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Siblings and Birth Order: Who Has It Best?

Oldest, middle, youngest—you can’t control where you sit in the family pecking order, but it definitely affects your role in the family and your sense of self. We asked three teenagers to reflect on birth order and their place in the family, and the unique advantages and disadvantages they face. 

Headshot Sister Ellen OrmondOLDEST CHILD | Ellen Ormond

Being the eldest sister, in my opinion, is a hard job. But, it’s extremely worth it. As the oldest girl in my family, I am almost like a second mother. When my mom is not home, I try to fill her shoes by making the dinner for my younger siblings and doing their laundry.

But when I’m not serving as replacement mom, I am just there for my brother and sisters.

I listen to their problems and give them advice. I also see it as my duty to comfort them when they are upset. Sometimes, they just need me to tell them that things will be okay and that their problems aren’t the end of the world.

Don’t get me wrong, being an older sister is not all rainbows and butterflies, but it is rewarding. We fight too much, but none of it really matters because we are family, and we love each other. I know that my siblings don’t say it, but I think they look up to me, and I know that they are constantly watching everything I do. Their attention makes me more conscious of how I act and speak; it makes me a better person.

Sometimes, being the oldest sister can be a hassle, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t born first.

My parents put more pressure on me to be a role model. I try to be the best role model I can, although sometimes I let being a teenager get the best of me. As a senior in high school, I am constantly worrying about college, and it is extremely stressful. Sometimes it’s hard to handle my siblings’ problems in addition to mine. But with that in mind, I get through it and help whenever I can.

It makes me wonder if it would all be easier if I were an only child without anyone to copy every move I make. But, I cannot imagine life without my siblings and not being there to watch out for them. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I love to see them happy, and I’m just glad I can help them through the thick and thin.

Headshot Sister Kari SemelMIDDLE CHILD | By Kari Semel

I’m always stuck in the middle. In fact, I’m so used to being in the middle that I have absolutely no clue how to start or finish this article.

Fortunately, introductions and conclusions don’t matter since I have come up with a fool-proof solution for improving the lives of middle children. Instead of complaining about your invisibility, just keep quiet. Then, instead of ignoring you, your parents will worry about you bottling up your feelings and focus on you. I think it’s a great theory because the middle child gets exactly what the middle child wants: attention.

In all seriousness though, being a middle child definitely has its ups and downs. I’ve decided to set it up into a list of pros and cons.

Pro #1: When you and your siblings are getting along, the whole family gets along.

Con #1: When you and your sibling aren’t getting along, the whole family usually blames you.

Pro #2: You aren’t the first one to go through puberty, so your parents actually know how to talk to you about it.

Con #2: When you are going through puberty, your mom won’t hesitate to share it with the rest of the world like she did with your oldest sibling.

Pro #3: College. You have the freedom to choose which college suits you, no matter the distance. Since your older sibling has already gone through the college process, you and your family know better how to choose a college .

Con #3: College. You have the freedom to choose which college suits you, but because your parents are paying for your older sibling’s tuition, your choices are limited to the in-state school that gives out the best scholarships.

As a middle child, I know my place.

I’m never going to be the firstborn, and I’ll never be the last born. I have a much more important job. I am the glue holding the family together. Not literally, but in a figurative sense, I am responsible for helping the family stick together. So, when my mom wants all-family participation in watching her fail miserably at Rockband, I have to be there.

I don’t like to focus on the “middle child syndrome.” I’d rather see the glass half full and make the most of being a middle child. I’m sure that there’s a lot more to it, but I don’t notice it. It’s not hard to be the middle child; it is just a different job than everyone else’s in the family. But there’s no need to complain, you can make it whatever you want it to be.

Headshot Sister Hallie IsraelYOUNGEST CHILD | By Hallie Israel

The youngest, in every family, one child gets this role. But, just what exactly does the position entail? I have my own unique perspective on how I fit into my family as the youngest, and it involves three main roles:  Me, as the youngest child of my parents, me, as the younger sibling of my sister, and me, as the youngest member of my family.

To my parents, I will undoubtedly always be the baby, regardless of whether I admit it.

I was the last to walk and talk, the last to ride a two-wheeler bike and the last to count to ten. I am always protected, but my parents are also more lenient with me on the rules. I’m not saying it’s fair, but as the baby, I can always get away with just a little more than everyone else.

In the eyes of my sister, I am the tag-along friend. When she first rode the bus to kindergarten, I couldn’t wait until I could go along with her. When she went to sleep-away camp, I was soon following in pursuit. I always tried to keep up with her tasks, and as a result, my parents handed me privileges that my sister had to wait for. Although I am three years younger, I got a cell phone when my sister did, and I can see scary movies that she wasn’t allowed to watch at my age. I do share many of my sister’s responsibilities and have received many of her same privileges, but despite this, we still remain two very different people with separate hobbies and individual interests.

To me, being the youngest sibling means that I am surrounded by people who have already dealt with the problems I face.

When I’m having trouble with homework, there’s always somebody that I can go to for help. When I can’t quite beat my mile time, somebody can always relate and push me to do better. In my life as the youngest, there is always somebody to look up to and always someone to look out for me.

There may be many components to the role that I play as the youngest, but somehow, they all manage to combine and make me who I am. So, whether I’m seen as the baby, the friend, or just as myself, being the youngest has treated me pretty well over the years. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,

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