"Christine, you're the oldest grandchild, so you need to get good grades to set an example for your cousins."
"Christine, you're the oldest grandchild, so you need to go to church and read your scriptures to set an example for your cousins."
"Christine! You know better than that! You need to set a better example for your brothers."
"I'm stepping out for a bit, keep an eye on your brother's will you?"
"I expected more from you, you're the oldest."
Normally, these lines from my childhood don't bother me. In fact, I purposely didn't get excellent grades in high school because I *didn't* want to be valedictorian like my aunt. Nor did I want to be the example for all of my cousins. -- some of which are the same age as my daughters, and have no idea I'm their cousin and not their aunt, or even how we're related.
I have said the same thing to my oldest daughter. I did expect her to learn how to be nice to her younger siblings. And I tried to remember that younger siblings are GREAT at getting the big sister in trouble.
I still remember my younger brother getting picked up and patted on the back by my mother, while he gave me a smug grin over her shoulder and stuck his tongue out at me. I don't remember what happened, but I remember feeling frustrated that I was the one in trouble when he was the one responsible.
99% of the time, these things make me laugh. Because they're things parents and grandparents say to the oldest. Through personal experience, I have discovered that the oldest child is the one parents make most of their mistakes with. ... well.... I make *different* mistakes with my younger kids.
Today, however, was not one of my better days. I'm still really struggling with the depression, with the change in my meds and how sick it makes me, and with anger I can't explain. And with that negative tape that runs, came all of these lines from my childhood.
But the funny thing is, that instead of feeling like a failure to my cousins and brothers, I felt super proud of them for who they've all grown up to be. I have amazing brothers. I have amazing cousins. I am extremely grateful that I can say they're related to me. Maybe they learned from my poor choices? Maybe they learned from my experiences? Or maybe they're just innately smarter than me?
Or -- and more likely -- I had nothing to do with how they grew up, they just grew up and did their thing according to how they'd been taught and what they thought was right.
It doesn't mean I don't have guilt for putting that pressure on my oldest child. It doesn't mean I don't have guilt for the stupid things I did as a big sister or as the oldest cousin to the cousins who do remember me. Well... hmm. Not guilt, exactly. Those things are so long ago, and I've dealt with all of that, so it's not exactly guild. More... a type of regret? I don't know how to describe it.
It occupied my thought process for about an hour, though, so it meant something.
Maybe I'm hoping that as a mother I'm still trying to set a good example? Maybe because I will be a grandmother in a few months that I'm worried about putting that same pressure on a grandchild? I hope not. When I was little I thought it ridiculous that I would have an influence on my cousins. I still think that's ridiculous today. I do have relationships with my cousins, but I feel it's one of respect and as peers, not oldest to youngest. I certainly don't know best, nor am I the boss of anyone. I'm pretty sure I stopped bossing my brothers around when I got married and moved out. At least, I hope so?
Blah. I don't have enough processing power to analyze this further. It was there. It happened. I assume it happens to most oldest children. I don't think it's horrible or awful, nor do I think my parents or grandparents shouldn't have said it. I do think if I held onto it for years and resented them, that would be my problem, not theirs. And I think that in some ways it made me consider the realities of life. That there are consequences to things I choose that I can't see or that don't affect me directly.
People are always watching. That is the truth. Whether because they look up to you and you don't know it, or because they haven't decided yet whether they like you or not. Or they're just curious. I know, because I do it.
And oldest or not, I think that what I heard as a child helped me be aware of how others felt, how one thing affects others.
Not that I always remember that... ha! I sure wish I did. But overall, I think it helped make me a better person. Be a good example. I know I don't succeed at that a lot, but I think by keeping that in mind, it's made me a better person than I would be otherwise.