What it’s like when you’re the older sibling by over a decade

When people ask me what it’s like to have siblings, my answer is usually that I don’t really know. The thing is, me and my siblings have a huge gap in our ages — I didn’t get a sibling until I was twelve, and the experience hasn’t exactly been what you’d call “normal.”

Becoming a big sister in your tweens isn’t how most people imagine having siblings, and it definitely has its ups and downs. Here’s what I’ve noticed about the experience.

Sibling rivalry is…complicated.

When there’s a large age gap between you and your younger siblings, it makes traditional sibling squabbles practically nonexistent, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t tension. I spent most of my younger years as an only child, so I never really learned how to share. Adjusting to someone new who has a claim on your family’s heart and who also happens to need more physical attention is a difficult transition, and I’ve definitely had competitions with my siblings for our parents’ affection.

You have all the power.

Having at least a decade between you and your siblings creates a very strange power dynamic, and it totally works in your favor. Even though stand-offs between me and my siblings are rare, I almost always win because I’m the adult. I’m in this weird place between “authority figure” and “sister,” which is sometimes awesome, but it often requires some delicate maneuvering.

Protective instincts get kicked into overdrive.

Maybe it’s because I’ve held both of my siblings when they were at their most vulnerable, but there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to protect them. They always come first in my mind.

It’s basically a trial run for having kids.

When you live in a house with small children, you get a close-up look at what it really means to be a parent. I understand what it’s like having to wash all of my sheets every time one of the kids comes home with lice, and I know exactly what it feels like to be woken up at two in the morning because of a crying baby. My experience with my siblings has helped to show me exactly what kind of commitment being a parent is, and it’s made me think seriously about whether it’s something I want for my future.

Time will pass, and you will feel very old.

I was there for both sonograms, and I got to hold my sister when she was only a couple of hours old, so it’s weird whenever I watch my siblings pass yet another milestone in their childhood. It’s even weirder when they start talking to me about their favorite pokemon, or when my brother asks me a question about Doctor Who. Being the older sister in my family is an exercise in nostalgia, and I’m constantly feeling older than my 21 years on this earth should warrant.

Watching my siblings grow up is both one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had, and one of the best. Every day with them I am reminded of how hard it must have been for my parents, having me as young as they did, and for my mom especially, and it makes me incredibly grateful for the family I was given. Loving Logan and Kamryn has taught me what it means to love someone unconditionally. So maybe I don’t know what it’s like to have a normal sibling relationship. But being a big sister? I’m an expert on that.

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