My Message to Parents and Eldest Children

A few weeks back I had an interesting phone call with my father. He told me about a conversation he had with one of my sisters and his disapproval of her current decisions in life, which reminded him some of my choices in life. He concluded that my sister’s choices in life were my fault. Being the eldest sister, I am the “role model” in the family. His claim was a good opportunity for us to examine the subject and we had a wonderful conversation. I was so glad that now, at the age of 42, I don’t take to heart what people blame me for.

Being the eldest of 7 children I grew up believing that I was responsible for my siblings’ behavior. My mother used to tell me that ‘the fish starts to stink from the head’. Today I recognize that it’s not fair to put so much responsibility on one child’s shoulders. Despite the fact that we share the same DNA as siblings, we all turned out to be very different from each other. We were born with obvious different personalities.

Looking back, I can also recognize now that my youngest siblings also suffered in our family dynamics. While I was blamed for their faults, they were compared to me in areas where I excelled. After all I was the “role model”. That wasn’t fair for them either – they are different people than I am, they excelled in other areas where I didn’t. I’m not writing this to blame my parents; I actually have a lot of appreciation for them. I know they did their best to be the best parents that they could be, and people make mistakes. I’m writing about this to share my message with you.

For the parents among you – please accept that each of your children have their own character, personality, and path in life. Don’t hold your eldest responsible for the behavior of the other children. Don’t compare between your children – they each have their strengths and weaknesses.

For the eldest among you – if you were ever held responsible for your siblings’ behavior I’m here to tell you that you are not. Whatever they do is not your fault; they have their own mind and make their own choices. Also don’t encourage your siblings to work hard in trying to imitate you; encourage them to find their own talents and strengths. And be forgiving of your parents’ faults. As the eldest you were their first introduction to parenthood, and it takes time and experience to learn a new skill.

After my phone call with my father I had a long phone call with my sister. We had a great conversation about my influence on her and her current thoughts about her personal journey. She told me that her experience in life had taught her not to judge people, because no one can really know what lays behind their decision. I agree with her. I believe that it’s better to be curious about the other rather than judgmental.