Watching my two boys interact has given me new appreciation for the challenges of being a younger sibling. I didn’t believe it growing up as the eldest in my family even though my sister regularly pointed it out. I always felt like she got special treatment. For example, the very first time I was allowed to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, she did, too. At the time, I felt it was so unjust because when I was her age, I had to go to bed early.
Just like his aunt, my 10-month-old son, Grant has had his life shaped by his older brother. He gets no respect! Grant never wears any new clothes—they’re always hand-me-downs. He’s dragged along constantly whenever his older brother goes to music class, a puppet show or on a play date. At home, while Bennett bosses him around and commandeers his toys, Grant usually just sits there, happy to bask in his big brother’s attention.
Despite my best efforts to treat my children fairly and equitably, I think it’s hard for parents not to focus more on their first child. In fact, numerous studies show that first-born children tend to receive a much higher share of attention, food and other family resources. Bennett is verbal and can much more easily express his wants and needs. Grant’s communication alternates between crying and sounding like a caveman. Unfortunately, as children grow up, the older siblings continue to set the family’s agenda. Younger brothers and sisters stand on the sidelines at soccer matches or sit in the audience at music recitals. And they don’t receive their fair share of time at the Children’s Museum. Our visitor surveys show that in the vast majority of cases, when the eldest child has aged out of the programs and exhibits, the family discontinues their membership, even though the younger sibling still enjoys the Museum.
Since firstborn children are 16% more likely to pursue higher education than younger siblings, even taking into account parents’ education and professional status, according to a recent study, I’m going to make sure Grant spends plenty of time and receives plenty of attention at the Children’s Museum. As always, I’m eager to hear from other parents. If you have any strategies, anecdotes, or advice on making sure siblings are treated fairly, please share them on our Facebook feed or e-mail me directly.