Monday, April 15, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Birth Order

It is not her proudest mom moment, but they never really are, are they? 

So, here I am, standing on the sidewalk in front of our house, throwing down with Super Preschooler.

Me: I told you to hold her hand!

Super P.: She was fine! She didn't go near the street.

Me: I don't care; I asked you to hold her hand and make sure she got to the car safe.

Super P.: Well, she did. She went right there. I didn't have to hold her hand.

Me: That isn't the point! I told you to actually hold her hand and get her there.

Super P.: (Massive eye roll.)

Me: You are her big brother; you need to help take care of her.

Super P.: She doesn't need help.

Me: Again, that is not the point! She might not think she needs help, but she does. I need you to look out for your siblings and do what I ask of you.

Super P.: OK, fine.

Me: You are 5 years old now.

Super P.: I know.

Me: You are the oldest, Super P. Please act like it.

Super P.: (Massive sigh.)

Me: Look, I love you. We are totally cool. I just need you to listen to me when I tell you something important like taking care of your sister. OK?

Super P.: Sometimes I wish I was Cool Preschooler.

Me: Why?

Super P.: Because he gets to be 5 years old but not the oldest.

I feel the cold blast of his statement knock the remaining wind out of my deflating sails. It doesn't help that he has a solid point to begin with; Super Baby is probably actually capable of driving the car, if we got her those blocks that Short-Round had in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He's right. He's right on so many levels.

And I should know; I'm an oldest too. Now, birth order generalizations are a tricky thing. In some families, it reads like the Birth Order 101 and in other families, the youngest is a doctor and the oldest is a beach bum and the middle child is the most well-adjusted one there. I don't know yet where we will fall in the grand scheme of things, but one thing is sure. Oldest expectation is alive and well in Awkward Manner.

I still have my major encounter with oldest expectation tattooed on my heart. I was somewhere in my pre-teens, sprawled on the couch, trying to watch MTV while the youngest Awkward Uncle ran around and majorly messed with my hearing (and ogling) Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer. At my lite-hair-metal limits, I bellowed to my mother to make him stop. She calmly answered to "just have a little patience with him." I replied, with all my 12-year-old wit and sass, that one would have to have the patience of Jesus to deal with him. She paused on her way to the kitchen and fixed me with her golden stare (which did it's job of making me want to melt into the couch), before she cocking her head to the left in pretend deep thought and murmuring, "Well, wouldn't that be something to strive for, Erin?" Ugh, still stings to this day. Thanks, Mom.

So, along with the patience of the son of God, what else does one expect of the oldest? Well, apparently, around here, I expect Super Preschooler to always help his siblings, regardless of actual need. He is supposed to be polite at all times, but especially if we are outside of the house and any strangers, who will surely judge me and my mother abilities, might be watching. This also goes for anytime we are at a Perfect Mom's house or, let me be honest, anyone's house. I expect for limited potty humor, as it just encourages his younger brother to worst antics. In fact, being fairly serious at all times is nice, unless I feel like being silly. Of course, as soon as I am finished being silly, I expect him to cease as well. I want him to be neat, so things are clean, but also to encourage his brother and sister. I make him lead the prayer at dinner. I want him to be ready first when we are leaving the house because he can dress himself and certainly, at the ancient age of 5, won't need any help with tricky shoes or zippering coats. I expect him to share always, regardless of who had the toy first, and to give in when the child is younger and still learning, which happens to be nearly everyone he lives with. I expect kindness, manners, smarts, quickness, patience, and the ability to walk the whole way, as there is no room in the stroller. It is suddenly apparent that I expect a Perfect Preschooler, which is highly shameful, as who I have is a Super Preschooler. Super. Preschooler.

He is only 5 years old. Only 5, the sum total of one hand. And he is amazing for 5 years old. Actually, he is amazing for any age. He is the definition of super, with his quick wit, giving heart, and lightening-fast Angry Birds playing ability. I should be in a constant state of gratitude that I got him first and not Super Toddler, who is currently trying to color his sister's forehead with a red crayon. Right now, I am watching all the Supers romp together and I wonder how much of it is destined by personality and how much of it Super P. helps along. Is Super Toddler the rule-breaking, fun-loving, bruiser that he is because Super Preschooler is there, following the rules, providing structure, and there to catch him when he falls off the couch in a blaze of glory and monster trucks? Is Super Baby the mellow, peaceful, chow-hound that she is because Super Preschooler takes care of organizing play, fielding Super Toddler's more violent ideas, and giving her all his lunch? Am I able to sit here and type to you about all this because Super Preschooler totally respects the "give Mommy 10 minutes to finish this" even when 10 minutes turns into 20 minutes or 30 and an episode of My Little Pony? Yes, I am pretty sure he is responsible for more than half of it. Nature only gets you so far and Super Preschooler is a born nurturer.

He is also an oldest like I am an oldest. In total love with my siblings, but needing some space once in awhile. Organized, but a little messy in my thoughts. Extremely polite, but with a simmering temper underneath it all. Unable to stop the sillies, or the tears for that matter, once they start in full force. Smart, but longing for more than my books for company. Born with leadership skills, but not always the confidence or desire to pull them off. Perfectly capable of handling the pressure cooker that oldest of the family can be, but sometimes wanting to amble to the car in my own sweet time, checking out a flower or passing bug, without trying to catch the speeding baby who just wants to climb into the driver's seat.

I want to say that I realized all of this right there in front of the house. I want to say that I didn't hurry him into the car with an "OK, OK, but we are late. You can get your own seat belt on, right?" I want to say that I stopped the world; curled him into my arms, hugged him like I was never letting go, and whispered "Oh Honey, I get it. I totally get it. Sometimes, I want to be 5 and not the oldest too." I want to, but I can't. What I can tell you is that I just did all that right now. And confused the holy heck out of him, plus interrupted his current highest score of 11 times in let's-keep-the-big-bouncy-ball-from-touching-the-ground. His reaction was not what I would have wished for, but in keeping with my new "sometimes let Super Preschooler be just-5, and not oldest-5," I am gonna let it go. It is what Jesus would do, after all.

Well, still not her proudest, but better. For her. 

Super Preschooler: friend to all, even the less mobile among us. 


  1. LOL I don't remember the Jesus analogy. But then do we ever remember the things we say that hit the hardest ? SIGH. Or show up later in some form or another.
    Your children are the sweetest and greatest kids. Don't ever forget it. LOL

    1. It was a good one, nothing to feel bad about! I'll try to remember it, as the middle one refused to get out of bed this morning........

  2. Yeah, the whole birth-order thing never made any sense to me, because although my sister was (is) 8 years older than me, she is developmentally disabled, and mentally ill, too. So I could do her math homework when she was in high school and I was still in elementary school. She resented my IQ, my social life (esp. my boyfriends), everything. I have to give her credit, though -- she always made a point of telling people I was her LITTLE sister.

    1. That's the thing about birth order, isn't it? Oldest is really more of a state of mind than where you are in the family. I have a feeling that Will would be an oldest, regardless.

  3. This was a really thought-provoking post! I'm an only child, so I don't know anything about what it means to be a first-born. I think there are some similarities, but I never had any younger siblings to look after or to set an example for. It sounds like a lot of work!

    Good for you for taking Super P's feelings seriously! You are such a great mom. He may not have given you the reaction you were hoping for, but I know on some level he appreciates the time and effort you took to understand him. To me, that's parenting at its finest!

    1. Awww, thanks! I love to provoke thoughts. I think being in a family is a lotta work, full stop. :)

      I try, I do not always take his feeling seriously. On the job learning is what I leans towards, but I do try!

  4. Oh, this one was SO good! I totally used it when Aud was having a it's-not-fair-being-the-oldest moment. It helped me keep my patience, and Audrey really liked knowing she's not the only one who feels that way.

    1. No, Audrey isn't the first (or the last) oldest to feel as she does. Chocolate helps, I have learned. :)

  5. Omg - I was a few behind and this was just whet I needed tonight. :) -autumn

    1. Thanks Autumn! You are too sweet!