1. The oldest sets the bar for academics.
If the oldest does well in school then all bets are off. My brother really went to town when he set the academic bar. He was on the honor roll for all four years of high school. I haven’t even graduated yet. During my first year our grades were already being compared. My parents expected at least the honor roll from me. There were times when I thought about doing well. I thought about completing my homework, studying hard for tests, climbing the mountain of success and ending up with similar grades as my brother, but it just wasn’t in me. I hated school too much. The academic bar was there, high above my head, waiting for me to reach it or even surpass it, and I thought forget it. There’s more to life than good grades.
2. The oldest sets the bar for marriage.
My brother got married when he was twenty-six. He moved out of the house, got engaged within a year, and got married without skipping a beat. I’m twenty-seven now and I’ve been single for over four years. My parents ask me at least once a week if I’m seeing anybody. I can’t even attend a family birthday party without an aunt, uncle, or cousin asking me if I’m still single. It’s like they think you’re not an adult if you’re not in a relationship. “You’re still not seeing anybody?” As if I’m a child who’s refusing to grow up. “You’re still playing with toys?” What’s the difference? Is it a crime to be single at this age? Do people have nothing to talk about unless you’re in a relationship? The bar was set and I have no intention of coming close to it. The word “marriage” isn’t even in my vocabulary anymore.
3. The oldest gets a car first.
When my grandfather lost his license he had to get rid of his car. It was a piece of junk so selling it was out of the question. It still ran but it was like watching a three-legged dog try to walk after getting a hip replaced with balsa wood. That didn’t stop me from wanting it though. I would have cherished that poor old thing. When my parents told me that my brother was getting it, I was crushed. I lost my desire to get my license after that. What good would driving be if it weren’t in a free car? Everything is better when it’s free. I knew that then and I know that now. The oldest sibling strikes again.
4. Your parents are veterans the second time around.
My brother got to experience everything he desired without a worry in the world. My parents were amateurs, which allowed him to get away with quite a bit. He could take them through hell without them even realizing they were surrounded by flames. By the time I was born they were seasoned vets. They knew exactly what to look for. Lying to them was almost impossible at first. I had to really work my craft, practice on my teachers and classmates, and finally break down their walls of honesty. It’s like they had a database for every lie my brother ever told them. They’d take my stories about where I was going, who I’d be spending time with, when I’d be home, and they’d try to find a match. They’d always repeat themselves to see if I’d have the same responses. They were smart at first, but after a while it was routine for me. I can’t even imagine how great it must have been for my brother. The first time he broke curfew, first time he went out drinking, first time he took a girl home, first time he took their car out, it must have been like having the city as his own personal playground. My parents would phone my friend’s parents just to make sure I was actually with the people I said I’d be with. They’d hide their car keys when they’d go to bed. They’d listen when I’d come home to make sure I was alone. There wasn’t a hope in hell for me to get into trouble and create my own fear and loathing adventures. I had to put a lot of effort into it.
5. Hand me downs.
The worst part about growing up as a second child has to be the hand me downs. It’s like attending school as a replica of the first-born. Teachers that my brother had would constantly call me by his name because I’d be wearing the same clothes he wore a few years earlier. I even had the same haircut as him. The only difference was my face. There’s nothing more depressing than wearing your brothers old pair of shoes while he walks around sporting new ones like he won the lottery. I had to find believable ways to ruin the hand me downs so I could get new clothes. Getting them really dirty never worked. I just ended up sitting in class wearing dirty hand me downs. Eventually, I had to hop chain link fences and get the shirt snagged on the top and pull it down until it ripped. It had to be precise and look accidental. That was the key. I’d throw a shoe in a ditch and tell my parents I lost it while running away from a rabid dog. I’d have to sprint through the door, out of breath with a frightened look on my face while acting hysterical, trying to remember the story I put together in my head, just so they’d buy me a new pair of shoes. At least it shaped me into a more creative person. It’s a good thing parents can’t hand me down personalities.