As the oldest of five kids, I made many childhood promises to my own future firstborn. I tallied up each and every parental offense and vowed to be different. I would be enlightened! Fair! Compassionate! If, for example, my younger child was tormenting my older child in the car, when the older child was helpless to escape the knee-flicker or otherwise remove herself from the space-invader, as the parent I would not -- I WOULD NOT - turn around in my seat and hiss, "JUST IGNORE HIM!" As if the older child, being older, was naturally more inclined towards Ignoring. As if this line of reasoning made any sense at all. AS IF!
Among other things, I promised my future firstborn that I would never assume she was at fault (my firstborn was always a she in my imagination, obvs) just because she was bigger. I would take the time to properly analyze a situation before accusing the oldest of not keeping the others in line. And I would never assume the oldest should know better, just because she's the oldest.
So, uh, cut to the other afternoon where I flat out barked at Jack, "You're the big brother! You should know better!" And then instantly clapped a hand over my mouth because, apparently, being tired, frustrated, irritable and apathetic trumps the indignant 8-year-old inside me. If I wasn't so desperate for a decent nap I might be bothered to mourn my broken promises. Or at least feel a little shame.
I watched my kids play this afternoon and it struck me that no matter how old they are, Jack will always be The Oldest. Will I always expect more from him? The way I expect him to hold his fork properly and keep his voice down in church and stay out of the garden? And will I always expect less of Molly? Who is too little to know these things?
I tried very hard to think of what I expected of Jack when he was Molly's age - almost two. I can't remember. I have no idea what garnered a time out or what drove me to distraction. I could go back and look (what else is a mommyblog for?!) but did you hear me? TOO TIRED. I just want them to stop fighting and keep quiet and let me get dinner on the table. I don't care who started it! I don't care who hit who first! And if Molly is crying you BET I will assume Jack did something naughty, even though I KNOW and have PROOF that Molly will cry any old time she feels like it, just to get attention. Oh, those wily youngest children!
My parents are surely reading this and feeling rather self-satisfied, as they should be. I begrudgingly hand them the game point. I can still list my grievances concerning incorrect laying of blame, and in no universe is it fair to allow the younger sisters to start shaving their legs YEARS before they allowed the older sister. I don't want my parents to think I have any intention of getting OVER these things, HEAVENS NO. But perhaps I've gained a bit more perspective, a smidgen more experience. I feel like I've entered a stage of life where I can say: sometimes it's just gonna suck to be the oldest - sorry, kid.
And believe me, I am VERY familiar with the complaints of the Middle, Somewhat Middle, and Youngest Children, so go at it, Internet. What promises did you make to YOUR future kids?