Living in the shadows of older siblings
By SIMONE YU
As the youngest child, I have always dreaded hearing my parents say, “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE YOUR SISTER?!”
Many parents consider their first child as the “guinea pig” entering the family to determine what activities to do and what courses to take, especially in high school.
From the experience of raising their first child, parents gain a better understanding on how to raise their younger children. As a result, the younger child is to learn from their older sibling’s mistakes and embark on a much more successful journey.
Although having a role model and a concrete path to follow throughout life can be beneficial in many ways, parents’ unrealistic expectations place a heavy burden on younger siblings, ruining their freedom, learning process as well as their development.
To visualize, my older sister is currently a junior at the University of California, Berkeley. Because my sister attends such a prestigious university, my parents, relatives and family friends all expect me to attend an even more superior college. Regardless of the constantly changing teaching methods, textbooks and teachers, I am expected to surpass the academic bar my sister had set for high school, and now college.
Adding on to the absurdity, I am expected to earn better grades and develop better study habits, because I have an advantage over my older sister when she was in high school. Ever since we were young, it seemed to me that whatever school-related mistake my sister made, I would be shamed for making the same error because “I should have learned from my sister’s mistake.”
However, this mindset downplays the natural course everyone goes through when he/she meets obstacles. For example, individuals who never run into any problems by always following their older sibling are not just harming themselves in the long run. As the younger siblings leave the nest and and run into obstacles of their own, they may not know how to respond to the situation, for they never learned how to problem-solve themselves in the past.
In addition, the first child also sets the bar for personality and interests. For example, if the older sibling is more extroverted and witty, people may think it is natural that the younger sibling be the same way. However, siblings tend to develop different personality traits, habits and preferences over time. To illustrate, my sister and I differ in many ways. While I am naturally more interested and skilled in music and sports, my sister loves to read thick books, draw and write. Because she dislikes anything active and did not take interests in joining sports in high school, my parents did not allow me to play any school sports.
Unfair, isn’t it?
Moreover, younger siblings who are also not allowed their own freedom are limited to what they can do.
Despite the avoidance of risks, forcing a child to be someone he/she are not deprives them from the opportunity of “trial and error.” Every child has different interests, and he/she should be respected for his/her choices. After all, what is the point of raising children who live the exact same lifestyle?
Ultimately, parents must recognize a child’s autonomy and realize that every child has different personalities and preferences. Although older siblings may willingly abide by the strict parental expectations, this does not mean that the younger siblings will take interest in going down the same road.
From the parent’s perspectives, younger siblings should simply follow their older siblings regarding hobbies and education to avoid making mistakes in a “second run.” At the end of the day, parents only wish to give their children the best learning path for success, but to truly achieve that, parents must approach their children in different ways and cultivate their unique passions.
Remember parents! Just because your children share the same blood, doesn’t mean they are the same person.