What It's Like Being A First Born In Nigeria
Ever sat in a gathering of moms, and listened to them trade birth stories? The sweetest stories are first-time mom stories. The time when mothers are greenhorns with babies and they need help navigating motherhood. The excitement, the trepidation, and the gross inexperience. These things don't just end with lactation. Long after the breasts stop giving milk, both parents will continue to navigate the very unfamiliar road of parenting. Such is the predicament of the first born child.
Will they be strict parents or chill ones? Will they be religious parents or just take each day as it comes? Should they send you to private school or a state-owned one? They have to figure all this out with you right there. To top it up, they weren't expecting you. They thought they would give marriage a go for a year or two, before bringing in kids. But then you happened. A honeymoon present from the cosmos.
Your childhood as the first born
I wasn't there when you were born. Neither did I grow up at your home. But I'll try to paint the picture of your childhood, and I'll do it quite well. Because I'm like you, you see. I'm a first born child too.
Your parents are over the moon. Their baby is here. They will love you and give you the world and raise you to be the best thing since peppered chicken. And so it goes. You have their attention. Quality schooling, quality clothing, quality feeding. Quality play even, courtesy quality toys. For you, life couldn't possibly be better even if it tried.
And then, the changes begin. First it is mummy's suddenly protruding tummy. And before anyone really explains what's happening, there's another baby. And nobody calls you baby anymore. They barely have time to look at you these days, do they? Your life is school, play, eat, sleep. Sometimes you want your mummy but she's always busy. And daddy now works long hours. You're asleep before he's home from work.
You're sad about the change, and angry with the baby. You thought you got the best, but this baby gets even better stuff than you. And if you so much as go near baby, mummy gets very upset. It's a sad thing, until the baby grows to become your best friend in the whole world. But he can be annoying and if you dare say he's annoying, everyone says don't you know you're older. And you should take care of him.
If you're Yoruba, they'll even throw in a proverb for good measure. Something about other horses looking up to the first horse. You're the first horse, you first born, you. But you're not a horse, you think to yourself. You're an angry kid who just wants mummy to look at you like she used to.
That's how the years go by. Nothing ever really changes, except there was another baby. And everyone kept expecting so much from you. If all three of you got naughty, only you got punished, because...first born. If your siblings tore the sofa, you got scolded because you're the eldest and why didn't you stop them?
Life as an adult
Now, you're an adult. The one who taught your parents how to parent. The one who taught your younger siblings responsibility just by living your life. Now you're an adult and free but you cannot help but wonder at the point of it all.
Because all that's happened is you're this cautious, almost uptight person who has to be reminded to pause and enjoy life sometimes.
It ends well.
It does. Because you have learned and you're still learning balance. You didn't choose the life of a first born, but you're slaying at it daily, and that's really all that should matter. A born leader, you go on and lead. And live, and care, and be the first born child you are. You're more than the guinea pig child, and so am I.
Also read: I See You: Open Letter To The Single Parent