Life for first-borns is fraught with trials

Nathan Sanderson

Nathan Sanderson

There is no job more difficult, more aggravating or as mentally taxing as being the first offspring born into a family. The eldest child is similar to a monkey in a mad scientist’s laboratory, where weird, often painful experiments are performed on the unwilling subject, in the hopes of bettering those who follow.

I am the oldest child in a family of five children. Because my parents were inexperienced, my life was dramatically more difficult that any of my younger brothers or sister.

When it came to driving for the first time, because of South Dakota’s amazingly lax approach to youth operating a motor vehicle, I was a 14-year-old charged with the task of earning the right to drive to school. One problem: in order for me to drive, I had to achieve grades that my parents thought were good enough to make me more responsible behind the wheel: the “A” honor roll. Well, being the first in your family to drive to school is mighty important for a high school freshmen, so I worked hard and pulled off the 1994 “miracle for wheels.” I was pretty proud of my accomplishment until two years later, when my younger brother managed to achieve straight “Cs” and still drive off into the sunset.

But it isn’t just driving privileges that the eldest child has to deal with. It is also strange food experiments. For some reason, the parents hope that maybe if the oldest one eats this nasty stuff, the younger ones will too. Let’s not forget that it is a “privilege” for the oldest child to stay out late on that infamous “school night,” the younger members of the family have the “right” to do the same after #1 has left for college. Not to be forgotten, parents give the eldest child all the gifts for Christmas that one would hope not to; remember, this is the first test to determine how trendy they are.

Children who are born first are not just the guinea pigs for first-time parents, they are an ongoing experiment. The challenge for these kids lies in their ability to make the lives of their younger siblings just as tough as their own.

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