That first kiddo gets the brunt of all our pre-parenting wisdom. You know that wisdom? The firm prescriptions of parenting that we’ve gleaned from all the right parenting books, parenting seminars, parenting advice BEFORE we’ve had children.
And not intend it as we might, our firstborn children usually act as guinea pigs for our unintentional parenting experiments.
We try every parenting technique from every parenting book we read with them. We zoom back and forth between too disciplinary and too permissive. We treat them as equals when they engage maturely, then we pull the carpet out from under them and demand submission when they don’t.
There’s a reason to have more than one child: humility and parenting practice. More than one child usually teaches us that they are very, very different, that they require different approaches, and this in turn,enables us to view ourselves as more self-assured and balanced parents.
Perhaps it’s just my firstborn, but my oldest daughter happens to be assertive, confident and well, headstrong, and incredibly resilient too. Chicken and egg, you ask? Am I making that kiddo stubborn by inflicting all my parental wish-washy parenting practices on her? Possibly. But her personality is also pre-determined.
Her assertive, confident, headstrong traits have taught me a thing or two as well.
No question, my eldest has a maternal & bossy-pants tendencies, which comes in handy when there are other kiddos involved, occupying them for hours.
Though sometimes perplexed with my eldest as I sometimes have been, it has been idyllic to have her with me day-to-day…
1. By twelve, she wants to be online for any reason, and will eagerly help me do online shopping. One less task for me. She’s ordered Halloween costumes and homeschool book orders. She’s photocopied, typed, and become my go-to technology person.
2. She’s a reliable babysitter, a legal, homemade, often less-expensive babysitter.
3. She makes grocery shopping easier. Weekly grocery visits are super simple with my eldest along. Provide the youngest kiddos with a play cart while my eldest daughter has the main cart and stuff gets done quickly. Give her a list and she’s good to go.
4. She’s a natural born mentor. Her siblings watch her get corrected. And learn obviously what lines not to cross. Of course, I’m not saying this is a foolproof parenting technique, just a wee bit of natural mentoring.
5. You don’t have to be the only one bossing the others around when you have an oldest child. The very thing that can drive me up the wall is also another built-in safety mechanism: an older sibling that is responsible and even an interpersonal counsellor.
6. She engages and occupies her siblings. At twelve years old, she’ll have pillow fights, she’ll read stories, play Legos, participate in homemade plays, and sing Karaoke together: big sisterly nurture sessions.
7. She’s a travel assistant. She keeps her eyes on siblings while our family moves through airport security. She helps to pack up for the youngest kids on a two week trip away. (And since we give her so much practice packing, she is really good at it.)
The eldest is blazing the trail for the younger kids. And she’s blazing a trail for me–teaching me what I need to learn every step of this parenting journey, and she always will.
“While we try to teach our children all about life, it’s our children that teach us what life is all about”.