Being the oldest of four children can be hard but being the oldest of four children living in an abusive household is close to impossible. When I was four years old, I was gifted with a little bundle of blue who had been living in my mother’s tummy for ages! Everyone kept telling me I had to be a big girl, I had to protect him, teach him and help him grow. I was just ready for it! I remember thinking how I’m going to do everything I can to help mum out with the new baby and the others that will soon follow. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I was only four!
Then another bundle arrived two years later and this time I had a little sister. Two years later another brother decided to arrive four months early, giving us a huge shock and scare. Our miracle brother. At the age of nine, I was the oldest of four children and I became a second mother to my siblings because my mum became very ill and was in and out of the hospital constantly. I had to grow up exponentially quick and never truly had a childhood of my own, which wasn’t great but I have come to terms with it. So here’s the unspoken truth of being the oldest in the family.
You Become A Parent To Children You Never Had Or Wanted
When you become a sibling you almost always become the second parent. That is what happened to me when my mum became a frequent visitor to the hospital. From the age of nine, I became a second mum, I got them up in the mornings for school, made sure that they had breakfast, got their lunches ready, cleaned the house, and so much more! Although this can bring you closer to your siblings, it can also cause many other conflicts with them. Becoming their second mum sucked. I had to get them to do things like take a bath, bring their laundry down to get washed, and clean up their toys. These are things that a parent normally would do, which in turn made them rebel against me! Because of this, we had many more fights and arguments.
These arguments would lead to shouting, which would then wake up my abusive father and would lead to him coming downstairs, screaming, yelling and hitting me because I woke him up. I never told on my siblings. I protected them from as much of the abuse as possible. I was the oldest, I couldn’t allow them to be hurt by their father.
The thing is, they never really knew I did all of that for them. They will never understand what I have done for them and how much pain I endured during those years. If I’m being honest, they’ll probably never know that I did those things because the guilt would eat them up. That’s okay. It’s the job of the oldest to make sure that they don’t end up getting hurt or upset.
Under Pressure To Be Perfect
When we have younger brothers or sisters we become someone that they look up to. We become involuntary role-models to them. There is a lot of pressure that comes from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to become this perfect role-model who can’t make mistakes. We have to get amazing grades in school, graduate, get into college, graduate college and become a successful adult.
We feel under pressure to perform at our complete best. If we don’t, we’ll fail in showing our siblings that they can achieve great things.
While I was struggling with my mental health, my own family used that against me making me feel ashamed. I had been too strong for so long and finally broke down and cracked. I ended up having a nervous breakdown. I felt stupid, like I wasn’t a good role-model for my brothers and sister. Having to take medication to help me keep the edge off of those mental illnesses made me feel so weak and I tried my best to make sure that they didn’t see any of that. I didn’t want them to think that you have to rely on pills to get through the day.
When I decided that I didn’t want to carry on with my education after high school, I became a disappointment to my family. They didn’t understand my reasoning and believed that this would show my siblings that it’s okay to not go to college. Fortunately, my mum supported me in all my decisions. Just because I was unable to continue with college, I wanted to show that you can live an amazing life without a college degree.
You Have To Protect Them From The Horrors Of Life
Life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows, as children like to see it. Being the older sibling we try so hard to make sure that is all that they see because living in this dark, cruel world can be scary. When there is a tragedy it’s best when the children don’t know or understand what’s really going on.
While living in an abusive home I did everything that I could to keep them from seeing the violence and hatred that lived inside of the man who was supposed to love, protect and care for us.
More often than not, younger siblings tend to go to their older siblings with problems that they are going through, for example puberty or romantic relationships. My sister came to me with a lot of questions because she felt more comfortable doing that than approaching our mum.
I spent a lot of time protecting my siblings from bullies. Schools can be horrible places for children, especially when people decide that they deserve to be bullied or picked on. I went through my fair share of bullying so I would not tolerate that happening to my siblings.
No matter what age we are when we become an older sibling, it is a huge responsibility. We end up becoming babysitters, second mothers or fathers, cleaning up when the others don’t do it and helping mum and dad with the big tasks around the house.
Not only did I have to do all that but I had to run a whole household, raise three children and continue getting good grades in school so I wouldn’t be in trouble with my father. Taking on all these responsibilities became verys stressful and I lost my childhood. I was forced into becoming a mature nine-year-old who had to do almost everything in the house.
Although, those responsibilities robbed me of my childhood, I try to stay positive. I am more mature at eighteen than some people who are in their thirties. Another positive of having this huge responsibility at such a young age is that I am trustworthy. People don’t like putting their trust into someone who is immature, so although I may be young, I am very responsible for the tasks and work that needs to be done.
No Longer An Only Child
As we are the firstborn children we get all the love, attention, cuddles and kisses we could ever want. We get all the new toys, have reading time with our parents and so much more attention and care. That all changes once a new bundle of joy comes through that door. You become the older sibling who has to help, who begins reading on your own, not getting as many cuddles or kisses as you used to. It can be hard at first but that’s okay! It’s what happens. A new baby takes priority until they can walk and talk for themselves. Although my father was never a loving or caring man, my mother made up for all that love and attention we needed when she was home with us. Even when she was in hospital she would always call to check on us. When we went to visit her, she would let us all curl up in bed with her and watch television, much to my father’s dissatisfaction.
Although being the oldest of four, and going through a lot of pain and misfortune, I would never change it for the world. I love my siblings to the end of this earth! No matter where I am in the world, or how far away I am from them, I will always be there for them whether it’s in person or on the phone. I love my family and I will do absolutely anything for them, even though it can be tough to deal with the struggles of being the eldest child.
About The Author…
Anne is from Ireland who is now made a huge move across the world to New Zealand. She is also an assistant at Quiet Nonsense and runs her own blog www.foreverthewanderer.ie with topics including travel, mental health and so much more. Anne dreams of/ is working towards becoming a professional blogger.