Sunday, October 21, 2012

First Born

My husband and I are both the eldest in our families, so we experienced both the pitfalls and privileges firsthand.  I distinctly recall making a promise to myself at age nine that the phrase, "But you are older and should know better!" would never cross my lips.  The words might not have, but the sentiment has stuck in my subconscious lately. 

Our first born is nearly nine years old.  Like most first-borns, she has always communicated well (she was using complete sentences in both Spanish and English at 13 months), and even though I know better, I have often fallen into the trap of expecting more of her than I should because she sounds older at times.  Academics are very easy for her, she reads above grade level, she loves to cook full meals, gladly helps with her younger siblings, and we have a lovely friendship.  She is closer and closer to becoming a woman, but is still very much a child.

We have had several transitions lately, and the one that affected her the most was a change away from our family bed.  Of all the kidlets, it has been most important to her to be next to me, and the youngest still nurses several times at night, so she would be on one side and the baby on the other.  However, with four kidlets, it got to be too much even for our king size bed, as somebody was always inadvertently kicking someone else and the little ones still starfished.  A few weeks ago we switched so that only the two younger ones were in bed with me.

Outwardly, she handled it very well.  She didn't fuss at night and I thought things were going pretty smoothly.  She made a couple of comments about things being unfair with the little ones, but I brushed them off, being preoccupied with all the other things going on in our lives lately.  Sometimes, I am really dense.

The truth is that both of the tinies have had some particularly challenging behaviors (they are tenderhearted little Klingons whose rages are terrible to behold and arise out of the most seemingly insignificant things).  I was in the middle of finals and all the extras of turning in grades and end of the semester stuff, and in the midst of it all, I expected my eldest to be "easy" so that I could spend my energies on the others.  That was incredibly unfair.

Even worse, I used Biblical truths insensitively.  I reminded her of things like the importance of children obeying their parents, forgiving others and kindness and whatever else she seemed to need.  Because we weren't connecting well, it came across as bullying and letting her know that this was just one more area where she was falling short.  

Thankfully, she has a safe circle of friends to whom she can vent.  As embarrassing as it is to have her openly sharing my shortcomings (and as aggravating it is when it seems like she has exaggerated them!), on more than one occasion it has helped to open my eyes to things that I was brushing off or oblivious to.  I read her posts about her hurt and resentment and saw that she was terribly missing the extra closeness we had had.

We had a tear-filled, heart-sharing time of reconnection.  I apologized and she graciously forgave me.  We also talked about the difficulties of being the oldest and how it can lead to unfair expectations.  Together we brainstormed on different ways to strengthen our connection to each other.  When she weaned so many years ago, we started having times of cuddle-leche.  Now her preferred way to connect is for the two of us to go to Starbucks.  :)

We also talked about the promises and privileges that come with being the oldest.  Over and over in the Bible, firstborns were specially dedicated to God.  Both of her names actually mean that she has been consecrated to Him, and I am convinced that there is a reason this amazing daughter was the first of our beloved kidlets.  As she looked back and began to realize some of the things that she has been able to do that her siblings haven't, she also realized that while not everything is fair, she has received many privileges from being the oldest.

I still make so many wrong turns as a mom.  I am so very thankful that grace is for mamas, too, and for the open and tender heart of my lovely first born.  I want to protect her from the perils of perfectionism and all the other traits that can so easily entangle firstborns, and do everything I can to help fulfill all the beautiful promises for who she is.  And for all the times when I make mistakes, I want to fall into grace for both of us.

1 comment:

Brianna Graber said...

So good! My littles are still very little, but even so, I sometimes find myself slipping into expecting Vivi (2.5) to behave just because Timothy's being extra needy...when really they're both so little and so needy, and like me, Vivi's tired and needs TLC too. :-)

I'm off to share on FB.... :-)