I’m an eldest child, my husband is an eldest child. We like to think that we understand the “lot” of the eldest child: destined always to get the blame because they should know better or because they should have been looking out for their siblings; and, of course, the eternal parenting Guinea Pig.
Number one is also the most photographed child, the best dressed child and the one who steals the limelight on every occasion. At least, this rings true for my eldest, who loves nothing more than being the centre of attention. After all, as the first grandchild on both sides, it’s what he has been used to since day one.
Little Brother arrived with his role of “Deputy”, “Wingman”, or “Sidekick” already decided. From the off, he was to be the 2nd in command, the supporting actor in Big Brother’s productions. Ten months in, he remains perfectly compliant. He watches his brother role play and imitates him exactly, babbling away furiously as though he were delivering a Shakespearean monologue. His Oscar-worthy portrayal of Mr Potato Head last week was a complete show stopper!
It’s fascinating to watch the two of them play alongside each other. Big Brother regularly asserts himself as the dominant party and yet, undeterred and ever so quietly, Little Brother continues to watch and emulate his every move, growing in confidence every day.
Big Brother didn’t walk until he was 13 months old. At 10 months, Little Brother is already desperately trying to take his first steps in a bid to keep pace with the three year old. He pulls himself up on everything, has mastered the stairs, and even climbed a hill with his brother this week…
Sometimes my eldest adores his brother: he helps him to walk, tries to carry him… he even told me he wanted to get married to him the other day! At other times, he either ignores him entirely or tells him to “shoo” and “stop spoiling the game”. Such, I suppose, is the “lot” of the younger sibling…
I wonder whether my eldest will ever realise that he has a superfan in his Little Brother? I also wonder how long it will last? In spite of the fact that he wanted absolutely nothing to do with his baby brother for at least the first three months of his life and that he dictates the script in every single playtime scenario, his Little Brother utterly worships him.
This makes me think about my own younger sisters and wonder if they used to look at me the same way? If my sisters had shown just one percent of the unfailing devotion that my youngest shows to his brother, they would have happily followed me to the ends of the earth… Except, and the shameful thing is, I never noticed. I just took it for granted… until it was gone.
I tell my eldest every day that his baby brother wants to be just like him, and I really hope it’s sinking in. For every step Big Brother takes, Little Brother wants to be right there with him. A constant shadow; an echo; always half a step behind.
There’s a quiet and steely determination in my youngest: none of the pomp and circumstance that surrounds his brother. Once he sets his mind to doing something, there really seems to be no stopping him. In the time it takes Big Brother to make a big theatrical fuss about doing something, Little Brother will have just got on and done it… While there has never been any sense of urgency for the rowdy firstborn, his little brother is constantly playing catch up. And so, it seems, after a slow start: the race is now on, (even if Big Brother has yet to realise it), and our tortoise’s odds are looking pretty good.