The Best and Worst Parts of Being the Eldest Sibling
Feature Image: Daiga Ellaby
I’ve been a big sister for the last 21 years, and let me tell you, that comes with a lot of responsibility. I have one brother, twin sisters, and I’m the oldest by at least six years.
Growing up, I was surrounded by dirty diapers and screaming toddlers, hair pulling, and first steps. Thankfully they got better with age, because I currently live with both of my 19-year-old sisters.
The hardest part of being a big sister has been, and will always be, the constant feeling of “all eyes on me.” My siblings have watched my every move since the day they were born, especially my sisters. My parents even used to say, “watch Karyn, she’ll show you how to do it.” -even if sometimes they were only watching to steal my snacks or my brand new sweater or change the channel when I wasn’t looking. And that feeling of being watched has only gotten stronger now that we’re living in the same space for the first time in seven years.
*Let’s be honest, I’m a pretty cool and edgy older sister. (My sisters would say they disagree, but I know how they really feel.)
But knowing they are watching my every move means I can’t mess up. If I mess up or make a mistake, I know they’re watching and learning. They learn from my mistakes because they see every move I make. That kind of pressure, whether put on by society or parental expectations, can be a lot to juggle. And it is intensified by constant reminders that my actions influence my younger siblings. There are good things that come from them watching me, though. For example, I spend more time thinking about and making decisions. Whether it’s judgmental or educational, I know my sisters will have an opinion on whatever debacle I may face. Because of this though, I spend more time weighing the pros and cons of every decision. This allows me to select the best decision for myself, and for them.
I recently moved back to my home state because of a long-term breakup that I was not expecting, and the only roommates available two weeks before Thanksgiving were my two sisters. During the break-up process, I had to figure out where I was working, where I was living, how to get a car, how to deal with my new found singledom, and suddenly I had two teenagers, moving out of their mom and dad’s house for the first time, looking to me as the exemplar on how to survive in the real world.
So I did the only thing I could. I figured out where I was working, living, bought my first car, and dealt with my new found singledom. Almost subconsciously, I made it my mission in life to show my sisters that while life can knock you down sometimes, you can survive all of life’s challenges. In some ways, their watching eyes gave me the strength I needed to keep going.
The most rewarding part of being a big sister is showing my sisters how to carve their own path and to take no prisoners along the way. I get to watch them take on the world and thrive. All of my siblings are accomplished, strong individuals who I love watching grow up and go through life. But I consider it a personal point of pride that the first person my sisters call when something happens to them is me. I hear about every first with a new boy, every grievance about having to juggle school and work. I endure every question about what health insurance is and when taxes are due. It brings me great joy to watch them become confident, mature, put-together women who walk through life with a sense of purpose. And I contributed to that, just by showing them it’s possible to keep going.
I feel such pride in their victories, knowing that I helped other women survive this world. I’ve shown my sisters that they don’t need men, rather that they need good friends and goals for themselves. I showed them that marching for rights you deserve are important and that demanding equal respect in relationships is crucial. In showing them that they can do anything, I’ve come to believe I, too, can do anything. Being a big sister gives me the strength to keep going, for the women of tomorrow, but more importantly for the women of today.
Being a big sister has its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. They might be annoying most days, but in all, I think we’ve helped each other grow as people.
What’s your favorite part of having and being a sibling?