First-borns – Guinea Pigs?


Yesterday my first-born turned ten. And we (claim to have) successfully completed ten years of parenthood.

Has she been lucky or unlucky? In my opinion, for her it has been a combination of both.

How is she lucky? Usually the elder ones are the centres of attraction; they get all (or too much?) the attention from the parents and from the relatives too, if they are the first ones in a generation. They enjoy a lot of privileges – too many toys, dresses and other accessories. In fact it was we who were celebrating our new designations as papa and mama! Every achievement or turning point in the eldest ones’ lives is exaggerated and celebrated with all the pomp and vigour.

When it comes to the second one, the excitement would be slightly less. The parents have already been there and for them it is merely a repetition of the first episode. But sadly they are too busy to remember it’s the very first time for each of the younger ones. Being the second-born I have been through it all. (Eldest ones out there, I can read your thoughts.)

And there are a lot of health benefits too. They will be made of healthier and better components of life. The later ones are born to older and more tired parents.

[The given link will enlighten you more on the topic of birth order.]

But here I am more bothered about the seamy side of the first-borns’ lives. For the naive parents it is a time to experiment upon a hundred new things, certainly out of their love and eagerness. I must admit that bringing up my big girl I have committed a lot of parenting errors, mainly in the two crucial areas – health and education.

As tyros in that new phase of life we were naturally over-concerned about each and every aspect, especially her health. We surmised that every sneeze, cough or runny nose would end up in pneumonia, and rushed to the doctor who was only too eager to administer heavy doses of antibiotics. The recurrence of the ailments taught us some valuable lessons equipping us better for the second one. It made me bold and taught me how to resist temptation to grab the medicines each time.

And the second most fatal mistake I committed was the over-enthusiasm about her studies. When she got confused with P, b, d and 9, or when she flipped over certain letters, (at the age of three!) we often freaked out as if she was going to be doomed. When she could not discern the basic differences between numbers and letters, faltering at the questions like “Which is bigger – 2 or 7?” we seemed to be anxious about the Board after ‘12’ years!!  While we were passionately carrying out our duties, for her it must have been hell!

After her last PT meet (grade 5) as I was proudly looking at the 100% score in her Maths paper, I once again realized the benefits of intruding less and leaving everything to her. It was the fruit of her own hard work.

At times my younger one has to be satisfied with the used toys and dresses. However she enjoys a happier and more carefree childhood – only because her parents’ attention is divided and she has an elder sister who was already ‘guinea pig’ged!

Happy birthday dear! Thank you for all the great lessons you taught me in a decade’s time…

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22 responses to “First-borns – Guinea Pigs?

  1. Many happy returns of the day to the little one. A very very happy birthday..
    Yes I can vouch for that.. my sister had so much fun.. I tell you..

    I guess in today’s day and age kids know what they are doing for sure and yes as you say they do teach us a lesson or two..

  2. Birthday wishes to the sweetie!
    On first borns being guinea pigs – I should know, being the first in my generation on both sides of the family. Yes – to the pampering and attention, it still continues after 40+ years :-)
    Flip side – you are held responsible and accountable for many a thing that you might not even be aware of, the weight of being a beacon can be too heavy at times :-(
    But I should admit there are more pluses, the first borns are generally very independent and mature, in spite of all the attention ;-)

    • I fully agree with you. That is exactly how my eldest sister is – mature, confident, and always a role model for us, the two younger sisters. There is always something adorable about the first-borns, but as you said they are often made scapegoats.
      Thank you, Bindu, for that thoughtful comment.

  3. As far as I have observed, this is the case with a first child in most cases. My husband and I acted more or less in the same way. We paid too much attention to our elder child and gave her very little space to do things on her own.

    • So I have company. :) I feel parents come of age only when a second child is born, when they get a chance to realize and correct their mistakes. But still the eldest ones have to sacrifice a lot for the sake of the younger siblings.
      Thank you, Manju! :)

  4. Forgot to add- this we realized only in hindsight. At the time we thought our parenting was perfect. :)

  5. tani ..happy birthday ma little cutieeeeee :D

  6. First born are in fact Guinea Pigs. I am one :)
    There are certain advantages of being the eldest. BUT the responsibilities of being the eldest is hard on a kid. For esp as a girl meant I had to help out mom with all the chores… I had to be the perfect role model for my younger sisters and brothers. Any cheeky business they get into, any naughty behavior on their part ends up being my fault. It was difficult.
    So with my children I tried to minimize that trauma as much as possible.

    And as for my kids … they are a bit far apart in age … so even the younger one gets fresh toys and clothes as the outgrown ones from the elder one goes out to other relatives or into the community.

    It is true. With the first one I celebrate my motherhood. But the younger one is equally important as he will always be the baby. So win-win I suppose.

    Wish your lovely daughter a very happy birthday and more importantly, Happy mothers day to you.

    • Great to know your views, Amira. You are right. Eldest ones have to adjust, forgive, and sacrifice a lot. It’s sad they rarely get the chance to express their whims as they may be criticized for setting bad examples, whereas the younger ones have the ‘freedom of expression’. There is a gap of six years between my girls. Though elder is not jealous or selfish, we often expect her to behave like a grown-up, and as you said, for mothers the lil one never ‘grows up’.
      Thank you for your wishes!

    • @amira, Your comment sounds so familiar :) I am a first born guinea pig too :)

      • yeah to guinea pigs :) after all we get a bit more freedom (as in learning to be independent) and some authority later in life :)
        I guess if I were to be born again I will choose to be the eldest all over again :)

  7. Belated wishes to your little one. Its commendable you are thinking this way. Some parents don’t reflect on it at all.

    • Thank you, Shail! As kids we wished to rebel the overbearing parenting methods. However as parents, we find ourselves inadvertently repeating them in the absence of a judicious effort. There is much to learn from bold parents like you.

  8. Nice post..:).I am also the second child of ma parents. And several times, I complained to my parents that my sister was luckier than me when she was a child. And they used to say the same reason that she is their first- bone and naturally at that time she would be the favorite of them, my grand parents and other relatives. And my mother used to say that I and my brother are more lucky during our school time than her because my sister didn’t have this net facility and all when she was studying and she used to do the assignments with the help of news papers and books.Anyway,”belated happy birthday” to Tanya.:)

  9. It’s not easy to bring up kids. But we learn as we go – and bring our own experience as growing up ourselves into the equation. I think your observations in this post is very spot on in terms of what all parents think about. It’s a great post.

  10. “Happy Belated Birthday to your daughter! :-)
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