BEING THE FIRST – A BANE OR A BOON?

I grew up as the oldest in a brood of six. For about two years after my birth, I was a solo child. I was the sole recipient of my parents’ undivided love and attention, the apple of their eyes, and the center of their universe. My poetic father even composed a beautiful poem especially for me.

But my perfect little world as I knew it – where I was the lone princess, the angel, the Boss, and my parents’ source of pride and joy – came crashing down when the second in line came along. (No offense intended to you, my little sister Konds!)

Fast forward to the present, and I found myself married to a fellow firstborn. And having three children, I also have, of course, my own firstborn child. So the following list is based on my personal observations about the firstborns in our own respective families. But since it is my panganay’s birthday today, all the detailed elaborations are centered on him. 🙂

  1. The firstborn is his parents’ guinea pig. It’s the parents’ first venture into parenthood, and guess what? Everything they do is based on trial and error! Emar, my eldest, had a funny-shaped head when he was still a baby. You see, it took us a while to realize that resting a baby’s head in the same position has a tendency to result in a flat spot or uneven head shape. It was also during that time when I was still working. Sleep-deprived, exhausted, emotionally worked-up, poorly lactating, and uninitiated as a young mom, I was not able to give my baby the best possible care that he needed and deserved. Poor boy!
  1. The firstborn is competitive, driven, goal-oriented and motivated. Even at a young age, we have expected so much from Emar. We wanted him to be a good role model for his siblings, so we started molding him early on. Before he even started school at age 3-1/2, he was already familiar with his alphabet, numbers, polygons, astronomy and different types of animals. He was most interested with dinosaurs and its many kinds. Later on, his interest shifted to trivia and mythologies, specifically Greek and Roman. We had him join singing contests in school and enrolled him in painting, swimming, basketball, badminton and photography classes. Simultaneously, he was among the top of his class. He was a rondalla and choir member in high school. He graduated valedictorian and is now a college senior at the University of the Philippines taking up Chemical Engineering. He is currently maintaining a General Weighted Average of 1.48, while working as a tutor at a tutorial center near the campus. Do you think he achieved all that by simply flashing his cute smile? That boy grew up with a mission to conquer the world!
  1. The firstborn is responsible. Since Emar was the one exposed to rules (and penalties!) the longest, and since more rules are imposed on him as he gets into an unchartered territory or enters a new stage in life, he tends to be the rulekeeper in the family. (Though, he sometimes uses his familiarity with the rules to get around those and avoid appropriate punishment!)
  1. The firstborn is his younger siblings’ idol. MD, my second son, is Emar’s second-in-command. He is also his Kuya’s shadow and copycat. And, of course, his No. 1 fan! When Emar is up there at the stage receiving an award, one can easily know where MD is by tracing the source of the loudest cheer from among the crowd. (You can read more about the special bond between my two sons by clicking this.)
  1. The firstborn is the little ones’ baby-sitter. As soon as Emar was old enough to be left on his own devices, he was also considered old enough to look after his two siblings. Paid nanny services? No longer required!
  1. The firstborn is privy to all the darkest secrets and embarrassing moments of his siblings. Suffice it to say that if Emar wants to make a quick buck, all he needs to do is to tell his little sister Lala that he’s planning to have a chat with one of her suitors. The makings of a blackmailer, right before my eyes!
  1. The firstborn is the first person to use the things that are bound to be hand-me-downs. In Emar’s case, though, since he just came thirteen months earlier than MD, the two have always had the same size. No hand-me-downs for our kids (Lala couldn’t very well wear his Kuyas’ old clothes!). Just a lot of sharing and matching outfits.
  1. The firstborn is blamed for basically everything. Emar, for instance, is blamed when he forgets to fix his bed in the morning. He is also blamed when his siblings fail to fix their own beds. After all, he should have used his “Kuya authority” and instructed them to do their chores. Right?
  1. The firstborn is bossy. Once we, the parents, have taken the first step in getting out of the house, Emar immediately assumes the I-am-in-charge stance. But, he is wise enough to know that with great power comes great responsibility. He has already seen Spiderman countless times, after all!
  1. The firstborn is protective. Emar, like any other firstborn I know, tends to bully his siblings whenever the golden opportunity presents itself. But if it’s someone else doing the bullying to his precious little bro and sis, all hell would surely break loose!

    Emar as the protective brother to his siblings
    Emar as the protective brother to his siblings
  1. The firstborn is resigned to the fact that his siblings are cuter, funnier or more fashionable than he is. Emar has lots of more serious stuff to occupy himself with. Contemplating about what hair wax to use is too petty and frivolous for him!
  1. The firstborn is giving and generous. When Emar learned that they, the children, could be the perfect organ donor for their Dad, he never hesitated to offer him his kidney. ‘Nuff said. *sniffing*
  1. The firstborn is wise beyond his age. He matures prematurely. Compared with other kids his age (or with his two siblings who are, respectively, just a year and two years his junior), Emar seems older by a decade. He always thinks beyond the present. Sometimes, I get the feeling that even when he is spending time with us, he is not really in the “here and now”. He is somewhere far down the road, ahead of everybody else. Or trying to steal some much-needed Zzzzzzs!
  1. The firstborn is organized. Trained to clean after his and his siblings’ mess, Emar has learned at a young age to put everything in order. He is so organized that, when someone else has rummaged through his things, he immediately knows with just one look. When I happen to leave some files on his computer desktop, they are already neatly transferred into folders when I get back to them. He is OC like that.
  1. The firstborn is a pacifier. Since he is well-acquainted with the rules of reward and punishment, Emar is essentially a peace-lover. He very seldom starts a fight with his siblings, and when there is an on-going squabble between the two youngsters, he does not take sides. Unless he and MD are hatching a diabolic plan against the bunso!
  1. The firstborn will always hold a special place in his parents’ hearts, a spot reserved solely for him. But then, all parents have hearts as big as the Asian continent. They have a chamber for the middle child, the lastborn, all the kids in between the first and the last, the only child, the kids’ friends, their house pets, even their romantic partners. Do you get the gist?

    Our firstborn, our middlechild and our lastborn. Each holds a special place in our hearts.
    Our firstborn, our middlechild and our lastborn. Each holds a special place in our hearts.

Despite the popularity of the theory on birth order effect, I hate to generalize and attribute a person’s personality and behavior solely on the position or order in which he was born. There are a lot of other factors that should be put into consideration, such as the family size, the siblings’ age differences, the children’s genders, other family dynamics and outside influences.

However, it’s interesting to know some facts pertaining to this theory. Did you know, for instance, that a lot of accomplished people are firstborns? We have Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Leonardo da Vinci, Indira Gandhi, Isaac Newton, Gerald Ford, Susan Sarandon, Kate Middleton, Beyonce Knowles and Angelina Jolie, to name a few. Did you also know that out of the first 23 American astronauts sent into outer space, 21 were firstborns and the other two were only-children? Or that all 7 astronauts in the original Project Mercury (the first human spaceflight program of the United States) were firstborns? No? Me, neither.

Finally, all the firstborn’s milestones are his parents’ milestones. Emar is now turning 20 (Waaah, he’s no longer a teen!) – an important milestone for his Daddy and myself because it marks our 20th year as parents. And realizing this, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I know that, sooner or later, he will give me a reason to write about the empty nest syndrome. But not yet about grandparenthood, I hope!

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