Your mistakes barely counted against you
Your parents were not only worried about fucking you up, they just assumed it was going to happen. Oldest siblings are widely known to be the parenting lab rats; you carry the weight of most of the mistakes. You were the test run wherein your parents did lots of shit wrong so they could know better for the other kids. I firmly believe that many parents only have more than one child just so they can do things better than they did with the first. That said, your parents probably think their mistakes with you were far worse than they actually were. This worked to your advantage – every time you got in trouble as a teenager, or performed poorly in school, or dating an asshole, their first thought was “What did we do wrong?” not “What the hell is your problem?” Your younger siblings didn’t get that excuse. Oldest kids rarely heard the words “you were raised better than this” because, as far as your parents were concerned, that might not be true. Even if you knew that they did an amazing job and that, really, you were just kind of shitty sometimes and that all the blame should’ve been on you, it’s nice that you got cut more of a break.
Your word was law
At least, that’s what your siblings thought. You had been alive longer, so you knew more about how to live. You had known your parents longer, so you knew more about how to get what you wanted out of them. There was pretty much nothing you didn’t know in the adoring (and maybe slightly fearful) eyes of your little brothers/sisters. Even if you didn’t know the answer, you could always make something up and they would believe you anyway. There’s something wonderfully confidence-boosting about growing up in a house where you have seniority, your thoughts are valued, and your intelligence is respected – even if it’s on issues as silly as which pizza toppings go best together, or how to fix the wireless router.
But you really did know a lot
And even if your siblings were a pain in the ass, there was still some secret part of you that genuinely loved being about to impart wisdom. You knew all the little tricks that made navigating life in your house, with your parents, in school, with friends, and in love, a little easier. Seeing your littles have a slightly smoother ride because of the benefit of your experiences was – and likely still is – a thoroughly rewarding thing.
You still occasionally got second-hand items from cousins and friends, but for the most part, all of your stuff was new. And when you outgrew it, you got to pass it on to your younger siblings. Usually it was lame, outdated clothing that they were begrudgingly forced to wear, which was always hilarious for you. But occasionally, you passed on something valuable and sentimental that you only parted ways with after you absolutely couldn’t use it/fit into it anymore, and the act of passing it on to a younger sibling became a meaningful bonding ritual. Certain items become representative of your supreme coolness, and you could see them channeling it when those things become theirs. My older sister had a pair of cranberry, velvet Doc Martens circa 1994 and there was literally no better day in my childhood than when they were finally mine.
You were the unofficial extra parent
Sure, parts of this include babysitting duty, but for the most part, being the Senior Kid/Junior Parent was a pretty sweet deal; You often got asked your opinion about things like where to eat dinner or go on vacation or if your 13-year-old sister was too young to get her bellybutton pierced. It’s because you walked that line where you were older than your siblings, but still young enough to be in touch with “what the kids want/think/feel/are into these days”. You were basically the ambassador between your siblings and parents, garnering the respect and appreciation of both groups.
If anyone got their own room, it was you
That was just the natural order of things. For the rest of your lives, no matter what they go on to accomplish, you can always give your siblings a look that says, “Hope you had fun with your bunk beds, chumps.”
You could talk your little brothers and sisters into anything
Whether it was creating a united front against your parents (“We, the children, do hereby file this petition to extend curfew by one hour on weekends. You’ll see it has also been signed by the 9 and 11-year-olds who aren’t even old enough to go out.”), or trying to talk them into something ill-advised for your entertainment (“No, seriously, you should paint the dog’s nails. I did it once and mom and dad loved it.”), your younger siblings were likely the perfect combination of desperately approval-seeking and way too trusting, and you knew how to use it to your advantage.
You learned what it means to be protective
Every oldest sibling had those weird moments with their friends – usually the ones who were only children – when they would be harmlessly mean or taunting to your younger brother or sister and it turned into a major #recordscratch moment. Like, pause. You were the only person who got to be shitty to your siblings. Everyone else was required to treat them like goddamn royalty or they had you to answer to. This might’ve created a few awkward moments with your teenage friends, but it ended up teaching you a lifelong applicable lesson about loyalty and having your people’s backs.
You get to leave home first
Aside from the other exciting aspects of leaving your childhood home for the adult world, leaving behind siblings makes it so much better. Not only were you a brave, world-conquering hero in their eyes, but when you found yourself getting a little homesick and needing a momentary reprieve from the real world, having younger siblings at home made it possible to really go home again. When they grew up and moved out, going back always felt slightly weird because more people were gone. But when you’re the oldest, everyone stays right where you left them, at least for a while. There’s nothing more comforting than having that in the back of your mind as you navigate adult life for the first time.