Lessons Learned From Parenting My Firstborn Child
I have a soft spot for my firstborn.
I know, I know, it’s not politically correct to say so.
Maybe because she’s the oldest, like I was, growing up.
Maybe because she’s the only girl, or maybe… because I have higher expectations of her. After all, she is older and should ‘know better’, right?
Can you feel any tension in all of this?
Brett and I had no clue what we were doing 9 years ago as first time parents. Believe me when I say I made aaaaall the rookie mistakes, trying to find my own way in parenting.
I let her cry because that’s what babies do, isn’t it? They cry. So what?
Except her little brain did not know I would come back. Out of sight, out of reality. Mummy’s gone, I’m alone, and I’m freaking out!
So then I started holding her, and not letting her cry alone in her cot. Thank goodness.
I was a nazi with sleep for a long time, because I knew it was key to healthy brain development. Like, she would fall asleep in the car, and when we got to where we were going I would try for hours to put her back down. Well… That never happened.
Then, when she entered toddler age and started exploring more, she once touched the garbage can. Oh my.
I stooped down to her level, looked her in the eye, and said a firm –very firm- NO. Her eyes opened wide –she was scared- and then she bawled.
All she needed was probably a breezy “oh, not the garbage darling, that’s yucky” in a gentle voice, with a smile on my face.
No wonder she is my most intense, bent-on-justice and right-and-wrong child.
She is strong, but also very sensitive. She wants things done to perfection, which often leads to frustration.
And I can’t help but think it has something to do with the way she has grown up so far, with high expectations from her mum.
So I pulled her aside the other day, and it may sound cheesy but I told her the same thing Jack tells his son Kevin in the show This Is Us:
“I know I’m old, but I’m new at this. I’ve never had a child your age before… I’m learning. And I’m so sorry for all my mistakes.”
She hugged me for a long time, and said “It’s ok, mom. You’re doing your best effort.”
Cue all the tears. Mine, this time.
She saw me vulnerable and real, like a human…
…not a bossy grown-up telling her what to do and not to do, explaining in great detail where she went wrong, why, and how to fix it.
Have you ever noticed how forgiving and full of compassion children are towards their parents, when they apologize? I mean, talk about modelling humility and grace!
I have come to realise too much authority and expectation can damage a soul.
It has the potential to crush a child’s spirit, the exact opposite of what I aspire to as a parent.
Now when there is conflict, or any kind of issue, I pause, and ponder.
Before speaking too quickly or reacting in frustration, I remove myself from the situation in my mind. I choose a higher perspective. What is really happening here? Why are both my children in tears over something so trivial?
Sometimes, the answer is food –wait, they haven’t had a snack yet today!
Sometimes it’s tiredness from a bad sleep the night before.
Sometimes they want what the other has because they feel left out, unseen, unloved.
We resolve conflict, we sit in the mess and the tension and the lack of solution together.
Of course it’s easier to send everyone to their rooms to ‘think about it’ but really, what does that accomplish, apart from a few minutes of peace? Nothing. They will pick up right where they left off, because no one was there to guide them through conflict resolution.
Yes it takes more time, more effort, more biting my tongue, but I believe that over time I will have children who can practice this on the playground, when I am not there.
Children who apologize and are so secure in themselves they don’t mind letting another child have their toy, have a turn on the swings, say no to playing with them, etc, etc, etc.
I have a soft spot for Charlotte, my firstborn.
Because we discover the hurdles of growing up together, and she is the one practicing all these things with me.
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Keren is a world traveler, wife and mother of 4 children -who keep her on her toes! In a past life she has worked as a Registered Nurse in pediatrics, Montessori assistant teacher, blog writer and French teacher. Her days are now filled with caring for her kids, managing two health and wellness communities -one in French and one for English speakers- as well as educating others in natural remedies and how to make everyday products using essential oils. Her favorite day is Sunday, when she gets to enjoy church community with her husband while kids are having a good time!