What it means to come first.


If you’re a firstborn and you know it, ball your fist and bump the place where my caricature’s might be.  I begin by borrowing from an old nursery rhyme to make you madly interested in yesterday’s Stiletto Point. Is it working? If you’re a firstborn and you know it, say, “Oh yea.”

As far as I know, I am the first child of my parents. This has always filled me a disproportionate sense of pride, as if there was some race in which I beat all 5 of my siblings to the finish line and came bursting into the world with the word lovechild tattooed on my face.

There are many similarities I have noted between myself and other firstborns I’ve met, biggest being Lugezigezi. That sells us Kabisa. Know a loudmouth who wants to always be the leader? Ever sat next to a person who won’t stop telling the taxi driver which alternative routes he must use? You have likely met a firstborn.

We grow up calling the shots, being regarded as infallible gods and goddesses by adoring and secretly hateful followers and when we get into the real world, find it hard to shake that sense of entitlement.

Note that if you’re grown and your followers are still secretly hateful of you, your dealings with them haven’t matured. I used to suffer anxiety and flashes of anger about how my loyal, obedient and fearful subjects would eventually outgrow my powers, and they’d stop seeking my approval, but that all dissolved when I stopped having silly expectations.

Firstborns are protective, so much so that in school, we’re the ones who take on the emotionally wounded to try and make their lives better. Also, because we’ve always stepped up and disciplined our siblings when our parents are being slow about it, we are both confrontational and defensive.

A firstborn will usually have a savior complex. Is Martha lacking something? Is Joel feeling sad? How can I take his sadness away? Has Bosco eaten? And that extends to the rest of the world. This will be especially strong if one parent has died and the eldest is trying to make it seem like the gap isn’t as huge as it really is.

As we’re born to brand new, right-out-of-the-box parents, we receive the most canes or leniency,  but usually canes. We were experiments, the ones on whom half-remembered teachings and directives from their own childhoods were unleashed.

We also come to see and know more than everybody else because we’re first companion to our very human parents. This little person they made has ears and often, all a human being needs to survive an ugly situation is a listening ear.

If lucky, firstborns get to be brash risk takers because of how much support they enjoy. Siblings are a protective cushion that lessen the disappointment of a project gone wrong. They’re also the first to brim with pride when one goes right.

Siblings who hate and sabotage each other, even after they’ve come adults fill me with alarm. I hate to imagine what evil situation exists that can drive a wedge between people with a shared childhood.

From Jacob to the people in the 21st century whose stories I know, all none firstborns feel honored and nervous when they somehow find themselves at the helm of the family. Being the one to steer people who trust you is as difficult as it is thrilling.

I love my siblings. They make me strong.  

Barongo got it wrong this time.

Barongo got it wrong this time.

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2 thoughts on “What it means to come first.

  1. Your words are the reason I’m still freshly awake at work (especially after that heavy lunch and this 30 degree heat)- I have finally found a cure and prevention for my ‘nodding’. Been (and still am) catching up. I’m rely enjoying what am reading. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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