Like it or not, the stereotypes are true about birth order and parental behaviour, at least in our house.
My oldest daughter gets to experience all those firsts, first. She was the first one to lose her first tooth. She was the first one to start school. She was the first one to have a sleepover or go to sleep away camp. And with each first she experiences, my husband and I experience it too, for the first time, ever. Being the first-born can be exciting and scary. It can also be stressful, knowing that you’re the first one to experience these things and all eyes (family eyes) are on you to see how you do. As the first-born you are treading into unknown territory for the family and siblings to follow. This can also be frustrating since as parents we tend to be more cautious and maybe not willing to let go when we should.
My youngest daughter, the baby in the family, may not get to experience things first but being the last child to experience things can also have a big impact. When my daughter starts school this Fall, she will be the last child entering school for the first time; I won’t have any little kids at home with me during the day (or at least half of the day). When she walked off into her summer camp program I cried on the way home knowing that she was the last. No more saving clothes or putting aside toys for a smaller member; she will be the last to use them.
Then there’s my poor son. I say poor because being the middle child I think he gets shortchanged, at least on the emotional end of things. The oldest child gets to experience things first, a new experience for everyone; the youngest child gets to experience things last, the last chance for everyone to live that moment; the middle child just experiences the moment.
I realize that each child is different and yes the first day of school is an important moment for each one of them and the parents, but in all honesty, the feeling behind this moment isn’t the same intensity as with the oldest or youngest child. I’m proud of my son and all his accomplishments, like starting school and joining Beavers and going into grade 1 (okay, that last thing I did get a little emotional at). But he’s not the first or the last and I find I react differently.
There is one saving grace in all of this. My son is the only boy which means he will probably have some firsts his sister’s won’t ever experience (first fist fight, first drag race). Maybe not those first, but he is the first to go to skateboard school and that’s pretty cool.
Okay, maybe it’s just me who reacts this way. Perhaps all those mothers out there with middle children share the joys and sorrows equally with all their kids. I never said I was the best at this mothering thing. At least I’ve recognized this discrepancy in my behaviour and they say recognizing your problem is the first step to fixing it. We’ll see.