There is something that will always be part of the dynamic in parenting with the oldest child. It’s different than with the younger child(ren).
The oldest is a brand new world. They are your first introduction into the delights and frustrations of parenting. They turn your world upside down, but at the same time add depth to it that you didn’t know could be there.
I was worried all the time with our son, our oldest – I felt like I was drowning half the time and hopeful the other half. Drowning because here we were two mid-thirties professionals without a clue as to what to do with this tiny human that the hospital let us leave with. We were hopeful because it was exciting, and every little milestone was a big deal.
There is a lot of fear with that oldest child, a lot of wondering if you can do this right and if it’s possible to raise this tiny person without completely screwing them up. There is also more frustration – is this normal? Why won’t this kid sleep? Why won’t they eat? Why are they so picky? How on earth do I enforce boundaries so they aren’t spoiled and yet at the same time encourage and uplift them so I’m not always nagging them?
So much is trial and error with the oldest. I had ideas about what parenting would be like, but in general that’s all they were – ideas. Reality was a different story.
With the oldest there are a few years (or months in some cases) where they are the only child. In our case, our son is one month short of three years older than our daughter. For nearly three years he was the only child and the only grandchild in my husbands family. He received individual attention that his sister will not.
This individual attention is both good and bad – it’s complex to say the least. My son had all the attention of his parents, aunts and grandparents for three years. But he also had all the attention when he did something he shouldn’t have – that created a pressure on him that she won’t face, having an older brother to split the attention from her.
The oldest is the first. The first to warm your heart with their baby smiles, the first to break it the first time they hurt themselves, the first terrify you with their playground antics, the first to make you laugh hysterically at their toddler goofiness. The first to throw those tantrums, the first to cry at night when they are scared. As the first, they’ll always hold that special place in your heart.
While they are the ones that we attempt trial and error parenting on, there is and always will be something inherently special about that first child. Not better – just something that can’t be replicated.
Love that oldest child – they will need it. Beyond the pressures we unintentionally place on them, love them and let them know they are loved more than anything else.