• Ailish Parr

An ode to my older siblings

“Where the hell have you put my new top? I haven’t even worn it yet!”

This was a frequent screaming match that I had with my older sister growing up. Despite her being three years my senior, we always fit perfectly into each other’s clothes; we had double the wardrobe for half the price. Convenient for me when I needed a new outfit and had no money, but very annoying when the roles were reversed.

“I didn’t touch it! You must have lost it!”

I responded with this knowing full well that it was hiding – probably in need of a wash – in my room. I was simply waiting for the perfect opportunity to slip it back into her wardrobe when she wasn’t home. She’d be none the wiser. Genius.

When arguments like this happened, I wished that I was an only child and that both of my older siblings would move out. Sometimes I just wanted my own space. Growing up, I envied my friends who didn’t have to put up with an older sister stealing their clothes, or an older brother who occasionally grunted at them when asked how he was going.

Being the youngest child, it was only a matter of time before four bedrooms were no longer occupied, and I could have my pick of any room in the house. Flash-forward a few years and my ‘wishes’ were granted. I am now the only one left at home, the only one still working a part-time job, and the only one left to answer to my parents when the kitchen is a mess, especially when I leave empty packets of chips around in the early hours of the morning.

The truth is, I hate being an 'only child'.

Now, I feel there is a dichotomy between the lives my siblings live and my own: my brother is off doing great things as a primary teacher, and my sister is chasing her goals as an aspiring lawyer, and working full time in the legal industry. Although I am not far off from being in the same position as them, it doesn’t make it any easier.

I feel kind of trapped now. I have a strong yearning for independence, but I find myself restrained by the dire rental market and the struggle of barely earning enough money to satisfy my weekend social obligations.

"Growing up, I envied my friends who didn’t have to put up with an older sister stealing their clothes, or an older brother who occasionally grunted at them when asked how he was going."

Suddenly, conversations have gone from talk of family holidays to getaways exclusively for my parents. No more chat of silly part-time jobs; instead, there is conversation about career moves, and saving for house deposits or paying off mortgages. I partake in these conversations at family gatherings, but then leave feeling uneasy. I go back to my room, flop onto my single bed, and dream about the amazing time I will have once I am owning life like my siblings, instead of worrying that I don’t have enough money to fund my Uber ride home.

My siblings and I are so close in age – no more than three years between all three of us. We grew up together doing the same things, playing sports at the same time, attending high school at the same time. If you had told me five years ago that I’d be jealous of my grunting older brother, who took pleasure in beating me in any video game we played together, I would have laughed in your face. If you’d said that I’d want to be more like my sister, who I spent years bickering with over silly things, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Now my relationship with both of them is changing. Once everyone grows into an adult (or an almost adult in my case), there is much less hair pulling, name calling and clothes stealing. Something strange happens: you become friends and, especially being the youngest, you look up to them.

I miss living with my siblings and knowing what they’re up to every day. By living apart, I find myself truly appreciating them for the first time. When my brother comes over, I am so excited to see him. I want to know about his day and how things are going with him. I enjoy having sophisticated conversations with my sister, and truly value any advice she has for me. We are closer than ever.

As I sit here, articulating this realisation, I want to thank my siblings for all that they put me through: thank you for giving me a black eye by accident when we were playing cricket that one time, thank you for ‘letting’ me steal your clothes, and thank you for (mostly) being great role models for me. Now come home for a family dinner soon because I spilt red wine on the carpet, and I feel like shifting the blame onto someone else for once!

Ailish (eyelish) is never happy just sitting still, loves Audrey Hepburn, and is obsessed with Australian Story. She is studying a double degree at the University of Queensland, but always makes time for coffee and socialising.

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