Whenever you hear a three year old say things like “give me the freakin IPOD” you know (or at least hope) that older siblings are to blame. Sadly, being one of the older siblings in the household can put an abrupt halt to childhood as they knew it before she or he came along. Suddenly, life is a series of unfair events that prove you love another child more than your firstborn. In many ways, older siblings get the short end of the stick and their plight in the family circle should at the very least be appreciated and thought about.
It’s just habit. When a baby or toddler is in the house, they are the squeaky wheel and no doubt get the most grease. Even worse, the little rugrat can spoil the best of plans and make things more difficult for the older ones. The older siblings get their fair share of hurry up and wait from mom and dad, and since they don’t remember how much you oooohed and awed over them, they immediately feel jealous. The degree of this jealousy can be different depending on the age difference between the older siblings and the younger ones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better as the kids get older.
First, the older siblings just notice how much stinking time mom and everybody else spends on the baby. Where they used to be the apple of everyone’s eye, the new kid on the block takes the stage. Grandparents are often the worst culprits, as they cannot resist holding a baby. Then, it suddenly becomes obvious that you are buying the youngest kid new toys. Take them out for ice cream while the older siblings are at school and you are forewarned to make sure there is no Dairy Queen wrapper to be seen in the car. If there is, you will never hear the end of that one. It doesn’t matter that you used to do the same thing for them when they were little, or that you spent even more money on their toys and clothes than you do the younger siblings. Try as you might to defend yourself, the older kids see things just as they appear. You spend more time with the younger kids, make them wait longer; even make them help take care of the other kids from time to time. Sheer torture!
This brings up a really good point. In families, the dynamic changes when more children are born. Suddenly, the older kids become automatic baby sitters so mom can take a shower. They often have more chores and more things to do that they will directly link to the younger siblings. Talk about sibling rivalry. Parents don’t mean to do it, but they do need to realize how often they do it and realize that it was THEIR decision to have more children, not the older siblings brainchild. Yes, older siblings should be able to help out, however many of them feel so pushed out of the loop in the home that they become resentful to say the least. If you notice a dip in attitude or mouthiness, chances are you might be expecting too much from the older kids.
One way to keep the older siblings feeling special is to make sure that you spend some alone time with just them. Take them shopping, to a theme park or anywhere you can relate specifically to them. Just like parents don’t always want to take small children with them on every excursion, neither do the older siblings. Also, make sure that you try your very best to make sure that school events and things where your older siblings will be around their friends are completely sans little brothers and sisters. What makes it hard on the older siblings is that they enjoy being away from the younger kids. They enjoy having time with just you. They enjoy life without littler sisters and brothers tagging around. This can make them feel guilty. Sure, they love them but think back to how much patience you would have at 12 with a 3-year-old sister invading your space.
In many ways, life will never seem fair to the older siblings. They will forever remember that the rules for them were tougher and harder. Their curfews will be earlier than the curfews of the little kids. You will allow your subsequent children to do things that you would have never let the older kids do. This is mostly because you have calmed down to a notch below neurotic. AND’.it is probably because you realized some of the mistakes you made with the older kids in your family and don’t want to do it again. Combine that with the fact that your older kids turned out pretty great, and you will feel more confident in your parenting techniques. Of course, to older siblings, none of this is fair.
Older siblings and younger siblings rarely grow up in the same family. It’s interesting but as adults siblings rarely remember things the same. The reason is because the older kids were born during one phase of your evolution while the younger ones were born during another. Sure, same parents, same house, same people but entirely different sets of rules, circumstances, and feelings. It all just depends what is gong on at the moment.
Whatever you do, thank the older siblings in your family from time to time. Make sure you go out of your way to treat them special and remind them ALL THE TIME how much you doted on them when they were little. Usually, the first-born kids actually get treated like royal princes and princesses when they are born. You spent every ounce of energy and every penny on providing for them and probably spent endless hours rolling around the floor playing with blocks and toys. Now, the little ones are dragged here and there and you have moved past the point of ‘playing mommy‘ all the time. Just remember that it isn’t the older siblings fault. No matter what you do or try, nothing will ever be fair. But if you are creative and conscious of what the older siblings go through, you can make it very special!