It’s hard to be the oldest child

Poor Evie.

I’ve just been noticing lately that we’re awfully hard on the poor girl. Basically, when it’s Evie’s fault, it’s Evie’s fault, but when it’s not Evie’s fault, it’s still Evie’s fault. We yell at her for hitting her brother, and then we yell at her for not getting out of Ollie’s way when he’s trying to hit her. We yell at her for taking toys from him, but then we yell at her for not finding a way to share when he takes something from her. She tries to help by comforting Ollie when he’s crying, and we yell at her to give him some space. We tell her to wait her turn, not interrupt, and to let Ollie answer his own questions, while simultaneously ignoring him when he does the same, justifying that he gets so few chances to speak. She tries to help, or just gets excited, and we yell at her for bringing things up, such as asking Ollie if he should get pee pee chocolate when we’re trying to end the practice.

I try so hard not to do it, but it’s like I just can’t help it. There are times when you have a strategy as a parent, and a 5 year old just messes that up. Being as she’s older, we do expect her to be the responsible party between the two of them. However, it’s hard on a 5 year old who is constantly being asked to take the high road. Her life sure would be easier without a younger sibling.

However, all this childhood angst we’re creating might not be the worst thing in the world.

I have long been fascinated by the whole “birth order” thing, wherein children have certain personality traits based on the order they were born. To give a few examples, first children tend to do better in school, because they tend to be permanently seeking the approval of adults, and also because they had a little “boost” as a young child being alone around adults, while youngest children tend to be less responsible and have a career in something more exotic but less secure, like being an artist. Youngest children have the security that comes from having a whole group of people taking care of everything before they get there.

Now I don’t believe birth order is the end all be all, but I do anecdotally see evidence of this all over the place. No predictor of personality (or behavior in general) seems to be very accurate, but birth order seems to be the most consistent predictor across cultures, geographic locations, socio-economic standards, etc.

And let’s face it, oldest children are the best! (Says an oldest child who is married to another oldest child)

I can’t help but think that all of this pressure the oldest sibling happens to take is one of the reasons they tend to be more responsible for things. Because we *make* them responsible for things. Overtly, we ask Evie to help her brother, but inadvertently we force her to take responsibility for both her actions and his actions. As parents, we lean on her more, and Ollie gets to skate under the radar a little bit. It’s no wonder then, that after a lifetime of that you just get used to the mantle of responsibility.

All that being said, I do continually feel bad when I realize we aren’t exactly being fair to her. Not only do I not want to be too hard on a 5 year old, I also want my 2 year old to turn into a responsible adult as well, not some free spirit, no-responsibility, must-have-my-way man-baby. I know that’s one extreme, and there’s no real danger of that happening to Ollie, but if it is true that older children consistently score better on tests or are more responsible, then isn’t it our duty to sort of spread that out a little bit?


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