Candace Ganger
April 19, 2015 6:14 am

When my little brother came into the world, everything changed. I was three and pretty stoked to be the only child because, hello? Center of attention much? But, there he came, kicking and screaming into my life like a wildfire. Eventually, I realized my parents kind of liked him and he probably wasn’t going anywhere so I should get to know him and maybe even try to like him, too. It was a hard reality at first – this small human invading my space, but once the benefits of being the eldest set in, having a younger sibling was kind of awesome (but don’t tell him I said that).

1) Bedtime? Later than my bro.

Sure when I was 6, 7, 8, we had similar bedtime. But once we got a little older, I got to watch the whole TGIF lineup while he was cut-off after Full House or Family Matters. That extra 30-60 minutes might not seem like much, but back then, they were everything. Plus, staying up late sometimes meant more time with the parents which kind of made me feel like an only child again (and I kind of liked it).

2) My name was all over the front seat.

We used to race for the front seat once we stepped out of any building. An all-out sprint for the best spot in the car and for the most part, I won, which meant total radio control. I now attribute my love of running and obvious issues with anyone changing the radio station to this twisted game of ‘shotgun.’ So, thanks, bruh.

3) Serious conversations were the norm.

Mom, Dad, and other family members didn’t just ask me how school was going or which friend I liked the most. Round table discussions taught me how to form my own opinions and views on life (and NKOTB). Without the three-year lead in age, I might’ve missed out on these important lessons in how to find and share my voice.

4) My opinion mattered.

There came a time as I grew older when things carried more weight. I don’t know when exactly it happened, but it made me feel like I wasn’t a kid anymore and people really heard me. Those round table discussions and later bedtime? They prepared me for debating curfews and showing my parents I could handle more responsibilities like a job, car, or boyfriend. And eventually, they realized I was growing up and it was time to let go a little. The freedom that came with this was liberating.

5) The learning, tho.

Part of being the oldest means getting to show the young one how to rule at something. I was into dance, he wasn’t, he was into baseball, I wasn’t. He liked skateboards and Ninja Turtles and running in circles until he couldn’t stand while I was more of an art and music lover who’d sit quietly in my room and write. But it didn’t matter. Whenever he couldn’t figure something out, it was my responsibility to help. I couldn’t see the symbiotic relationship as the privilege it was back then, but now that we’re grown, I see how integral I was in his life, and likewise, he was to mine. I might’ve shown him how to chill out but he taught me how to live a little.

6) School achievements were fantastically celebrated.

Whenever I hit the Honor Roll, or my project was chosen to be on display, it was a first for my parents so naturally, it was a super huge deal. Every report card, orchestra concert (violin, anyone?), and dance recital, I realized how cool it was to be the oldest because these things were a first for us all. Flowers? Money? Cards and praise? Yes, because these things have never happened before and they are AWESOME!

7)  Anyone want a ride in my car?

Yep. I drove first which sometimes meant I had to drive my brother and his friends places but mostly, I could LEAVE THE HOUSE if I wanted! What a glorious freedom! It didn’t matter if Mom just needed milk from the store or a letter mailed, I was on it and happy to help because, MY CAR!!!

8) The joys of babysitting and getting paid.

When Mom needed a short-time sitter, I was the go-to and totally OK with it. There was no easier way to help out (and sometimes earn money) than to try to keep the house (and the hyperactive brother) in order. Looking back, it helped prepare me for the life I live now. Also, thanks to the time I spent teaching myself how to cook for little bro, I can bake like a boss.

9) The little one helped me evolve.

Truth is, without having a younger sibling, I wouldn’t be who I am. We’re different, sure. And there were many times I wasn’t super stoked about him growing up (which is totally normal I hear). But looking back, he taught me so much. Responsibility, friendship, compassion, and sharing, to name a few. Also, he taught me how not to cut his bangs with dull scissors while Mom is gone. And for that, I’m eternally grateful (but don’t tell him I said that).

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