Who’d be the First Born?

Well, me actually. I came first with all my parents’ hopes, fears and aspirations clinging to my back like the proverbial monkey. I blazed those trails. I battled for privileges that my younger brother, following comfortably in my wake, simply took as read. But it wasn’t all bad. My birth position carries distinct advantages. I had no one to live up to.  Everything I did was seen for the first time and consequently was charming and appreciated. And all the photos are of me. Looking back it doesn’t seem that being the elder child was too much of a disadvantage. I seem to have survived relatively unscathed.

My own First Born does not appear to share my view. She is certain that she gets the sticky end of the stick. Following careful consideration by her and her friends, it has been decided that she only has it so hard because she is the eldest and that by the time her little brother comes through we parents will have abandoned our frankly silly rules about what is and isn’t acceptable. She truly believes that for every battle she fights, her sister a mere school year behind her, gains all the advantage.

And she’s right of course, to a degree. Being the First Born does carry with it inherent problems. We all know that children don’t come with a manual. We all make it up as we go along. Parenting is a combination of what you hear, what you see, what was done to you as a child and a healthy dollop of gut instinct. Therefore, if fate decides that you will pop out first then you simply have to deal with your parents feeling their way along. You are their great experiment. Such is your lot in life.

I do have a degree of sympathy for her stance. Things that seemed of monumental importance first time round are eclipsed by other issues when they come up for the fourth time. Problems that gave me angst filled days and sleepless nights when I first encountered them become just another complication with subsequent children. Her younger siblings get away with things that were totally forbidden when she was their age. The issue hasn’t changed – it’s just that I have a different perspective on it. I know things now that I didn’t then. I am starting to work out which battles to fight and which ones to ignore.

But what my eldest probably won’t understand until she has children of her own, is that some things are non negotiable no matter when you were born. I am certain that there are some issues where I will come down just as hard on her little brother as I am doing on her. And they are nothing to do with parenting styles, experience or losing the will to fight. Those things are all about the values that we, as her parents, believe in. They are strong and true and unshakeable and will always remain just as important to us no matter how often we have to explain them. And that, I’m afraid, is just life.