Illustration by Zoe @203.yuyu
By Lye Wen Ying
You may not realize it, but many of us have undergone countless experiments since the day we were born. As the firstborn in the family, we are the guinea pigs, the subject of the experiments carried out by our parents. All of these eventually shape us into a person with strong leadership skills and is unflappable under chaotic circumstances.
From how to take care of a baby, choosing the right powdered milk to applying to universities, parents learn to do things the right way after carrying out innumerable trials on us. With us being the filter for our younger siblings, they tend to be well taken care of as parents are no longer inexperienced.
When I completed IGCSE, I had no idea whether I should take A-Levels, Foundation Programme or IB. I needed to do a lot of research and try to make the best decision on my own. My parents did not know what to advise me at that time because I was the first child they had. However, for my sister’s case, I was able to help her list out the pros and cons of each program so that she can have a clearer picture. Unlike me, she had a blueprint to follow. She realised that she should start thinking about what to study after graduating from secondary school.
When a new life is born in the family, parents normally pay more attention to the newborns as they are fragile and require more care. Slowly, we as the first child start to notice that our parents do not give us as much attention as we used to get. Consequently, we start to fight for more attention. If parents do not realise the situation, we may end up hating our younger siblings as we would feel that our younger siblings stole everything away from us. Indirectly, we have more responsibilities to carry on our shoulders too.
Although we are just a few years older than our siblings, we are expected to look after them and set a good example that they can look up to. When I did something that I was not allowed to do, my parents would cane me to serve as a lesson to both my younger sister and me. On the other hand, when it comes to my younger sister, they are more lenient in terms of punishment.
Furthermore, while our younger siblings can come to us for help, especially when they do not know the answer for their homework, we have to seek the answers by ourselves. Our parents will immediately know which reference book to purchase or which tuition centre is the best for our siblings as they have gained experience from their trials and errors with us. When not knowing what the most suitable decision to make is or facing relationship problems, we are always there to give our siblings optimal advice because we went through all of that earlier than they have.
Although being a firstborn means facing difficulties that our siblings may not come across, there are also some benefits of being the first child. To illustrate, we are the only ones who have ever gotten our parents’ full attention as we were the only child in the family before the birth of our siblings.
Being the eldest child, we tend to be more thoughtful and considerate compared to our siblings as we are used to taking care of our siblings. When we have arguments with others, we try to think about their point of view and reason things out with the intention of considering their concerns. In other words, we are more mature. We can handle things better when problems arise because we took up more responsibilities by helping our parents to take care of our siblings. Therefore, we can easily work with people from different walks of life in harmony.
Contrary to popular belief, being the eldest child in the family may not be as bad as we think. According to New York University professor and psychologist, Dr. Ben Dattner, first-born children are significantly more likely to be self-sufficient and successful in leadership roles in their lives. However, this does not always have to be the case. We do not have to push ourselves to be someone we are not or do not want to be. We should always live our lives being who we truly are. Firstborn or ‘lastborn’, at the end of the day, we should all be proud of ourselves.