The Life of a Big Sister: Lessons You Learn as an Older Sibling 

Claire Arneson, Editor

 “Claire, you are going to be a big sister,” words my three-year-old self was so excited to hear in my parent’s backyard of our suburban home. Nine months later, on September 30th (she is a Libra)  my baby sister was born. The relief of the baby being a girl was felt not only by me, but by my parents as well. I had told them prior to my sister being born, that if the baby was a boy, I would be moving in with my grandma which I am sure they would have welcomed. I am extremely thankful for being an older sister to such an exceptional young lady. But life as the eldest sibling has its downfalls. Many of the middle, and younger siblings in the family will have trouble understanding the struggles we go through. I know this may sound dramatic, but being older than all the rest has its disadvantages.   


I often refer to myself as the “experimental child.” The child my parents were testing parental techniques on, a practice dummy if you will. Both of my parents are older siblings themselves, so they understand the struggles and triumphs of being the oldest. But that does not stop you from being treated as a stereotypical older sibling. They are stricter and more careful with you. From the age of 5-10 years-old, my bedtime was 7 PM. Even earlier on Sunday nights when “Game of Thrones” was on. I was the first kid to navigate the halls of our local high school, then the first to go to college and move into the dorms, and now the adult who is trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Throughout my 17 years of being an older sibling, I have learned a couple of tricks, lessons, and pieces of advice for my fellow big brothers, sisters, and peers.  

The first thing you learn from a young age is that everything you had for yourself, soon becomes theirs. The number of toys and clothes that were taken from me and given to the tinier human was troubling to three-year-old me. My crib, my favorite cups and plates, and even my chair at the dinner table were given up to my little sister. The bright side to this is that you get new things while they get your hand-me-downs, but learning how to share is foremost the first lesson you learn after your sibling is born. This continues as you get older, even at the age of 20 I still share a lot with my sister. Clothes, school supplies, and upsettingly food. When I was 10 years old and in the hospital getting my appendix out, my sister ate my chicken noodle soup. I am still mad about this.   


You also learn how to fight. I am not talking about the weak little fights that portray sisters in movies, I mean WWE, and UFC, fighting. My sister and I would often wrestle and fist-fight each other to work out our issues. Sometimes this resulted in broken bones, bloody noses, and bite marks. But as the older sibling, you know better. Not just because your parents tell you, you do because you are older and wiser, but you can also use this to your advantage. When I was 5 and my sister was 2, I was mad at her for a forgotten  but valid reason, and I wanted her to get in trouble. I told her to bite me, knowing she would be put in a time-out, and I would be cared for. I did not expect her to bite me so hard that she left teeth marks and a bruise, but in my mind, it was worth it. We also showcased our boxing matches in public places for strangers. One day, in the Orlando airport, my sister tackled me to the ground in the security line. As my parents were loading their suitcases on the convater belt, their two children were putting on a show for  the travellerrs. Here we were, a 3rd grader and kindergartner going for each other’s throats at 5 in the morning in front of unbothered security guards, lauging ladies, and disturbed business men.   

When I reminisce on fighting, I am also talking about psychological warfare. Much like the “did you touch my drum set?” scene in “Step Brothers,” the manipulation and trickery siblings use on each other is astounding. The pretending that you did not rearrange their stuffed animals during the day because they ate the last cheese stick, or pretending to take their nose and hiding it under the couch, the mind games we played with each other should be studied by psychologists.   

As you get into your teen years, and their tween years, you also become like a second parent. I often refer to my sister as my “baby” because of how much time we spent together when I was living at home. I was always on her side when my parents got on her case about not doing her homework or not doing the best on a test. I also did the hard things my parents did not have the guts to do. For example, they made me tell my baby sister that Santa Claus is not real. They did not have the stomach for breaking the news when it came to her, but had no problem when it came to me. So they had me sit her down and break her heart about the jolly man that comes down our chimneys.   


Even though I am considered an adult, and my sister a teenager, we sometimes fight over the tiniest incidents. Do not get me wrong, we usually avoid fist fighting or manipulating each other to get our way – most of the time – but we bicker all the time. One time she made me cry because she ate the last donut. Other times we get into fights about what movie we should watch with our family. The bickering never stops, but it definitely grows with you. No matter how many years a part you are, no matter how far away you live, siblings always find a way to get on each other’s nerves.   


I have talked a lot about the torturing and fighting that is involved when becoming an older sibling, but you also feel this protection over them. No matter how much you fought with them, no matter how many times you said “I hate you,” you would do anything for them at the end of the day. When I was younger and I learned of my younger sister being bullied, I would have brought down the kindergarten bully if it meant she felt safe at school. I can make fun of my sister all I want, but the second one of my friends utter the tiniest insult, they would be cut out of my life.   


I am so thankful to be an older sibling. It has its moments of frustrations, and hard times, but I would not trade it for the world. If you are an older sibling yourself, you know how rewarding it is to watch your younger sibling grow up and become who they were meant to be. You know the moment your heart aches when they get their driver’s license and hit the road for the first time, when they finished elementary school as you were entering high school, when you went to all of their sports games and cheered the loudest out of everyone in the stands, and you remember the moment they were first brought into your life. “Claire, you are going to be a big sister” was the best day of my life, even if I did not know it yet. So thank you Lydia Kate, for being my little sister.   


Claire Arneson is a Dakota Student Section Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].