Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On being an oldest child

After looking at these hilarious photos on Buzzfeed, "21 Photos Proving that Eldest Siblings Have the Toughest Jobs in the World," I started thinking about being an oldest child.
Reading to my little sister
Experts say that oldest children tend to be confident, determined, conscientious, organized, and born leaders. They also are often eager to please and like to avoid trouble. They often gravitate to leadership roles (almost all U.S. presidents and more than half of all Nobel prize winners have been either first-born children or first-born sons). They also tend to have the most earning power and pursue "intellectual" jobs. Famous eldest children include Hillary and Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Winston Churchill, George W. Bush, Bill Cosby, and Richard Branson, as well as macho actors such as Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and all the actors who have played James Bond. I've read that most pastors and teachers are first-born children, too.
I was actually the tallest for much
of my childhood--no longer!
I fit this definition of oldest child in many ways. I was definitely a good girl while being a trailblazer. I've always had good organizational skills and reasonable confidence, and I'm naturally drawn to leadership, more so than my siblings. I feel good when I take risks or try new things and am successful. I don't fear change; in fact, it makes my life more interesting. On the other hand, my sister is the only one of the three of us who has an advanced degree (she became a physician). She was way more studious and conscientious than I was! But she's also a classic middle child in being a peace maker (now that she's older, not when we were younger--haha!). She was the least likely to get into conflict with my parents when we were  children! The oldest and the youngest were the rebels, even though we rebelled in very different ways (I mostly talked back or expressed my opinions strongly!).

Still tallest (at right)
Growing up as the oldest child, the thing I disliked the most was that I always had to be the first to get shots when we would go to the doctor. At the same time, my mom knew that asking me to set a good example and be strong would appeal to my personality! (See #1 in the Buzzfeed article.)

It's definitely true that oldest children train their parents (#3). In my case, I was a medically fragile child, with a cleft lip and palate and a club foot, so I really trained them! They were probably much better prepared for when my brother Stephen was born underweight and couldn't leave the hospital for several days.

By my senior year in high school, Nadine had passed me
up in height and Stephen was getting close

    My husband Mike (at right)
    with his younger sibs
    Experts also say that two firstborns are not the most compatible of matings (although also not the worst). Guess what I did? Married another eldest child! This iVillage article says about this type of matching: "Likely high friction. Either butting heads from day one, or falling into a controller-pleaser relationship. Think John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal, and you'll have some idea of how difficult it can be to make such a pairing work."

    This Woman's Day article says that both firstborns always want to be in control (think Bill and Hillary Clinton) and offers this good advice: "Try to understand that as strongly as you feel about something (like where to go on vacation), that’s likely how strongly your partner feels about his choice. Take that into consideration and make compromises to keep the relationship solid." It helps us that we are both pretty flexible and easy-going!
    I'm happy to report that while two firstborns being married can have some down sides (the #1 pitfall is that we do too much for our children instead of forcing their independence...because WE know the best way to do it, are faster, or more efficient), but we've created a happy, successful marriage in spite of what the "experts" say." I like being the oldest child, and I also like being married to one because we understand each other. How about you?

    Mike with his siblings several years ago
    (oldest, middle, youngest)
    Me with my siblings and Dad last year--
    see how much taller they are than me now?
    (oldest, youngest, Dad, middle)

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