them because you don’t give a damn about them or us. Yes, I’m still bitter about my little red Fireman Sam wellingtons!
3. The Big Bully
Despite their diminutive nature, younger children often seem to think it’s a good idea to fight their elder siblings. Is this bravery? Is it stupidity? It is, in fact, neither. You see, whatever we firstborn do in this scenario, we become the victim. If we try to appeal for sympathy or aid from parents, we are dismissed as liars or weaklings who should be able to defend ourselves. If we retaliate, we are violent monsters who perpetrate unprovoked attacks on our tiny, peace-loving, harmless neighbours. We are denied any effective means to protect ourselves from this juvenile aggression and the juveniles know it, because everybody loves an underdog and nobody likes a bully.
4. Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery
As we get older and become more mature, the nature of sibling relationships changes. Effective means of communication between parties mitigate some of the problems that plagued your early years, and you begin to see that this smaller person might have some potential. They start following you around, aping your style and your interests, and why shouldn’t they? You’re cool! The things you like are cool, or at least they were until this little dork starting ruining everything! They’re on the right track, sure, but they just don’t understand that they aren’t doing it right! Now you have to play along and accommodate their dumb ideas into your imaginary masterpieces. Even their good ideas aren’t really good, they’re just okay. They need almost constant adjustments, otherwise they’ll unbalance the entire thing! We want sidekicks to our heroes, not more (and decidedly lamer) heroes! You know what? Just do as I tell you. Everything will work out.
5. No Gods, No Masters
Having firmly established your position as leader of the pack, your younger siblings are now your loyal servants. They follow your commands without question and everything is right with the world. Nothing could mess this up. You’re unstoppable! But now your minions are beginning to find their own interests, and new friends to share and explore those interests with. Some of those interests look really cool! You want to get involved, but it quickly becomes apparent that you’re just the awkward third wheel here, present but not exactly integrating. Your junior is in control now. Your commands, suggestions and pleas go unheeded and, for the first time in a long while, you feel powerless. You cast your treacherous minion aside and retreat to your own domain, loathing the ingrate and vowing to never have anything to do with them ever again. They were stupid and they liked stupid stuff anyway.
6. You Against The World
As a newly minted teenager, you suddenly know everything about the world and how it functions. You’re a grown-up now. You should be doing grown up things like listening to cool music, wearing cool clothes and generally being cool. Your dumb kid siblings just don’t understand that you don’t want to play their stupid games anymore. They’re not cool. They’re not grown-ups. They should just stick to being a dumb kid. They don’t have to worry about things like looking cool, or being popular with the other cool people. They don’t know how hard life is! They don’t know what it’s like to be miserable or lonely or get rejected by that person you were totally crushing on for, like, six months. They’re only happy because they don’t know how horrible life is! Why are they so happy and carefree all the time?! It isn’t fair!
7. Learning Curve
Okay, we all know that the early-to-mid teens are some of the worst years of your life, but once you’re past that hump, things begin to look up again. You’ve got a few friends and you’ve learned that being popular is only important to people like those popular jerks who you are way better than. Life isn’t always fair but you’ve realised that it isn’t always horrible either. If only your thirteen year-old brother or sister was more aware of that fact. They just complain all the time about stupid stuff that isn’t important! Why is everything such a big deal? Why do they have to turn everything into such a massive drama? Are they stupid? Why are they always so angry and upset? They need to relax. It’s not like you don’t have problems, but you aren’t constantly bitching about them. Someone has some growing up to do.
8. Breaking New Ground
There comes a point in your life as an older sibling when you will suddenly realise that your brother or sister is not just a constant source of contradictory annoyance and general bad vibes. This usually comes about as the result of something happening to them that has not previously happened to you. It breaks the chain of events shackling you to them and them to you. You’re both older now. You begin to realise that you are your own people with your own qualities, strengths and weakness. You have your own problems and those are not always the same problem for all people. You’ve known each other all your lives. You know each other better than any friends ever could, so why not just accept that fact and bury the veritable mountain of hatchets you’ve both been carrying around for so long? It’s better than always being at each other’s throats!
9. My Brother’s Keeper
Life can be extremely unkind at points. I consider myself fortunate that I have had comparatively few truly awful moments in my life, but I’d be lying if I said there hadn’t been some moments of incredible sadness or pain during my time on this planet. During moments like these you need someone at your side, someone who knows how hard things can hit you and still be strong enough to talk to you candidly about what’s happening. On every occasion that I have been laid low by something, my brother has played a huge part in helping me get back on my feet. He’s not always the most considerate or tactful person, and he often struggles with expressing his own feelings, but his support has helped me out of some dark places. My support has helped him out of some dark places. We don’t keep score and we don’t expect anything for it. We do it because we are brothers and we love each other unconditionally.
10. Cool Story Bro
My brother is an absolute arse. He is bad-tempered, inarticulate, rude, tactless, selfish, lazy and a complete nightmare to deal with, but he is also brave, strong, kind, supportive and a surprisingly good cook. I don’t have to like everything about him, and he definitely doesn’t like everything about me either, but he is my closest friend. No matter what happens, I will always have time for my younger sibling.
He is an idiot, but he’s a well-meaning idiot.