I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t have younger siblings. After all, as the second-oldest child in a family of five kids, I never knew what it was like to live in a quiet household and was often charged with taking care of my little brother and two little sisters when my parents were working. Along the way, however, I learned some valuable life lessons.
1. I learned how to put others before myself. Having little siblings is a lot like being a new parent with a baby. You rarely get any sleep at night, you’re constantly being pestered to spend time with them, and you spend a lot of time fixing meals/changing diapers when you’d rather be doing literally anything else. I often delayed my own gratification to meet the needs of my kid brother and sisters, and while this was irritating at times, it did show me how to be a better person and put the needs of others before my own.
2. I learned how to be a teacher. Since I had more “life experience” (and more experience in the classroom), I often helped the kids with homework or guided them in new experiences (such as telling them what to expect when asking someone out on a date, how to begin applying for colleges, or how to get their new smart phone working, among other things). While it seems like a small thing, developing the ability to teach others was something that improved my communication skills overall.
3. I learned what it meant to be a role model. Having younger siblings teaches you the importance of responsibility. Younger kids tend to look up to their older brothers and sisters as role models (even as they endlessly annoy/taunt them), especially when the older siblings work in a babysitting capacity, and so I made sure to lead a live that I would want them to emulate. I studied hard in school, avoided partying (and never drank or did drugs), didn’t get carelessly involved with the opposite sex, etc. In this way, I meant to “look out” for the younger kids.
4. I learned companionship. Since I was never alone, it’s also safe to say that I was never lonely. My sisters, looking up to me and sharing many of my personality traits, were into a lot of the same things I was, and so we often watched the same movies together or played the same video games. Having a built-in set of friends was by far my favorite thing about being an older sister.
5. I learned how to be scared. This is not a lesson I particularly wanted to learn, but it was one that got drilled into me all the same, with each new mishap my brother and sisters somehow got themselves involved in (such as trials that included new boyfriends or frightening injuries). These days, not being as greatly involved in their lives anymore, I often worry about their well-being and try to stay in touch. Even though I no longer bear the responsibility of being their “role model,” I still feel responsible for them and want them to be safe, healthy, and happy. It’s yet another way that having siblings is like having a child – you will most likely worry about them for as long as you live.