Thursday, April 3, 2014

being careful with your first-born

Mr. Fantastic and I were at our favorite restaurant Monday night, enjoying the amazing food and each other's fine company, when a large party, a family full of grandparents, young parents and a wee, precious baby was seated near us.

I totally couldn't stop watching the baby. That very morning, I had signed my youngest up for kindergarten. This action caused some definite symptoms of mild PTSD, so you will have to excuse my awkwardness.

Let's name this child Perfect Baby for this post. Because, seriously, she was perfect.

Perfect Baby was about four months old and (again I will say it) perfect. Her little round head was perfect. I could practically smell the baby-head smell from twenty feet away. She had on a precious pink romper, which was also perfect.

The family passed Perfect Baby around, talking to her in the ridiculous way people always talk to babies. She was bounced. She was squeezed. Perfect Baby was the darling of every adult at the table.

Then PB's dad held her up in the air and kind of swirled her around. His face beamed as he explained to the whole table:

"The doctors did this at her check-up to test her motor skills. She turned her head every time, and he said that she is very advanced."

The whole table nodded their heads. No one was surprised. After all, it's Perfect Baby we're talking about here.

Okay, I admit, I laughed a little right then. I wasn't laughing at him, exactly. I was laughing with myself and every other parent on the planet. We are all about the first-born's accomplishments.

Everything our first child does is clearly a sign of genius. I remember all kinds of ridiculous accolades our own first born won by simply being a normal baby:

"When I talk to him, I can see his mouth moving. He's clearly practicing talking. Amazing." 
"He sat up well before six months. We're putting this kid in Gymnastics. He's got Olympic Gold in his future, obviously." 
"Six weeks old and he never looks away when I stare at him intently. I mean, I know he's pinned in that carseat and can hardly move at all, but still. That's incredible."

It's easy to be just like Perfect Baby's dad, holding up up a child up for all to see how great he is.

Poor little first-born babies. That's a lot of pressure.

I love this kid.

One of my favorite people and parenting mentors once said this to me, "You have to be careful with the first-born."

She was right.

There is a deep, mysterious soul-winding between parents and their first child.

That beautiful first-born brings us a a spiritual rebirth of our own. He makes parents out of us, and we can't help but feel he is a unique wonder. The love birthed in us creates new places in our hearts, new reserves of miraculous love, and it is a unique relationship.

Added to the pressure to perform are the requirements we often place on them to be a good example to younger siblings, how we ask them to learn at early ages to be independent because there are other babies who need us, and the way younger siblings look to them constantly. First-borns bear a great deal of responsibility.

Sometimes I pull out old photos of my eldest and remind myself that even though he stands almost as high as my chin, he is still the little boy who won my heart with steady blue eyes and a charming smile. I lean into the love that mothering him has released in my life. A love which covers a multitude of sins- his and mine included, even the ones caused by his being the eldest son in a family full of rowdy children.

I look for ways to show him that he doesn't have to be amazing, that he doesn't hold our family together by being a the perfect son, and that he is loved simply because he is my son.

I tell him the simple truth that I tell myself and all my children when life gets complicated, "Show the world your love for God by loving each other."

After all, isn't love the most amazing part of life and the greatest responsibility we all carry through life? May we hold up that love for the whole world to see, swirl it around and let it declare the most beautiful news anyone has ever heard:

You are more loved than you realize.

"Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
 -Ephesians 5:1-3

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