Madelyn Gee – I don’t remember the moment that my mom said that I was going to be a big sister. But I do remember when she took me to a mother/daughter class to learn about how to take care of the baby.
We both stood at a long table with other families, dressing our baby up. Feeding them. Changing their diaper. And finally it ended with a picture to celebrate our hard work. Looking back on the picture of me from 20 years ago, there is one clear emotion on my face. Stress.
Not only was I going to have one new baby brother. I was going to have TWO. I remember us moving, planning the different rooms, and the downpour of baby presents. Until finally, one day I was to go to my aunt’s house for a special sleepover. I was completely unaware that my brothers were being born a whole city away.
Finally, I got to meet them. They were both so tiny and fragile. “You are going to be a great big sister!” “They’re gonna need their big sister to protect them.” All these discussions about me no longer being an only child began to weigh down upon me. Not because I didn’t want to have siblings. I love them both. But because I could already feel the humongous responsibility I was going to have even as a kid.
It is already stressful enough being the oldest sibling. You are the one that is supposed to show them what’s right and wrong. You are the one that’s closest in age with them compared to your parents. So they are definitely more likely to copy everything you do rather than your parents. You’re essentially a second support system. But when you are the oldest daughter, there is even more pressure.
I felt growing up that I was more of a backup mom than I was a sibling. If my mom was gone and I saw that my brothers weren’t doing their homework, I would get them back on task. If I was the first to see a mess, I would clean it up. If we couldn’t figure out dinner, I would be the first kid to have suggestions. I would remind them about my parents’ birthdays so they wouldn’t forget. If they were messing around in church, I would elbow them to pay attention. If we were unable to get to the laundry yet, I would add some loads during a study break. And if I screwed up or missed something, the scolding was even more intense for me compared to them. Because I was the oldest daughter. And I should be on top of things and know better.
But at the end of the day, I was a kid just like them. I was growing up and having my own struggles. From moving to new schools, puberty, and all the coming-of-age junk in between. However, I had this extra stress of making sure that I was a perfect daughter to my parents. And a perfect oldest sister to my brothers. As I put everyone else first throughout my childhood, I was so burnt out by the time I graduated high school I couldn’t take care of myself.
This is why I feel that it’s so important not only to show appreciation for the older daughters in your lives, but give them time to relax. Let them have space in the house and beyond to exist without the parental hat on. Because at the end of the day…We are still kids, too.
Madelyn Gee is a Houston-based journalist and screenwriter. She is a proud Baylor and UT-Austin alumna. Along with covering pop culture and writing horror films, she enjoys binging TikToks and finding solace at her nearest P.F. Changs. Find her at: mediaprincess.rocks and Instagram: @maddiethebeast.
Photo Source: Ezekixl Akinnewu via Pexels.