Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thoughts On... Being the Eldest Child

Two things inspired this post. The first was a meltdown a family member of mine had recently. The second is an old comedy special, Bill Cosby's "Himself". In the comedy special, Cosby talks about parenting and children. Among all the anecdotes, he mentions the specialized roles each of his children has. The youngest is "The Baby", one of the middle children is "The Informer", etc.

While it was really funny, this familial phenomenon is nothing new. There have been tons of studies on the subject, especially the influence birth order has on a child's personality. Typically, the Eldest child is a caretaker, usually pressed into service in caring for the younger siblings by their parents. The Middle Child is a schemer, usually having to work around other siblings for any & all resources. The Youngest Child is the free spirit, usually not having to deal with strict rules due to parents experience with the older children.

One of my family members had her older brother fall on some hard times, and she's had to step into the role of caretaker for the past 5 months or so. Given her already hectic lifestyle, it's been a real trial for her as for the first time, she's had to give constant support with no workarounds, day in and day out. We spent a while talking while she vented her frustrations and cried out her stress. After that conversation, I couldn't help but go over the events in my life.

In my immediate family, I am the eldest child of three. And yes, I'm the caretaker. When my sisters are dealing with issues, they come to me. Whether it's about what shoes go better with their outfit, what did the guy mean when he said xyz, or what college is the best option, the process is the same. We sit & talk out the options, I help them clarify what they want and how the various options available may or may not help them get what they want. When they need to vent, I listen. It's like I'm the rock they come back to when they need to get away from the storms of their lives for awhile. The strange thing is, doing all this doesn't seem like a big deal, but after talking with said family member, I realized how big that job really is. And it's not just my immediate family, I do the same for extended family & friends.

Who'd have thought I'd have such an effect on people?

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