Surviving and Thriving as a Firstborn

Many moons ago, my mom presented the “There’s No One Like You” book series by Dr. Kevin Leman to my sisters and me. Through five books, Dr. Leman narrates the inherent traits, personality quirks, and a behavioral analysis of the first, middle, last, only, and adopted child, through the voice of a sweet mama bear who explains what makes each of her cubs “special” and “unique.”

Birth order is intriguing. And sure, there are exceptions to the norm and qualities differ from family to family. No person is the same and I’m not about to delve into a messy philosophical nature vs. nurture debate. However, the study of birth order and Dr. Leman’s books present one irrefutable conclusion: The firstborn is the best. Okay, fine. Settle down. What I meant is: Birth order matters and it affects behavior, relationships, job performance, and just about everything in between

Mindfulness of the undeniable features of the first, middle, and last child, and through 22 years’ worth of experiences and gained wisdom, I’ve developed a few tips on surviving and thriving as the oldest child, specifically of course, the oldest female child.

1. If your sibling needs to make a tough choice and you know for absolute certainty that if you just told them what you did in a similar situation, how you fared, and what they should do now, you would make their life so much easier and they should appreciate your true and tried solution, because gosh darned, they are lucky to have you, take a breath and tread lightly. With the purest of intentions, firstborns love to boss…ahem…I mean guide younger siblings. So go ahead, offer up a little advice. But ultimately, let them make the decision just as you did. You’ll sweat and worry as you watch them sink or swim, but fortunately, they have you as a lifeguard.

2. Your parents will parent your younger siblings differently, and the sooner you embrace this, the merrier your home will be. Let’s face it, you were the guinea pig, and for a little, it was just you. By the time the second or third child comes along, parents have learned a bit, relaxed a lot, and may try new techniques. For example, your parents may let your siblings pierce their ears at age eight though you waited painfully until age twelve. And you may find Fruity Pebbles in the cupboard while you long ago munched on Cheerios, begging for artificially flavored breakfasts. It’s best if you just compliment the earrings, pour yourself bowl of sugary cereal, and move on.

3. It is perfectly safe and quite healthy to let go of the reins every once and while, sit back and let the siblings plan something for the family. I understand you’re the natural planner and born leader and you take care of family arrangements, send reminders, and pay up front for everything, but let it go. Your siblings need to learn how to pick the perfect gift, plan a birthday party, and collaborate with others. By all means offer suggestions and do your part, but the siblings will appreciate your confidence in their ability to get the job done and not every gift, party, or collaborative idea, needs to be perfect. *Cue the perfectionist’s cringe*

4. Despite the kicking and screaming, you are indeed responsible for your younger siblings’ actions. I bet my bottom dollar you’ve heard many times, “Where do you think she/he learned that from?” or “Set a good example” or “Your siblings look up to you.” No wonder first-borns are over-achieving and ambitious. The fate of their younger siblings rest in their hands! In all honesty though, you do indeed set the stage, and your siblings take will be compared to you every step of the way. Raise the bar high and hold yourself accountable. It’s a grand responsibility but hey, responsibility is your thing, right?

5. Finally, learn something from your siblings. You may be the oldest, but contrary to popular belief, you do not know it all. Your siblings may not heed your golden advice, they may wear earrings before you and eat fruity pebbles, they may not jump to suggest an anniversary gift, and they may do most of the looking-up-to, but they are also the best of friends one can find, and come hell or high water, they’re there. So take the weight of the world off your shoulders, first-borns, you have someone to help carry it.

Thanks for reading,


One thought on “Surviving and Thriving as a Firstborn

  1. What an insightful and humorous look at life as a first-born!!!…. And that’s coming from a “first born” that loved you first!! Great post😄


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