Sibling Rivalry

Siblings means being bound to someone else whether you like it or not, and you better get along.

Everybody has a different and in one way or another complicated relationship with their siblings, and on occasions you hear statements such as “it’s my job as an older sister”. But what does that really mean? As an older or younger sibling, a sister or a brother, does certain responsibilities come with the job? And how come we didn’t get a job description?

Being the oldest child is hard work, you’re supposed to look after your younger siblings, be a role model, and seeing as you’re the first you also have to make way for those to follow such as curfews and such. It also means that while you have no one to be compared to; your younger siblings will be comparing their grades and accomplishments to yours when it’s too late for you to do much about it. Research also shows that the oldest child is more likely to suffer from stress and having younger siblings will on average raise your blood pressure by 5%. Having 3 younger sisters, I wonder if that if that is 5% per sibling.

Other than the blood pressure and stress symptoms (I know for a fact that I have those) I don’t think I’m the typical older sister, at least not on the outside or in my family. See, number 2 in our family is very different from me (lets name her M.), and other than genes we don’t have much in common. This means that I could never be a role model for her, and she never needed my protection seeing as she is tougher than me and always were the leader in her group of friends. I automatically take on a lot of responsibility in other areas of life, but I never could at home because she would not let me, and because we react so different we can’t even have a discussion without her getting angry and me wanting to cry. Like I said, we react very differently, and I have always been much more sensitive something she still, after almost 20 years, can’t understand.

I sometimes wonder if she secretly blames me for not being the strong older sister that her friends have. We are so different, while I always preferred to watch a film with friends or just enjoy a book Friday night, she would go to parties, so how could I be a role model for her to be proud of? I’m not the leader in our family because I value peace more that position and I can tell you right away that she would have challenged me every second of every day. I didn’t take responsibility for her mostly because she did not let me, so I never really regarded her as my little sister. I did however do that with the 2 youngest.

While I’m rather quiet when it comes to voicing my opinions at home, close to being submissive in fact, I am far from it elsewhere. With friends, at work and in class I’m outspoken and I never hesitate to enter a discussion or ask questions. Deep down, I think I blame M. for forcing me to be quiet at home (which is the only way to keep the peace) and in a way hide who I really am. I can’t breathe with her around, which has left scars because family is very important to me.

I had to move out before I finished high school. I had just turned 18, and my great grandmother was moved to a nursing home, so her apartment was empty and just a 15-20 minutes walk from home. Things at home was so bad with M. who was almost 15 at the time pointing out my every flaw and telling me constantly that because I were different (preferring books over sports for one, and overweight rather than thin) I did not belong in the family. Of course it was rubbish, but it hurt me so deeply that I have not yet been able to forgive her for it. I wonder if I ever will forgive her for suffocating my voice and forcing me to move out before I was ready to do so. At the time I felt like they were choosing her over me because I was the one who had to leave. On an intellectual level, I know that’s not true, but feelings and reason does not always agree.

So that is a summary of my relationship with M. my 3,5 years younger sister who should be a friend but who never was, and I wonder if we will ever forgive each other and get along.
My relationship with number 3 is more of a normal sibling relationship. 5 years separates me and K. and while we don’t have much in common when it comes to hobbies, we are much more alike when it comes to personality. We get along; always have and probably always will.

Our youngest is only 9 years old now, almost 14 years younger than me and the baby of the family. She will probably always be the baby, and I don’t have the heart to deny her anything. I feel like a second mother to her, and people usually think I am her mother when she is with me. I feel so protective when it comes to her, it’s as if I have focused it all on her seeing as I could not do so with M.
She is my baby, I helped raise her, I taught her to walk and I changed her diapers.

As you see, my relationship with my sisters is very very complicated, but we are tied together no matter what. We have to deal with each other because we have the same family. As the oldest I never could go to my sisters for support or confess my worries to them because M. and I did not have that kind of relationship, and K. and S. were both too young to shoulder it. That is another responsibility of an older sister; you are supposed to support your younger siblings, but who is there to support you? Looking at the stereotypical order, I think perhaps number 2 and 3 in my family switched roles because M. is certainly not a peacemaker, but K. is, and M. is the adventurous and self-centred one in our bunch, and I’ve always been the adult-pleasing know-it-all.

  • Oldest children: high achievers, natural leaders, adult-pleasers, rule-followers and know-it-alls who can be organized, punctual, bossy and responsible.
  • Middle children: peacemakers and perfectionists who can be flexible, easy-going, social, independent, secretive, indecisive, adaptable and perceive that life is unfair.
  • Youngest children: risk-takers who can be competitive, self-centered, creative, outgoing, funny, spoiled, easily bored and adventurous.

Seeing as I have no experience on the matter, I ask you; what is the responsibility of a younger sibling? Or is the younger ones just let of the hook? How does things work between you and your siblings?

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3 Responses to Sibling Rivalry

  1. Bex says:

    As one of the younger children (#6 out of 7), I guess my role in the family is much much different to yours. For one, when I was growing up I could get away with a lot more than my elder siblings (although I chose not to and was happy to never be noticed). And unless it involved Josh (#7) I could use my mum to leverage me the winning side of almost every sibling dispute. Mel (#5) was close enough my age to fight my playground battles for me and I’ve always had the winning side of ‘I’ll get my older brothers on you’ (Who are about ten years older than me and while I knew they were not the violent type, the people at school didn’t – and the bullying never got that bad anyway – I know how to pick my battles and when to let it be). So I guess as one of the younger ones, somehow I’ve turned out as the onlooker rather than the one who takes part. I’m shy and nervous, pretty laid back but I know how to fight my battles or even know how to ask for help when I really need it. Sometimes I feel like ‘if my parents had paid more attention to me I…’ and imagine if they’d put me into acting, dancing or singing classes, or even made an effort to help me find my talents or what I did or did not like at an early age. Maybe if I hadn’t had so many siblings I would have made a concentrated effort to make more friends, perhaps I would have been more outgoing, or maybe even my food intake and exercise would have been controlled. They may have taken more interest in my education. Who knows. But I’ve gotten past all of these ‘what ifs’ because I know I love my family, we can fight because we’ll always be a part of each other and we know that regardless we all love each other. I think I’m lucky and happy to have so many siblings because I would have been such a lonely child growing up without them. It’s probably a part of why I can enjoy my own company so much. Family really does shape you in ways you can only guess at. Sorry for this long comment, I guess I got carried away. This blog post was really interesting and got me thinking about my role in the family. Oh, and, I think you’ve turned out pretty darn fantastic. πŸ˜‰

    • Dravite says:

      I love long comments!
      I’m the oldest, but I never got much attention either, so I don’t think that has so much to do with older/younger siblings as having them at all. Whether your siblings are older or younger (or both) I think we have to compete for attention. Sometimes the oldest get it because they had a head start, and sometimes the youngest because who can resist a baby? #2 in my family is so loud and out-spoken, she always got more attention than me, and add that to her shared interests with my family and my quiet personality at home, and I disappeared in the shadows. Being the oldest, I also had my sisters gang up on me, and I weren’t allowed to fight back because I was the oldest one so I should know better.
      I hope we will be able to get past it sometime, but I don’t think we’ll ever be friends.
      It does help though that according to an article I found, I’m naturally smarter and I’ll live longer because I’m the oldest πŸ˜‰

      • Bex says:

        Yeah, definitely has something to do with who is the more outspoken one. I know Mel was much more demanding than I ever was, so she’s my version of your M… might have something to do with the first initial.

        I think maybe one day you will. It got easier for me and my sister when she calmed down a bit and we didn’t live together, so it gave us time to miss each other. I know you sort of have that, so don’t really know how to say ‘it’ll get better’, because it’ll take you both really wanting it.

        That’s a smart and interesting article πŸ™‚

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