As the firstborn child of my parents’ four children, not counting a few adopted cousins here and there, I have always been aware of the responsibilities expected of me. This is not to say I have always accepted them. There are times I’ve had to ask: Why me? And there have been times I buckled under the weight of expectations. The pressure of being a first child, along with the occasional disappointments of measuring up have made me wonder if any of it is worth it. I actually believe there is some special anointing that firstborns deserve, or at least some special blessing for all that we have to go through. Lol.
If you are the first child to Nigerian parents, here are a few things I’m sure you can relate to.
You are the guinea pig
Your parents use you to test out EVERYTHING! From methods of discipline to household routines, child psychology and even their own value systems. In other words, you are a lab rat. Very painfully, you will watch your siblings get away with things you wouldn’t have dared dream about doing—like ignoring curfews, and you will watch as your parents bend the rules for them when they suddenly decide that knocks on the head are unnecessarily violent. *side eye*
Like, where was all that wisdom when I was 5? *hot tears*
You are the standard
If any child is most likely to hear the question ‘Does so and so have two heads?’ it is you, the firstborn. You are expected to be an A-student, and also be skillful and domesticated. Of course, you must wear other hats such as caregiver, problem solver, paragon of virtue, and overall superhero. It is this model of perfection that your parents will use to compare your siblings to you when they ask: ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’ You might as well just accept it as a circle of life.
You are the house magistrate
Everyone brings their disputes to you – siblings and parents alike. If you are a natural pacifist, your headache is a sure package. After (barely) stopping your siblings from coming to fisticuffs— sometimes by throwing in a few yourself; you will then move ahead to settle your parents’ quarrels. Except that your parents are not your siblings, and so you must handle their disputes more delicately otherwise you may end up getting dragged into a family meeting.
You are an assistant parent
My darling, you don’t have a life please. Don’t even bother with phrases like: ‘It’s my life, mum!’ *holds chest in pain and regret*. Once you start earning an income, you become a second parent to your siblings, regardless of your socioeconomic class. Even if you are not the one paying their school fees, you will buy phones, gadgets, tickets, and other luxury experiences. When you are not paying for vacations, your house is the destination of choice. And you will have no choice than to handle all of this, gracefully, because firstborn.*evil laugh*
You are still special
See, you’ll always be the first but you are not any less loved. Yes, you may have been the first or only child to be disciplined with a cane, but you were also the first child to be loved. You were the first to have your parent’s full attention, the first to mark a birthday, the first to experience the spoiling of your parent’s friends. So although being a firstborn has its ups and downs, it definitely does have its perks.
Okay now, where are the firstborns reading this? Or the other kids who watched us go through this? We would love to hear your experiences.