Imagine this: you’re having an argument with your parents and you’re losing because your parents are stubborn. You’re getting emotional, you’re losing your words, you instinctively look over to the quiet creature sitting in the other side of the room and minding their own business. You give them a look, a silent plea for help. They roll their eyes, of course, but then they stand up and start playing the middle man. They’re also the person you ask for extra cash when you’ve spent all of your baon on milk tea. On top of this, you’ve probably hated their guts during certain periods of your life.
Who did you think of when you were going through that little thought experiment? It was probably your older brother or sister.
Being an older sibling has its privileges. They usually get a say in family matters, decide on the ulam for the day, pick which restaurant to eat at when you go out, and ride shotgun most of the time (if not all the time). Older children seem to be living the good life. However, there are a lot of things that younger siblings don’t know about their ates and kuyas.
With great power comes great responsibility
Ate/Kuya privileges come at a price, believe it or not. Older children usually bear a lot of pressure from their parents to set good examples for their younger siblings. They have to live up to certain standards, especially in Filipino culture where they’re also expected to provide for the family when they get jobs. No, your older siblings will not hold this against you because they love you; but know that they’re not always free to do what they want because of this.
The panganay is the ‘experimental child’
No one knows what it’s like being a parent before actually becoming one. People might think that observing how other parents raise their children gives them some sort of insight into the world of parenting but they’re wrong. So imagine being a first-time parent and not knowing what the hell you’re doing? You try all the different methods until they stick. The victim? Their first child. Usually, parents would manage their younger children better because they’ve already tried out their various hypotheses on their eldest.
They are homegrown babysitters
This is especially evident when you come from a big family. The older siblings usually plays the role of a babysitter when the kids are playing or when the parents are away. They learn at a young age how to discipline little children, change diapers, and clean up after everyone. It’s a tough role to play, especially when you don’t have a yaya growing up. Who needs a yaya when you have ate or kuya, right?
They’re your parents’ news source and the family middle-man
This might actually be news to the youngins in the family, but your parents get a lot of information about your life from your eldest siblings. Don’t worry, they most likely won’t tell your mother about your secret relationships, but they do update them about your general condition. They’re a sort of middle-man, relaying information from one source to the other and vice versa to maintain peace and harmony in the household.
It’s a whole job, being the eldest child. It’s like being a deputy parent, a pseudo-guardian. If anything were to happen, the eldest would need to step up and take responsibility most of the time. A lot of ates and kuyas have sacrificed a lot to help out at home, to raise their siblings, and to make sure that they also get to reach their dreams. You either love them or hate them but either way, you’ll probably still ask them for more baon in the middle of the week.