1. Bearing the role of being the guinea pig, and having all the strict rules enforced on them instead.
As the firstborn, you will paradoxically always be your parents’ baby. Everything they do with you, they will do with kid gloves. (Chances are good you also find the Luvs commercials as funny – in that bleak, depressing, bitterly ‘why me?!’ kind of way — as your parents.) No dating, no cell phone, no alcohol, God forbid no weed, and did I mention no dating? At least until you’re 18, if not married.
2. And having to watch every single rule that kept an older sibling under lock and key be unceremoniously abandoned with any subsequent offspring.
By the time your younger sibling rolls around, your parents will have learned one crucial thing: kids are going to just be kids, and it’s honestly usually not worth the headache to try to slow them down. To the older sibling’s point of view, as long as your younger brother or sister isn’t teething on an extension cord, your parents think they’re getting the job done just fine. We put the slack on that leash for you. You’re welcome.
3. Taking the fall for for ev.er.y.thing.
Because even though you’re still a kid yourself, you should know better, or at least know enough to stave off what seems like the greatest and most imminent of disasters.
4. Not always getting the first and best of everything.
Your siblings may sometimes get your hand-me-down clothes, but you’ll be the one with the hand-me-down car that breaks down just in time for your little sibling to start driving. (Either that, or your parents will grow so tired of you griping about your ride that they’ll just cut the middleman and arrange for your sibling to have a slightly better car. Your parents will eventually capitulate, it’ll just never be in the direction you want them to.)
5. Navigating a lot of things on their own — and then teaching their parents how to handle it with the younger siblings.
Even if you weren’t the first member of your family to go to college, the application process changes so much between generations that you’re going to have to try to figure out deadlines and tests and fees and processes all on your own. Chances are good you will always be the first to experience homesickness, the first to deal with hormones, the first to move away from home. And really, not having somebody who understands is going to suck a little. Older siblings do best when we find an older cousin, call them up, and hug them tight when you can. Older cousins were our surrogate sibling. They showed us the way
6. Being groomed into the family’s resident Oprah.
(No offense to Mom’s heart-to-hearts, or Dad’s chummy pep talks.) With age comes being a know-it-all, or however that saying goes. But still, you are going to be pro at wresting your way into your sibling’s room when Mom and Dad refuse to cross that barrier, perching yourself on the foot of their bed, and telling your heartbroken, devastated little sibling that this too shall pass. Because it will. (Chances are you survived whatever it is that’s crushing their world, too.) It would be cruel for you to stand idly by and not try to help ease that pain. Besides, that’s your built-in best friend who’s hurting.
7. Honing an unrivaled ability to pass judgment.
Whether it’s the new love interest your little sibling brings home, the music and fashion trends that are gripping their peers, or anything in between, you’re going to have something to say about it. (I grew up on Harry Potter; my sister was raised on Twilight. Neither of us will ever see eye to eye on this, but dear God, I know in my heart of hearts that I am right, and that is all that matters.) As the older sibling, the bar you expect your younger siblings to jump is pretty high and your looks of judgment can be withering — but you do this in the name of teaching them how to have standards.
8. Reliving all of the worst parts of adolescence like a torrid, perpetual Groundhog’s Day.
Whether or not they mean to, younger siblings make their older siblings revisit all of those feelings of puppy love and heartbreak, bad grades and bullying. The scars of adolescence run deep, however, and it’s going to crush any well-meaning older sibling twofold because they might not be over their own pangs and wounds and resentments. Still, misery loves company, and as much as it kills us to see younger siblings suffer, at least now we both know we’re not alone.
9. Dealing with the fact that the expectation for older siblings to settle down is always at a premium.
Older siblings are a lightning rod for that holiday gathering question everyone hates. Nobody ever makes a beeline for the little sibling who’s been dating someone since middle school at holiday parties. It is always the oldest sibling who gets asked, “So, when are you going to have a family of your own?!” After all, they’ve been out in the real world longer (theoretically), they’ve gotten the most experience babysitting their little siblings (theoretically), and they’re the ones who are (theoretically) bound to do everything first all over again. And when your siblings do finally get married and have kids of their own, if you have yet to do this, you’ll still be asked the same question — but now, it will be tinged with pity and that knowing sense that yes, dear, there’s still time for you.
10. Being called “bossy” while younger siblings “assert themselves.”
These are two sides to the same exact coin, but everyone loves an underdog. Not everyone can have the euphemism. This is the cross older siblings have to bear.
11. Doing the grunt work of getting parents to acquiesce to a request.
They would beg for a puppy, for Gushers in the lunchbox, for a playdate… whatever it was, chances are the older sibling had their sights on it for a long time. They’d work at that request like your parents just needed to be worn down — for some reason, every older sibling I’ve ever met is the kind of person who does not take kindly to “no” — and bring in the younger sibling with a well-timed request for the same thing. Usually, your parents were so tired of being asked that they’d crumble at the fear that the second kid was now in on the request, too. (This is how your older sibling taught you about the magic that is teamwork. They were the bad cop. They took that rap for the lil’ good cops everywhere.)
12. Protecting their little siblings fiercely.
This is twofold in that most older siblings learned how to throw a punch in case the younger child ever needed somebody to stand up to a bully for them, but they were also the ones who put two and two together and understood when to protect their younger sibling’s innocence. Older siblings would make their little siblings sing and read stories when their parents got into a fight, or would corner dubious significant others in confrontations worthy of Hollywood rom-com plot twist.
13. Dealing with being the “less cute” kid.
It doesn’t matter who is ostensibly more conventionally attractive — the younger you are, the cuter you’re going to be. (Google “Chris Hemsworth Liam Hemsworth” if you don’t believe me. Go on. I’ll wait.) This begins when the older kid is shunted to the side when the new baby comes into the fold, and it never really leaves. The older child was never the precocious one — after all, they were older and wiser, so any tricks they had up their sleeve were simply attributed to age. Little siblings could get away with murder because they were cute. Do you know how much your older sibling would give for that kind of trump card? All. They would give all.
14. Easing their parents into the unknown world of an empty nest.
After all, they’re the one who are usually given the chance to leave home first. They’re the one who have to deal with those first soul-crushing parental tears about the baby growing up. And while the older sibling doesn’t have to worry about your parents catching empty nest syndrome at your departure — finally, something the younger siblings have to manage on their own! — at least the younger sibling’s room isn’t the one that gets changed into a guest room. At least your bedroom is still the shrine to a younger yesteryear, regardless of how embarrassing that shrine may be.
15. And at the end of the day, usually being the ones who have an indestructible sense of home.
No matter how far they moved, or how much of their own lives and family they’ve crafted for their own, older siblings will always know when to fly home, and how to bumrush a plane counter to do so. They’re the ones who wax most nostalgic on Throwback Thursdays, the ones who do the most elaborate birthday posts, and the ones who scheme big on doing things for Mom and Dad. They might not be there for every holiday, but they will always remember what it feels like to bring the gang back together like no time has passed at all.