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An informal survey for older siblings - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
An informal survey for older siblings
I'm a fatherless only child--a daughter to boot--so naturally, I'm thinking about writing an essay for Saga Journal on the role expectations of an older brother toward a younger brother (and vice versa) and the expections of a son for his father (and vice versa).

Now, there's actually plenty of literature out there on fathers and sons, and on birth order, though the latter seems to focus a lot more on the impact of older siblings on younger ones than the impact of younger ones on the older ones. There's a lot already written on expectations and roles in the parent-child thing, but not a whole lot about expectations from one sibling toward another. So, hey... why not just ask? There is danger of being quoted if you say something clever or insightful.

Questions for older siblings
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I guess that's it. Short, but sweet. :)
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cheshyre From: cheshyre Date: June 6th, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll try to answer the rest of your questionaire when I have time, but one interesting observation I made.

My husband and I are both the oldest children of two oldest children. [In other words, my husband and I and all four of our parents are all eldest children with younger siblings.]
We all went to the Disney parks many years ago (along with some other family members) and I kept noticing that when we were in a group, we habitually kept looking back and looking around to make sure the whole group was still present and together. Like sheepdogs... But it was only those of us who were eldest kids.

Just an interesting character trait, I thought.
wychwood From: wychwood Date: June 6th, 2005 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suspect that one major factor there would be difference in age. I'm the eldest of four, but there are less than five years between me and the youngest; I've had some responsibility over them in various instances, but the age-gap is so small that by the time I was old enough to be really responsible, they were old enough not to need it.

Plus, y'know, they never actually paid me any attention anyway ;)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: June 6th, 2005 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. Yeah, I have one younger brother, but only by two years. My mother was more concerned with teaching me not to boss him around than with getting me to take responsibility for him.
valerie_valerah From: valerie_valerah Date: June 6th, 2005 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

From the oldest daughter of four (a brother and two sisters)

1. Well, I know when we are left alone (a rare occassion when we were younger, but now more often, as I'm 19, my brother is 18, and my sisters are 14 and 13), it is sort of an unspoken expectation of me to make sure everyone stays safe and relatively out of trouble, moreso for my sisters than my brother, as he is only a year younger than me. I remember a few times when my sisters were toddlers, and I was around 7 or 8, and I changed their diapers once or twice. I've always considered watching out for my siblings as my responsibility as the oldest, however I'm hardly ever in charge in the sense that I make rules and they have to listen; that never happens. It was never a big imposition to me, although I was always miffed when I was yelled at when my sisters made a mess.

2. From my brother, who is 18, I sort of look to him as what I percieve most younger siblings look to in an older brother. I'm constantly expecting him to fix whatever computer problems I'm having and to explain things to me when I don't understand. However, being that I am the oldest, I expect him, as well as my sisters, to treat me with something resembling respect, even though I normally don't get that. I expect both of my sisters to feel comfortable is coming to me with questions or concerns that they may not feel comfortable talking with my mom or dad about. We seem to have another one of those unspoken understandings that, if it's not a lifethreatening or really serious secret, I won't tell mom or dad what is bothering them, but will try to help them resolve whatever is bothering them myself. Most of the time, though, we treat each other as equals (as in, we all get the equal amount of insults from each other :P).

3. Most of what I perceive of them expecting from me is a cheuffer, as least from my sisters. My brother expects me to help him match his clothing (silly male) and to teach him to use the washing machine. Also, lately he's been asking me questions about certain college preparation things, even though he usually rubs in the fact that I'm going to the community college and he's going to RPI, but that's neither here nor there. I think whatever they expect of me is pretty much fair game, as I am the oldest and should have more experience than them. Again, I think this applies more to my sisters than my brother.

4. As oldest sibling, it's my responsibility to protect my younger siblings from whomever and whatever they need protecting from. However, it is not my job to coddle them. That's my parents' job. My job is to let them know that life is tough and mean, but not at all horrible. If I'm mean or hard on them, it's to prepare them for what is to come. I do it out of love, and I want them to be better prepared than I was for things like high school (again, mainly for my sisters). I also have to take up the role as "second mother" if for one reason or another our mother isn't availble (highly unlikely). I'm not only there to teach them, though. I also have an obligation to make sure they have more fun than I did when I was their age.

I hope that helps! Good luck with the essay.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 6th, 2005 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: From the oldest daughter of four (a brother and two sisters)

Thanks, very helpful... number four particularly, with the delineation between perceived sibling roles and perceived parental roles. (I'm going to ask younger sibs what they expect differently between parents and olders next.)
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: June 6th, 2005 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. Yes, it was a habitual pain in the butt. (But I'm not bitter.)

2. As children, I expected my siblings to pay attention to ME! which they did not. I learned that they would do whatever they wanted, whether or not I told them not to. In other words, I assumed I had authority. In reality, I had none. As adults, I rarely see my brother (he's on his side of the Mason Dixon line and I'm on the other) and I have no influence or expectations (except for this year's family reunion - it's his turn to organize it) on him. We talk infrequently, but we were never close in anything but age. My youngest sister* lives about 40 miles away, we talk about family things only. Neither of us make any big effort to call each other, but our relationship has always been bad.

3. Their expectations of me? No idea.

4. I get more duty toward caring for elderly parents. Because I have a sister who is mentally retarded, our family's care-giving roles are complex. I have always thought that I would have some responsibility toward that sister's ultimate care, but the current thoughts are in flux due to changes in the law and family situations. My situation is not normal, so don't judge others by me.

*If you have 2 younger sisters, what do you call the junior? Is she your youngest sister or your younger younger sister?
justjanuary From: justjanuary Date: June 6th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Younger sister and youngest sister.
izhilzha From: izhilzha Date: June 6th, 2005 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ooo, cool, I'm an oldest child:

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I was responsible for them often, being the eldest of (eventually) seven children. Also, we were homeschooled, so if Mom was busy and Dad not home, I was the default authority. I was also the default babysitter once I turned 13. So, yes, absolutely a habitual thing.

I never thought of it as an imposition, just as part of my role in the family. I did sometimes resent it, but I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility/guilt and I think that contributed to my willingness to just step in and be Mom-#2.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

Other than that they would be annoying? ;-) I expected, when we were younger, that they would respect my position as oldest child, and respect the parental injunction that I was boss in their absence.

Now that I'm an adult, I guess I just expect that we'll stay in touch and keep track of each other, help each other out if necessary.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

Guidence (not that a younger sib will admit that). Information, answers to questions. I was responsible for converting all my sibs into rabid bookworms. *smug grin* And one of my most memorable moments is when my 7-yr-old sister was standing next to me at our Grandma's funeral, and she asked me very quietly if it was okay to be sad (re: the pastor's talk, about being happy that Grandma was with the Lord). I got to be the one to tell her, yes, it's okay, go ahead and cry.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I expect that I will keep them safe, whether that means protecting them (even to the extent of saying, "Those books really suck, don't bother reading them") or making sure they hear about my own mistakes so they won't make the same ones. This particularly applies to making sure my younger brothers understand how their actions will appear to the girls they're interested in. :-) I also hope to help them learn to think for themselves, because then I will be able to quit being responsible for them.
beautiful_rain_ From: beautiful_rain_ Date: June 6th, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?
I was responsible for my sister a lot of the time. She is 4 years younger than I am, and while I was a latchkey kid from third grade on, she was in daycare and afterschool care until she was in 6th grade. This did seem to be the natural order of things (although it was sometimes a huge imposition when she would get cranky and annoyed with me) because she's enough younger that I was babysitting other kids by the time someone asked me to babysit her. Now, while I felt like it was the natural order of things, she would disagree. She always wanted to be equal to me, and she didn't (still doesn't) like the thought that I am taking care of her.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?
I expect that she will be a good person. She is certainly not the same kind of person I am (introverted, bookish, nerdy), and I wouldn't want her to be. However, I do expect her to do things she knows she should do (get good grades, call mom if she's going to be late, respect parents/authority), and not do things she shouldn't do (drink, drugs, etc). She's not an adult (14), but I am (18), and when I went away to college I think I expected her to...not fill my shoes/role in the family, precisely, but...rise to the challenge of being the oldest child in the house. She hasn't quite achieved it the way I was imagining it to turn out, but she's doing admirably well.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?
She expects me to protect her. She has always expected this of me, and I think it's a fair expectation. She expects me, more importantly, to know how to protect her (which is somewhat less fair, but only because it's somewhat harder). She also expects me to act the "part of older sister" (driving her places, convincing mom to let her watch r-rated movies, etc), which I fail at miserably most of the time because I don't generally live up to popular expectations. While she doesn't necessarily admit to expecting me to be wise and teach her everything, it became apparent to my mom and me when I left for college that she expects me to do this too. She looks up to me as an example because I survived life long enough to teach her about it. (That sounds much more cliche written than it did in my head, sorry about that)

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?
I expect to be able to protect her and teach her and be wise, and everything that she expects of me. My responsibilities are some that she wouldn't like, however. I feel responsible for protecting her from herself sometimes. Stopping her when she's going to make a huge mistake that I can tell her about anyway. This is where I run into problems. Because I want her to learn by making mistakes, but I just think that some mistakes are too big to make, and they need to be stopped beforehand. I'm also responsible for keeping myself the kind of role model that she can look up to. As far as role models go, most of hers have never existed as role models (father) or have fallen from their position (teachers/older mentors), and while she might not consciously know that she's looking up to me, I can tell that she's trying to be like me in her decisions...which is flattering and makes me very hopeful, but it also keeps me straight.

Hope that helps (more than it sounds like it's going to because we're girls and you're writing about boys)!
justjanuary From: justjanuary Date: June 6th, 2005 05:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Questions for older siblings
1. I am normally in charge of my younger sister. I mean, whenever we go somewhere or my mom is asleep, even though I'm the middle child. It is a habitual thing, and it seems pretty normal to me, her being almost three years younger than me and not a friendly little person. What always struck/strikes me as odd, and has always felt like a big imposition is being stuck with the responsibility of my older brother (he is immature).

2. I expect my younger sister to do what I say when I say it (Dictator? Me?) and in exchange I rarely order her around. I expect her to be polite to me and not take her bad moods out on me, and I do the same for her.

3. I think she expects me to protect her. When she was younger and had nightmares or got sick or just wanted attention, she went to me usually. In fact, she still does. I think thats fair, because she tries to protect me in turn (except when flying bugs are around or anything is sprayed at her. Then I become the human shield).

4. I expect myself to teach her, and to protect her. I think my responsibilities to my younger sister are to help her be the person she wants to be, soften her harsh edges (whether or not she wants them softened!), and to be one of the people she can confide into and expect without strings to help her. I think its my responsibility to baby her, as I am the only one who will.
akilika From: akilika Date: June 6th, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
. . . is this just for oldest siblings, or for anyone with a sibling younger than them? (I ask 'cause I'm a middle--one sister five and a half years older, and one sister one and a half years younger.) Just curious to see if I apply to this before I answer.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: June 6th, 2005 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's for anyone who has a younger sibling. I think you could be number nine of ten and still answer Fern's questions.
sannalim From: sannalim Date: June 6th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm the firstborn of six children. I have three sisters, all of whom were born before I turned five, and two brothers, who were born when I was ten and twelve. Thus, my sisters and I are all now in our twenties, and my brothers are teenagers.

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?
After I turned eleven, my parents considered me old enough and responsible enough to be left in charge of my siblings on weekend afternoons or evenings while they went out. Since our babysitters when my sisters and I were small children had never been much older than sixth-grade age, this was about what I expected--in other words, very much the normal order of things. I was left in charge maybe once or twice a month, increasing gradually as we got older. My sisters are still fond of embarassing me by telling exaggerated tales of the dictatorial horror I supposedly became when left in charge.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?
When we were all children, I expected my sibs to pay attention and to (mostly) do what I told them to.
Now that my sisters and I are all adults--and thankfully past the quarrels of our adolescence to become good friends--we keep in touch regularly--but I must admit that my sisters do most of the driving of that, since I am not a terribly communicative sort (LJ evidence to the contrary). I don't really expect my sisters to come to me for advice, since they are wiser than I am.
Since I am no longer at Home, my expectations for my brothers are more or less the same as those for my sisters (that they will write letters occasionally and talk to me on the phone when I call) but with the added hope that they will think of me fondly when we are all middle-aged.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?
My brothers expect me to be interested in what they are doing, particularly in their creative endeavors, which is a perfectly fair expectation as I like them to be interested in mine. They also expect me to spend at least some time doing things with them when I am at Home, also a fair expectation. I hope that they also expect me to provide a good example.
My sisters expect me to call them and write to them, which I suspect I do far less often than they would like.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?
My role as eldest is to be the trail-breaker, to show my siblings what is possible and to set benchmarks for them all to meet or surpass (so far my sisters have done the surpassing part brilliantly). I also have a responsibility to live a good life, so that my siblings will have a positive example to follow. As the eldest, I felt that another of my roles was to be a buffer between my parents and my siblings--defending my siblings' actions to my parents and/or my parents' actions to my siblings, as the case required.
angua9 From: angua9 Date: June 6th, 2005 06:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I always felt responsible for my two younger siblings (2 and 3.5 years younger). There were many, many times my parents expected me to take responsibility for them, but I felt the need to protect them and teach them at all times. I suppose I took it for granted as normal.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling?

I'm afraid I expected obedience. :p

If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

Yes. I don't expect anything of them now, except those family things of being there for me if I needed them and normal relationship pleasantries.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

I suspect they expect me to continue to be a bit of a role model and possibly to intercede with the parents for them if needed. That seems fair.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibilities toward your younger sibling?

I still see myself as having a responsibility to be a role model, set a good example, and give them good advice if needed. Because I am slightly older, I have always gone through major life events (getting married, buying a house, having children, etc.) first, and they do ask my advice.


Interesting questions! I'm not sure I had ever consciously thought about this before.
rosefyre From: rosefyre Date: June 6th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I'm the eldest of two girls, and my little sister is less than two years younger than me, so I don't know how much I'll be able to help, but I'll fill it out anyway.

1. Yes - when I got to be about 12 or so, my parents started leaving us home along on evenings, not getting a babysitter. Thus, I was the most adult person in the house. It wasn't a huge deal, but then again, by the time they started doing that, my sister was 10 and able to do pretty much everything by herself.

2. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by expectations. I guess I expect her to be a little less mature than I am, though that's not so much the case anymore.

3. Well, I think she expects me to be able to help her with things that the parents can't necessarily do - getting gifts for parents, helping with homework in certain subjects (after my dad died, I became the math/science authority in the house...not that I really am, but I was two grades above my sister and my mom...er...doesn't do math so much). I think she also expects me to be a bit...conscientious of her feelings, which may just be what happens with me and my sister. After all, I tend to let her pick when relatives get two similar but not identical gifts for us (like, the same shirt, but in pink and blue). I've always done that, though, so I don't how much that applies to other people.

4. I expect to be the organized person, the person who she can come to if she needs help. It's much more reciprocal now - as I'm almost 21 and she just turned 19, there's really not much difference between us, but when we were little there was. I also expect that I will have to be the adult more often than she will, just because I'm older. I'm the one who takes responsibility more often, possibly because I'm not used to it.

I hope that helps!
rosefyre From: rosefyre Date: June 6th, 2005 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er...I am used to it.
fearlesstemp From: fearlesstemp Date: June 6th, 2005 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lurker speaking up here, hope you don't mind.

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I am the oldest of two kids. My brother is three and a half years younger than me, and we have a good relationship. When I was eleven, my parents decided I was old enough to babysit, and I looked after him whenever they both had to go out, and also after school until they got home from work. It was pretty habitual; the only thing that occasionally annoyed me was not being by myself. I didn't resent having to look after him (it always felt natural to me) or wish someone else would take up the job. But I was happy when he'd go play somewhere else, mostly because then I would have full control over the TV.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

In adulthood, I expect him to come to me with problems he doesn't feel comfortable telling our parents about and ask me for help when he needs it. I also expect him to be a decent human being in general, and for him to look out for me when I need it. In childhood, I mostly expected him to not cause a lot of trouble because I didn't feel like explaining it to my parents when I got home.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

Money, first of all! He's in college, I'm a few years out, so I pick up the tab when we're out and he feels more than comfortable asking me for a few bucks when he needs it. I think he also expects me to give him advice, whether he asks for it or not, on classes, roommate situations, dealing with our parents, looking for a job, and anything else that pops into my head. I also help him with his papers, summer job applications, etc.

As to whether it's a fair expectation - that's hard to say. He expects it because it's what I've given him all of his life. Sometimes I feel like he doesn't appreciate the amount of effort some of the things he asks me for (or I give him unasked) take, but I can understand how he wouldn't see it since he's never been in my position. Also, most of the time, I don't want him to know how much effort it takes because I don't want him to feel guilty for whatever advice/protection/item I'm offering him, because what's most important is that he get the a/p/i, not how I feel about it at the end of the day.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I expect myself to look out for him, run interference between him and my parents, operate as a first call if he's in trouble if he needs it. We both have a great relationship with our parents, but still, there are some times where you want advice or conversation with someone you can trust, who knows you better than anyone, but who isn't mom or dad - and that's where I come in. He does the same for me, on occasion, but I do feel like I should be more a listener than a talker (whether this is how it actually is - you'll have to ask my brother).

It's my responsibility to make sure that he's always okay. My parents drilled that into both of us, and I think he'd say that it's his responsibility to make sure I'm always okay. It's a reciprocal relationship in a lot of ways, probably because we're so close in age, but when it comes right down to it, I feel that in order for me to be doing a good job as an older sibling, I should be bearing more of the burden, looking out to make sure he's doing all right, passing down advice whenever I can, and offering myself as an ally when he needs it.
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: June 6th, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Background info- I'm the eldest of three, but only by 18 minutes with my twin brother. With that 18 minutes, however, plus being the only girl, I share the privileges of being the eldest while singlehandedly getting most of the responsibilty. Oh, and we're almost 18 and J is 13.

1. I've had to watch after J since I was about nine or ten if my mom had to run errands. Technically, H and I were supposed to watch him, but H usually biked over to his friend's house, leaving me stuck at home with all the responsibility. Mom never left us long, maybe an hour or two, and didn't do it often. Now that we're older, if my parents go out, we all just look after ourselves. I found this all being both normal and an imposition. It was normal that H and I should watch our little brother; it was imposing for me to always be the one to do the actual watching.

2. I expect more of H and J then my parents do. I expect H to not cuss in front of adults, but he does anyway. I expect J to not sass adults and to recognize that H and I have more education than he does and thus more knowledge, but he doesn't on either account. My parents expect less of them, either because they're boys, because they're ADHD, or because they're younger.

3. It seems like H expects me to take care of him, in a way. Having the same classes and being in the same clubs, I always reminded him of what he had to do. Otherwise he would've been kicked out of all our clubs and had even worse grades. J expects me to lead by example and thus points out every little thing I do wrong. They're not fair expectations. H and I are twins. He's going to have to learn to watch out for himself, esp. since we'll be at different colleges in the fall. J needs to hold me to the same expectations as H because it isn't fair to treat me differently.

4. I break up fights between my brothers, act as the rational voice between their "dicussions," help J articulate what he means when he can't find the right words, and make suggestions to my parents for the overall good of the family (it was my idea to get a gas charge card and to get checking accounts for H and me).
purple_ladybug1 From: purple_ladybug1 Date: June 6th, 2005 06:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
P.S. We live in a small, really safe town in a nice, upper-middle class, really safe neighborhood. People tend to think my parents were irresponsible leaving me to watch J at nine, but here, it's actually not uncommon.
liwy From: liwy Date: June 6th, 2005 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

*corrects spelling*

1-I sat for my parents on occasion, though usually my parents hired some high school girl undtil I was about ten or so. At times I helped Mom take care of my brother when he was a baby/toddler.
2-Nothing-in general we're not that connected. We have different interests, activities, and such. We probably wouldn't really interact at all if we weren't living under the same roof.
3-Nothing, although my sister occasionally pesters me about my eating habits.
4-Nothing, really, at this point-as I said, we tend to do our own thing for the most part.
karit From: karit Date: June 6th, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I've got two younger brothers, and yep, I babysat them habitually. More so with the younger of the two than the older, because I was usually babysitting because the older had a soccer game or tournament or something, but occasionally the younger one was the one with the soccer commitments. I can't say that I always enjoyed doing it, because sometimes they drove me absolutely insane, and sometimes, shockingly, I even had things I'd rather be doing. Still, I didn't exactly consider it an imposition, because that's just how it was. Yes, I thought it was just the natural order of things. It's what older siblings do. Also, I knew my parents didn't want to shell out money for an actual sitter, so yeah.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

My older younger brother (ha--I love saying that) is only two and a half years younger than me, so in some things, I look to him for guidance. Mostly just "guy" stuff like helping me with my car or telling me how to fix my computer (not necessarily a guy thing, I know, but it's definitely a him thing rather than a me thing). I expect him to take the time to help me with those things when I need it. Also, since he's a guy, I ask him what he thinks about my hair or clothes if I think they look bad, and I trust him to tell me if I look stupid. With my youngest brother, I actually have a closer relationship, so my expectations are a bit more personal. I need him to spend time with me, have fun with me, and basically just be friends with me as well as a younger brother. My expectations of both of my brothers are for them to want to stay close to me even after we grow up and move on to our own, separate lives.
karit From: karit Date: June 6th, 2005 06:54 pm (UTC) (Link)

continued~!

Ack, it turned out so long that I have to do it in two comments. @_@;; Wow, I think I went a bit overboard... Hope it's at least helpful, so I'm not just wasting space... XD;;; I can't help it! I feel very, very strongly about my relationships with my brothers.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

They expect me to be there for them if they need it, whether physically or emotionally. They're both too macho to really admit they need emotional support, or to accept it if it's given, so it's more that they expect me to treat them a certain way when they need it. If that makes any sense... for example, if their girlfriend breaks up with them and I know they're upset, they expect me to not say a single word about the breakup and act like everything's normal, because that's what they need from me. Basically, not give them anything they can't handle, or act like there's something they can't handle on their own. This next part is probably unique to our family, but it's kind of important to our dynamic, so... when our father gets angry, they expect me to be a buffer if I can, to distract him or calm him down if it's possible. Or if he's just mad in general, they expect us to work as a group to either calm him down or not exacerbate the situation.

I've never felt like their expectations weren't fair, because it's just what families should do for each other, and most of it is something that I would expect of myself anyway.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I'm definitely one of those protective older siblings. No one on earth is allowed to badmouth, put down or otherwise injure either one of my brothers, or so help me God, hell hath no fury... like an older sister. Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I've fought with both my brothers on innumerable occasions, some very volatile, but I would die before letting someone seriously hurt them. When I have nightmares, that's what they're about.

It must be obvious that I'm not an older sibling that ever bullied their younger siblings. On the other end of the scale, I did tend to mother at least one of them. The older of the two would never let me do anything that would be obviously classified as mothering, and I wouldn't offer to in the first place. We're too close in age for that. That isn't to say that I don't take care of him, because it would be a lie for me to say that I don't do that to the best of my ability. We were just more equal than anything. Partners in crime, really. With the younger of the two, I did more mothering than being a partner in crime. I carried him when Mom got tired, I kept an eye on him, I was able to make rules for him. When we went on trips and on vacation, I was the one who kept track of him. Both of them know that I'm there for them whenever they need me. And when I know they're doing something that would get them in trouble, I consider it my job to stop them, as well as my job to tell our parents.
daisan From: daisan Date: June 6th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Part 1

Questions for older siblings
1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?


I am only two years older than my sister, so I was never asked to watch over her. At times I would correct or instruct her, much like a parent would, but I never felt that it was my responsibility to make sure she grew into a capable and compassionate human being. Mostly, I considered her a friend and playmate, an ally against the tyranny of our parents, and if I corrected her it was because her behavior was bothering me, not because I felt compelled to guide her on moral matters.


2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

I don't remember having real expectations when I was a child. I think I just accepted her company for what it was and took what I could from it. I always knew she was selfish and would help herself first, so I think I intrinsically kept myself from situations where I would need her assistance. I don't trust her at all; she read my diary and told my deepest secrets to other people.

As an adult, I expect her to agree with me when I complain about my parents invasive and controlling attitudes, and I expect that she will love me and accept me for who I am. She is my sister. I expect she'll be there for me if I need someone to talk to, but we are honestly so different that I rarely turn to her unless I'm totally strapped. Most of our relationship is shared jokes and the solidarity of knowing that we came from the same womb and shared an upbringing that was at times less than ideal.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

She expects unconditional love and support. I do my best, but yes, at times I think it's an unfair expectation. I'm not her mother, after all, and I'm not bound to think she's wonderful when it's clear she's not. In some ways, I think she recognizes this and tests the bond we have (by telling me, for instance, about activities she knows I will disapprove of). When I don't bail, she is satisfied that I love her. In some ways, I feel she uses my love and acceptance as a guage of her own self-worth. Not in any huge way, it's not like my opinion on an article of clothing would mean anything to her. But she knows I am a good person and I think she feels that if someone like me loves her, then she must be a good person too.

If she truly does feel the way I think she does, however, she's interpreting my love in the wrong way. As her sister, I'm always going to love her because of who we are to each other and what we have shared. I love her despite the fact that I don't particularly like her as a person. In fact, I think she's one of the worst people I know. Yet I don't feel any obligation to tell her what I truly think, or chastize her for her decisions, or advise her to live in a way I think would be healthier. Basically, I don't feel any responsibility for her character, and am content to simply love her as a family member.
daisan From: daisan Date: June 6th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Part II

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

When we were younger, I tried to protect her a lot. I would defend her if my dad yelled at her, lie to cover up if she did something wrong, intervene if she was being spanked, comfort her when she was sad, etc. When I was in college she told me that she didn't need me to protect her, and I was very hurt by that. I honestly felt it was my job as an older sibling to stand as a shield between her and my parents so that she wasn't as harmed by their bad parenting as I was.

Now that I'm older, I see that what I did was to put a stamp of approval on her actions by preventing her from being punished for them. It's not as simple as that sentence makes it seem, though. My dad is very irrational and often blew up over trangressions that shouldn't have upset him the way they did. He smashed all the phones in the house once because we were talking on them past 10pm. If I tried to prevent her from being punished, it was always for something I didn't think very wrong, and never when she had been truly bad. In fact, I'd often tell on her, like when she peed on the living room carpet and I went right to my mom.

But in always taking her side and defending her, I established myself as her advocate. That's partly why I think she still looks to me for love and approval. She is very smart, smarter than me, in fact, and I look back on our relationship and wonder whether she used me at times.

My dad blames me for how she turned out. He feels that my mom and I prevented him from teaching her any meaningful lessons, and that our constant interference just taught her that she could use love to thwart authority. I don't know about that. I think in many ways, my sister is who she was always going to be. Her tendencies were apparent from the earliest days, like when she changed the rules of games so she would win or refused to share her toys with me if I didn't play her way, or when she stole money from my parents because she wanted candy and they wouldn't buy it for her. I honestly don't feel that her faults are my fault, that I abetted her development of a poor character because I stopped my father from guiding her the way he knew (since he's the same personality) she needed to be guided. I lean more toward nature than nurture, though I agree that there are ways to lessen or encourage certain traits through proper parenting.

I just disagree with my father that his violent and harsh techniques were the right way to go. If anything, I think my sister's character was more shaped by his refusal to accept her if she was anything less than perfect than it was by my interference on her behalf. No wonder she surrounds herself with drug addicts, spoiled snobs, uneducated social climbers: around such people she feels superior. No wonder she only dates losers whose problems outnumber their brain cells. She has nothing to fear from these guys: they think she is a goddess.

Yet I still believe that most of her personality is her own doing. No one is forcing her to be selfish or intolerant, to prize appearance over health or soul, to look down on anyone who is happy with their simple faith and lifestyle. She chooses that on her own.

Sorry, Fern, this is complicated and a bit angsty. I'm not sure it's at all what you're looking for.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 6th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Part II

Sorry, Fern, this is complicated and a bit angsty. I'm not sure it's at all what you're looking for.

No problem... like I said, I'm an only, and that means I don't know a lot of this stuff (the concept of actually sharing my parent would have freaked me out as a child; I wanted an older brother, but I didn't imagine him in any particular relationship to my mother ;)). One thing I find interesting is how few responses there are when I asked for younger sib responses... apparently, older sibs think about it more! I have noticed a distinct pattern of, "I had authority... sort of... but I'm not the parent, and..."

It must be a little confusing!
katieowrites From: katieowrites Date: June 6th, 2005 07:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
First, please excuse any typos, particularly uncapitalized letters; my boyfriend's keyboard has a tendency to.. er, not work properly. :)

My brother is almost exactly 3 years younger than I am.

1. Yes, I was habitually in charge of my brother -- particularly during the summers, when my mom was at work. She didn't work very often, but I had my brother -- and because we had a neighborhood with a lot of kids, I usually ended up with a bunch of them, as well. I think that to an extent, it's the natural order of things. After a while, the aforementioned arrangement started to grate, because I was making lunch for, entertaining, etc a bunch of little boys and not being compensated in any way -- and I wasn't allowed to have my own friends over, either. Other than that, I never really minded. The other frustration stems from my parents wanting me to cover for him - do his chores, mostly - so that they could come home to a clean house. It wasn't a good lesson to teach him. All that said, I always understood that being the oldest carried a certain amount of responsibility. More often that any of that, though, I carried a certain amount of responsibility for his emotional well-being.. I think I originally took that myself, and then my parents started expecting it of me.

2. I expect contention and arguing and sarcasm, frankly -- he's 20, as of a couple days ago, so we're both still in that in-between stage, and we're both living at home, which can make it tough. We're technically adults, and the difference isn't what I expect -- we've always argued -- but now I know that there's a lot more love behind it than I ever thought before. I also have gained enough maturity to realize where his strengths are, and one of them is telling it like it is. So if I'm flipping out or yelling at him or something, he might yell back, but usually it's just -- 'you aren't mad at me, you had a bad day at work, so stop yelling. if you need to talk to me, be rational. And make me a sandwich.' :)

3. He's learned that I can be really unstable, and I think he watches for it. But because I've been covering for him for so long, he expects to get his way -- I go buy him beer when he wants it (with my parents' blessing), make him lunch or breakfast at times, etc. My whole family coddles him a bit, but at the same time -- he works between 10 and 18 hours a day, and if my making him lunch means that he eats lunch vs. not eating it, i'll happily do it. I think he expects some support from me with regard to school and sports -- he rarely asks me/my family to go to his baseball and hockey games, but I know he likes it when we show up. It's a very individualized and tenuous support system, really, but that applies to the whole family.

4. I think I covered this one pretty well in earlier answers. I always expected myself to set an example for him, but in the last couple years, after going through some things, I had to consciously stop living in order to please/etc other people, and that was one of the things that went; maybe that's an example in itself. But I'll always think of him as my responsibility, to an extent. I'm not sure you can avoid it.
bluedragon716 From: bluedragon716 Date: June 6th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've often been responsible for my younger brother. Whether its unpaid babysitting, meals, busses whatever. Basically if my parents aren't around I'm responsible for him. That's not to say that I have to follow him around or entertain him or anything (he's 14) but I should know where he is, make sure he eats, make sure he knows how to get where he's going or get him there myself.

What do I expect of him? Not much really. When I am being responsible for him I usually expect him to tell me if he's going out or hungry. When he does go out I expect him to bring his keys so he doesn't get locked out of the house if I leave.

I really don't know what he expects of me. I don't know if he expects anything. Probably that I'll know what's for dinner and how to make it and if he has questions with homework I'll help him with it. Sometimes I feel it isn't fair because he's a lot less self-sufficient than I was at 14 so sometimes I feel gypped out of the reliancy. Like he's got me to rely on if our parents aren't around but I don't really have a similar figure. However his expectations of me are usually fine because they're very few. I seem to be mentioning food a lot but he is a 14 year old boy so I suppose it's to be expected.

I expect myself to take care of him as much as I can. Even when I'm not specifically told I have to watch out for him I know I should. It's like when I'm with my friend who's directionally challenged - I know I have the responsibility to know where we are even if no one has told me that.
bluedragon716 From: bluedragon716 Date: June 6th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
And then I read other people's comments and had more to say...

Fern - what you said about not wanting to share your mom/older sibs thinking about it more... I think there's really a connection there. Older sibs, especially ones who are years older than their sibs (3.5 years older for me), have had to deal with the appearance of a new part of the family. That's something that every older sib has had to deal with, reassesing their position in the family and how they relate to their parents and the new sibling. I'm not saying that at 3 years old I was seriously thinking about how having a baby brother made me feel, but over the past 14 years it's had to come up a bit. Older siblings are always going to be able to see how their life could have been if their parents had stopped at one. Younger sibs are born into a situation that older siblings have to adjust to. This is not to say that younger siblings never wish they didn't have older sibs hogging all the parent attention but I think older siblings think about it more and it's not as alien a concept to them.
paranoidangel42 From: paranoidangel42 Date: June 6th, 2005 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lurker here... I have one sister who is just under 3 years younger than me.

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I don't remember how old I was at the time, but once we were old enough we were left alone in the house at half terms. Being the eldest I was technically in charge but all that really meant was that if anything was wrong it was my fault.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

When we were younger I expected her to do what I told her. She never did but I never stopped hoping. Now that we're grown up and both moved away from home it's different. Probably because she's grown up more than me so our relationship is more equal now. I still feel kind of protective of her though, I have to keep reminding myself she's an adult now.

Now, as she has a spare room and I lodge I expect a free room for the night :)

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

I think when we were younger she expected me to help her with stuff/give advice on things I'd already done, such as appling for jobs. Now it's still the same except it goes both ways because we've both done slightly different things.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I think when we were younger I considered it my responsibility to act as another parent towards her. Now our relationship is much more like friends, so I have the same expectations and responsilities as with my other friends. Except I feel I have more authority over my sister and expect her to do what I say.
readerravenclaw From: readerravenclaw Date: June 6th, 2005 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm the oldest of seven, and there's an eleven year age gap between myself and the youngest, so I hope that some of my answers will be helpful.

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I've been responsible for my siblings in some form or another with some frequency for nearly as long as I can remember. When I was really young (eight, nine, ten) this meant keeping my younger siblings safe and fairly quiet while my mother took the occasional much-needed nap, or while she made supper. It also sometimes meant taking a sibling with me when I went to a neighbor's house to play. When I was a bit older (12,13,14) it also meant babysitting for a couple of hours at a time, or feeding the baby, or doing homework with younger sibs. By the time I was in eleventh grade or so, it meant the very occasional (not more than once a year, or less) being in charge of the whole family for a couple of days at a time while my parents were away, with plenty of neighbors available for emergencies. More recently, it's even meant being in charge for a week at a time. This has always seemed to be the normal order of things, because in the community that I live in, this IS the normal order of things. :) I was occasionally resentful of all my responsibilities, but only in a "but I want to finish reading my book" sort of way, not in an "this is so unfair" way. :) It helped that I had absolutely no schoolwork to do at home, since I never had to study for tests, and always managed to somehow finish my homework in school. Also, my mother very obviously needed my help. Nowadays, I feel that my duties (cleaning/cooking, mostly) are a much bigger imposition, because my mother's not working and the youngest is eight, but I can't really complain, because after all, I am still living at home while I go to college, and I do have to contribute my share (or more than my share) of work.

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

I expect my youngest siblings (the ones who I've been helping take care of since they were really, really little) to listen to me when I ask them to do something, or when I'm in charge of putting them to bed, or in charge of the house. Other than that, not much.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation? The youngest ones especially expect me to help them whenever required, and break up fights, and even (sometimes) entertain them when they're bored.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling? I expect myself to help them when they need it, and defend them against unfair/unreasonable punishments from my parents, and give them (well, the two youngest at least) lots of unconditional love and hugs and random "I love you"s.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: June 6th, 2005 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I'm the oldest of 4 (2 sisters and a brother), so I guess I'll have to answer.

1. I'm responsible for them all the time. (And by the way I'm not going to write this whole thing in past tense to pretend that I'm an adult. I'm not.) It's a major habit. We went to Disney World last year and I was automatically at the back of the group, doing head counts. It's gotten to the point where at school I like sitting at the back of the classroom just so I can see where everyone is. After age 12 I was the default babysitter, even though babysitting now consists of kicking my brother off his Nintendo at 9:30. It's completely normal for me, but I think they resent it now that they're all old enough to take care of themselves, more or less. They get annoyed when I forget that.

2. I used to expect they to do what I said when I was babysitting, but I've since realized that it's too much to ask. I used to expect them to be more like me, but I've grown out of that. I think that last one was a hangover from my mom, who literally took 10 years to realize I wasn't her. My brother (who's in his terrible twelves) is a major pain, but we're getting better at ignoring each other.

3. They look to me more or less as a role model, although sometimes I get held up as "what not to do," which hurts. They expect less help than I thought they would, and I would love to help them more, but it hurts their feelings to be helped when they're trying to be independent.

4. I really see myself as their second mother, which is uncomfortable for both me and my mom. And seeing as we're not on very good terms anyway, it doesn't help. Examples: my mom lets them do something that I would never have let them do, and I balk. My dad says something and I counter, which he hates. The worst is when my mom expects me to be the bad cop when she's right there. The usual response is "why? I'm not their mother." Even though I sort of am.
trinity_clare From: trinity_clare Date: June 6th, 2005 09:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I'm the oldest of 4 (2 sisters and a brother), so I guess I'll have to answer.

1. I'm responsible for them all the time. (And by the way I'm not going to write this whole thing in past tense to pretend that I'm an adult. I'm not.) It's a major habit. We went to Disney World last year and I was automatically at the back of the group, doing head counts. It's gotten to the point where at school I like sitting at the back of the classroom just so I can see where everyone is. After age 12 I was the default babysitter, even though babysitting now consists of kicking my brother off his Nintendo at 9:30. It's completely normal for me, but I think they resent it now that they're all old enough to take care of themselves, more or less. They get annoyed when I forget that.

2. I used to expect they to do what I said when I was babysitting, but I've since realized that it's too much to ask. I used to expect them to be more like me, but I've grown out of that. I think that last one was a hangover from my mom, who literally took 10 years to realize I wasn't her. My brother (who's in his terrible twelves) is a major pain, but we're getting better at ignoring each other.

3. They look to me more or less as a role model, although sometimes I get held up as "what not to do," which hurts. They expect less help than I thought they would, and I would love to help them more, but it hurts their feelings to be helped when they're trying to be independent.

4. I really see myself as their second mother, which is uncomfortable for both me and my mom. And seeing as we're not on very good terms anyway, it doesn't help. Examples: my mom lets them do something that I would never have let them do, and I balk. My dad says something and I counter, which he hates. The worst is when my mom expects me to be the bad cop when she's right there. The usual response is "why? I'm not their mother." Even though I sort of am.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 6th, 2005 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oldest Of Five Here...

1. Have you ever been in a situation where you were responsible for your younger sibling(s)? If yes, was it a habitual thing, or just an isolated incident or two? Did this strike you as the normal order of things, or a big imposition, or some other angle?

I have four younger siblings who are younger by two, five, nine and eighteen (!) years (all full siblings, my parents just had an outlier). I was five when my second brother was born and one of the first things I remember about him was being shown how to help my mom change his diaper; from the point on my mom would deputize me to watch my younger brothers while she did laundry, stuff like that. From the time I was about nine she was comfortable leaving them and my new baby sister with me while she ran quick errands - an hour or two at most, nothing Home-Alone-ish. From about eleven to fourteen I would babysit them while my parents went out; they paid me for this last. Once I got into high school the siblings had gotten old enough so that my brother could start looking after them, plus my parents decided that constantly looking after the siblings would hurt my studies, now that I had tons of homework and all. I never really resented it at any point, it just seemed like the way to do things (being paid for straight-up babysitting certainly didn't hurt :)).

2. What do you expect of your younger sibling? If you are an adult, is this expectation different in adulthood than it was in childhood?

When I was kid - oh, I was bossy. I expected them to treat me as substitute Mom - anything I say goes. To be fair, I didn't try to make them do anything outrageous; I just mimicked what my mom would have wanted - help me change the baby's diaper, don't throw peanut butter at each other. I'm in my mid-twenties now, and now I pretty much just expect them to be friends; we get along really well and talk about all sorts of things. I and the next two in line are very far away both from where we grew up and from each other, so we mostly email. Sometimes I'll nudge them to keep up contact, but that's about the extent of Big Sister Bossiness these days.

3. What do you perceive him/her expecting from you? Do think it's a fair expectation?

That's an interesting one. The two next in line seem to mostly expect straight-up friendship; being able to talk about movies, talk about problems if they come up, have a place to crash if needed (and they give me the same thing). My sister, who is seventeen, expects - and this is slightly embarrassing - that I am a font of wisdom on emotional things; she always wants me to advise her about what to do if she likes a certain boy, to have the answers to her problems. She sees me as someone who usually gets things right, which really isn't the case. Flattering, but unnerving. My baby brother (seven) is a different case; he just wants me to listen to him talk about school projects and his friends and so forth. That brother is different from the rest in terms of relationship; he wasn't born until I was in college, so we've never technically lived in the same house. I'm much more patient with him than I would have been if I were only three years older, for example! I think our relationship is closer to an aunt/favourite nephew relationship than a typical sibling relationship. I spoil him.

4. What do you expect of yourself in your role of older sibling? What do you perceive as your responsibiities toward your younger sibling?

I expected, in my babysitting days, that I would keep things in order and protect them. One commenter above mentioned constantly looking around to make sure that everyone was still in the group and nobody was wandering off or getting into a dire situation; I still do that a lot in groups. Responsibilities - well, keep them safe, and although I was very bossy as a child, I tended to be their advocates with my parents; in the kids vs. adults thing, I came down on the kid side.
chocolatepot From: chocolatepot Date: June 6th, 2005 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
1. Often. Every day after school, for the last few years, plus babysitting. Very, very normal, and not a problem, because he's low maintenance.

2. I think he ought to be able to do everything that I did when I was his age. Such as emptying the dishwasher every day. At least he ought to be able to get himself ready in the morning.

3. I think he expects me to do things, such as getting dinner made for us when I am supposed to and to do my fair share of chores. Not unreasonable.

4. I think I ought to make sure that he eats enough when I'm responsible for dinner. I should make sure that I'm not too mean to him and that I only shout when he deserves it. Pretty much, I should just be resonsible and make sure that he isn't doing anything really stupid.
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