Birth Order and How Being the Oldest Stinks

New stuff is pretty much the only advantage you're going to have over your siblings, besides the right to pull rank and boss them around.
08/12/2014 03:26 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Being the younger child, I had no idea just how awful being the oldest was until I had my own children. My first child learned way too early that she chose the short straw in the birth order department. By the time she was 20 months' old, I was only weeks away from delivering my second child. I sat my daughter on my lap and told her the following:


Listen, this is how it's going to go down. Pretty soon, you're going to have a baby sister. I'm not going to get one of those double-stroller things because I refuse to push something that makes me look like I'm the lumber stocker at Home Depot. So no more free rides; it's time for you to learn how to walk in a straight line.

I'm going to be holding the baby a lot, and you're going to have to listen to a lot of crying and screaming. The baby might be loud, too. As compensation for your troubles, we're going to buy you some "World's Best Big Sister" t-shirts. Also, you're going to be the only kid in the family who gets anything new. If you get obsessed with pink ponies, we'll buy you a bicycle covered with pink ponies. If your little sister doesn't like pink or ponies when it's time for her to ride a bike, your Dad and I don't give a crap. She's getting a pink pony bicycle and that's all there is to it.

But new stuff is pretty much the only advantage you're going to have over your siblings, besides the right to pull rank and boss them around. You're going to be disciplined the most strictly and will have the earliest curfew. We're going to obsess over your every move and micromanage you to the point of inducing obsessive-compulsive tendencies. You're our first chance to prove that we're decent human beings and can raise other decent human beings. We can't afford to screw this up. And we don't even know what we're doing.

To say we obsessed and micromanaged was an understatement. When she was an infant, I wrote down her sleep patterns so that we could create a routine that wouldn't jar her natural body rhythms. We only let her eat snacks sitting down politely at a table so she wouldn't choke on an animal cracker while rolling off a couch or something. When she was just 1 1/2, I let her explore all the playground equipment so that she'd develop her gross motor skills at an advanced rate. I made sure she was safe by following her on every ladder, bridge and slide. (Actually, that ended when I was eight months pregnant and got stuck in one of those hamster-tube slides. My daughter made me wood chip sandwiches to tide me over until the fire department arrived three hours later and greased me out. After that, we bought her rappelling gear and my husband took over on belay).

We came up with creative ways to say "no" so that she wouldn't imitate us and turn into one of those annoying toddlers who screams "NO!" every two seconds. Instead of "no," we issued warnings like "Danger!" "Hot!" and "Made in China!" I forced her to share everything so that she wouldn't turn into one of those annoying toddlers who screams "MINE!" every two seconds.

Cut to my third child. She's never had a sleep schedule. She sleeps in 15 minute increments in the car as I shuttle the other kids to and from their activities. By seven months old, she screamed if we tried to put her in the crib. We brought the carseat carrier inside and she slept buckled into it all night long. When she outgrew the carrier, we bought her a race car bed like Ricky Schroder had in Silver Spoons so she'd think she was driving. We also found her a soothing sound machine that has a "muffler" setting.

She has no meal routine. When she wants a snack, she stands by the pantry and performs like a circus bear. She does a few soft-shoe shuffle steps and busts out some jazz hands to get my attention. I give her a whole banana and a few days later, I find the peel and some residue under a couch cushion.

I take her to the playground, but keep her strapped down in her stroller.

"Uh, why don't you let her out so she can run around?" other mothers ask.

"I'm tired," I mutter. "She's too little to play by herself and I'm sick of stuffing my a** into six inch wide slides. And once you take them out of the stroller, there's no way you're getting them back in." I gesture toward my older kids, who are screaming "Watch THIS!" and jumping off the play structures. "I've paid my dues. This one's gonna sit."

With her older sisters, she rips toys right out of their hands and screams, "NO MINE! NO MINE! NO MINE!"

If they don't let her have it, I say, "Give to her! Just give it to her!"

"But Mom!" my oldest will say. "It's breakable!"

"I don't care! Give it to her! Give her anything! Just keep her quiet!"

"But Mom! Now she's biting me!"

"She'll let go in a minute!" I yell back. "She barely has teeth; it can't do too much damage."

I'm already saving up for my oldest daughter's psychotherapy bills.

Huh? What about the second child? She's fine, I think. She's a middle child, so I'm sure when she's older she'll be whining about not getting enough attention or something. Where is that kid, anyway?