As a 45-year-old parent of four, looking back upon my early childhood, I have noticed that some things have changed and some things have stayed the same since I was an infant.
We start our lives out as wobbly little infants that need everything from our parents. In the beginning its good, some may event say great! We are fed three meals a day, given all the love and adoration we can handle. We are pooping, peeing, burping, vomiting, naked little gods! All of these things are considered cute when we are infants, but try it as an adult and you will be thrown in jail faster than To Catch A Predator’s Chris Hansen can say “hi there, no, no have seat, lets talk a minute”. As infants we are truly the center of our parents worlds!
If born a boy, dad was the hero and admired by all his friends. The infant boy held high over dads head as if he was Rifiki from the Lion King. There for the world to see! A son has been born to this pride, show your admiration as there will be no other like him! Pats on the back, cigars strewn about, friends who don’t even smoke or like cigars are seen toking away as a gesture of approval towards his fathers amazing virility! His football jersey has already been picked out, a bat and glove lay near the foot of the crib, a racecar stroller is parked waiting in the corner for the pit crew to tune it up after each time mom brings him back from the supermarket 500. He will grow up to be the handsomest of men, Cary Grant, Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt will pale in his shadow! Women will fall to their feet by his presence (some men too)! Mom is always there at the littlest cry or snivel to feed him! (hmmmmm sounds like the ground work is being laid for some serious gender expectation retraining as you get older) And eat he will.. and eat… and eeeaaaattttt…..
If born a girl, mom is aglow, all her friends sigh the heavy relief that it wasnt one of those dreaded devil maker boys! While dad is happy she is healthy, he knows that in time he will be wrapped around her little finger and before long he will be wearing girly hats and having tea parties. Mom on the other hand can’t wait, to show her off to all of the family! Adorned in the cutest little pink outfits, with pretty little bows and “hair pretty’s”, life couldn’t get much better! Unless mom was 8 and had just received a brand new Cabbage Patch Doll! (I know it’s another stereotype take a deep breath and relax) Mom also has her daughters life laid out, she will go to college, Mills, Simmons, Wellesley, she will be the class valedictorian, and she wont need any boy to succeed in life. She will be stunning and all boys will want her (some girls too) but she wont wander from her chosen path. To cure-all of the worlds diseases and win the Nobel Peace Prize. Yeah no high expectations here!
Now all of this sounds very stereotypical and it is, but you have to remember that no matter how we were raised or what you may believe today, all bets are off when the first child is born! Generational habits die-hard and really, as new parents, your brain cells have deteriorated immensely. The deterioration of your parents minds only continues as you and your siblings get older. Also all of this is only if you are the first-born of either sex, if you are lucky enough to be the runner-up things go significantly down hill from here! You are just another exemplary silhouette of your parents genes. Sorry if you are the third or fourth child, but unfortunately its true. The effort put into the first two significantly wains as others are thrown into the mix. Now don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean you were loved any more or less than the others, noooooo quite the contrary, the others or “firsties” have it harder than you ever will..
You see they have an image to live up too. They have all of their parents goals and dreams to shatter or make come true. If you fail its easy for the parents to just say “oh after the second one we were just tired of trying” or if you are successful you will hear “ha ha I don’t know how the hell that one succeeded”! The first and second child are relied upon to do all the baby sitting, to help with the child rearing, to set the “example” of appropriate behavior. Because as more children come into the family, more responsibilities are delegated, which keeps the parents from losing their minds completely. It also frees up more time to start drinking after the littlest ones are in bed! None of this will make any sense to the “firsties” either, until after they too have children, then the process repeats itself.
So where does that leave me in this posting? Well its like this, I have noticed while looking into my own family model that indeed some things are still the same while some things have definitely changed! I love all my children equally (same), I don’t look upon the “firsties” as any better than the last two (different), I have high expectations for all of them equally (different), The older ones do help the younger ones, with homework, cleaning their rooms, and developing their manners (same), But I look at that as a privilege to completing my expectations of good mannerisms. And we all know if you do well at something its natural to want to pass that knowledge onto others. I don’t expect my children to attend Wellesley or be race car drivers, baseball stars, rodeo cowboys, Nobel Peace prize winners, astronauts, or even President of the United States. (different) If that happens I will be as proud of them, as they are of themselves. I do expect them to be viable, happy, well-rounded contributing members of society who love what ever it is they choose to do and live their lives to the fullest.
Maybe one day my children will look back at childhood and ask themselves; what has changed? What has stayed the same? Why are parents so goofy? And when they are done they will smile as big as I am smiling right now.