Thursday, 17 October 2013

Always have your eldest child first

Always have your eldest child first
17 October 2013

I would like to share a handy snippet of advice to anyone out there, thinking of starting a family.  This goes out to those who have not yet taken the plunge.  Who are toying with the idea.  People who are still in the romantic planning phase of becoming with child.

Now I’m not claiming to be a parenting guru.  Or that I know all the answers.  But in my fifteen years of traversing the parenting highway, I have picked up a few tips along the way.

And the most important one of all is this:

Have your eldest child first.

No, wait.  Don’t laugh.  This actually makes a lot of sense.

Eldest children are your first experiments.

They’re hardy little things.  They have to be.  Let’s face it, you don’t really know what you’re doing.  Everything is all brand new.  In addition, as new parents, you are full of idealistic plans to raise a perfect specimen.  A child so talented, clever, well behaved, gifted, intelligent, street smart and all round wonderful, that they are clearly destined for great things.  He or she will be a captain of industry.  A doctor.  No lawyer.  A president.  A CEO.  An entrepreneurial genius.  A rocket scientist.  In fact, why aim so low?  The master of the universe.  And rightly so.

Without even being aware of doing so, we place a lot of pressure on them.  But not only on them.  On ourselves too.  Because it stands to reason that only perfect parents can raise perfect children.

And let’s face it – with your first child you don’t know it all.  To be honest, irrespective of the amount of kids you have, you never know it all.  In fact in many ways, you know bugger all.  You stumble along the way.  You give it your best shot.  You try different things.  Some work.  And some sadly don’t. 

You read something cool and inspirational about rearing kids and you try to give it a bash.  To make it your own.  To incorporate it into your growing parental style.

And thus, we do a fair bit of experimenting on our eldest children.  They’re our guinea-pigs if you like.  And actually we really should know better.  Nowadays even major cosmetics companies know that animal testing is banned and is cruel.  Now I’m not saying kids are animals, per se.  However on some occasions, their behaviour can mimic those of animals.  It’s true.

Eldest kids are kind of like our “Exhibit A”.  And as such, we put a lot of effort into “Exhibit A”.  Naturally.  Especially as “Exhibit A” is the prototype for “Exhibit B”.  To however far down in the alphabet you want to go.  And thus, depending on the success of “Exhibit A”, you might tweak your formula a bit to try and better both your performance and the outcome of “Exhibit B”.  Sort of play around a bit to try and get the whole mix just right.  Perhaps add a wee bit of this.  And take away a dollop of that.

Also, if you do your job just right with “Exhibit A”, he or she will help you to raise any further exhibits you may have.  And so for instance, if you teach “Exhibit A” how to use the toilet properly, by example, “Exhibit A” will show later exhibitions how to do the same thing too.  It kind of lessens your load.  Parentally speaking.

Currently I’m busy with “Exhibit C”.  Though, actually, truth be told, he’s still a work in progress.  The same with “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit B”.  I’m testing on them concurrently.  All at the same time.  And in some ways it’s getting easier.  I’m thinking I might just start to get a better handle on this parenting thing by the time I get to “Exhibit T”.  Though sadly, my husband does not feel inclined to put my theory to the test.

But perhaps my feelings of accomplishments with “Exhibit C” are also due to my relaxing of standards ever so slightly.  No longer do I aim for, “My son the doctor”.  Or, “My son, professor Cloete”.  Can’t exactly remember that I ever did.  Quite frankly, I’m just hoping he gets through school. 

I want him to be well rounded in all that he does.  To be a nice kid.  One who has manners.  Is polite.  But has gumption too.  A spirited child who’ll get far in life.  Who’ll find happiness in love and enjoy his life.  In fact my aims are the same for “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit B” too.  My biggest wish for them now, is that they will be happy, safe and fulfilled in their lives.

Eldest children do us a favour, by being born first.  They give us an opportunity to stretch our wings.  To expand our horizons.  To find our feet.  To think on our feet too.

Mostly, because thanks to a quirk of fate, they love us unconditionally, despite all that we do wrong.  The many mistakes we make along the way. 

As they grow, so we grow. 

And sometimes, looking back, you see glimmers of gold in your exhibits.  One and all.  And you know, that you’re actually on the right track.  You’re doing okay.

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Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

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