Monthly Archives: April 2014

The pros and cons of being first

First born, that is. In our family, it is a bit like we have two firstborn children – my husband’s Y princess name is Two Quivers – because of the big gap between the first three sons and the younger two daughters. As a mom, it often feels like I am going through two rounds of experiencing the “first ______”. The blank can be filled in with many an event – word, lost tooth, preschool performance, day in elementary school, prom, graduation, and the list could go on.

I am the oldest child and have a distinct memory of sitting down to look at baby books filled out for me and my brother. Mine was full of information and photos. My brother’s was quite bare. Which of us as parent of more than one hasn’t taken hundreds of photos of our firstborn in their first weeks and significantly fewer of any subsequent child? After all, we realize that the 2 or 5 year old sibling is a lot cuter and more photogenic than the newborn baby.  We also are pulled in several directions and can’t have all things revolve around one little person in the family.

Because our daughters are one school year apart, I often experience their firsts in back to back years. This past week, I traveled again to Wilmington, NC for an all day 4th grade field trip, just like I did last year with our older daughter. I remember how new and exciting and energizing the trip of last year felt. I wrote about it on the bus on the way home.   This year, I thoroughly enjoyed the day, but I napped on the way home.  Thankfully, I did snap a few pictures of the day.

 

Navigating a battleship right side up and upside down.

IMG_0688

 

IMG_0692

 

This weekend, we will celebrate as a family our third son’s college graduation. This is a huge event and signifies a break in an eight year string of writing college tuition checks. But he is not first in this accomplishment, he is third.  I just went to search for a preschool graduation picture of him – I definitely have them for his two older brothers – and came up empty.  Kind of proves my point.  So I am sharing a mom and baby picture and a high school graduation shot.  Sure hope I get some good ones this weekend…

 

img004

 

May 10 -jrw grad 033

 

In light of these events, I have been pondering the benefits and down sides of being first, second, third or down the line in a family. The newness and excitement for each “first” for the firstborn child is often met with great anticipation and thrill. Yet the reality is that in so many ways they are the guinea pig as we as parents fumble and figure out our way. We sometimes put too much of our own egos, hopes and dreams upon them.

And with each successive child, though some of the luster of each milestone may dull a bit, the gifts of perspective, experience and wisdom multiply. We relax more, have the opportunity to see each child as an individual separate from us and move more peacefully through the ups and downs of parenting.

I don’t possess any profound insight or lessons in this area, but it has been on my mind. I would love to hear your perspective as child or parent on the matter of the pros and cons of being first or second or third…

 

Field trip privilege, part 2

I ran into a young mom friend while enjoying a beautiful Durham Bulls baseball evening with my husband’s co-workers. She encouraged me to write a follow up to the field trip blog, so Jordan, this one’s for you!

Yes, I do have the energy to spend 3 days and 2 nights with 5th graders, but there is a price to pay. Truth is I think that the 40 something and even the 30 something parents would agree that it took 2-3 days to recover physically and emotionally from this amazing experience. Some of the memories and highlights:

Watching sweet Melissa record every moment of this trip to take back and share with her immigrant family.

Going to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. As the very patriotic tour guide spoke in his booming voice about the 3 year olds to 70 year olds who died on that day, I wanted to elbow him and say, “dude, tone it down a little – these are 10 year olds”. A very tender hearted friend of our family, took the reality of 3 year olds dying in this way directly to heart and became emotionally distraught. It was a privilege to be there to comfort and gently dialogue with her and my own daughter as they questioned and wrestled with a tragedy that I myself can’t make sense of.

 

Pentagon Memorial

 

Experiencing the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on a beautiful blue sky day. While the kids used this time to run off some steam, they also engaged with the memorial in profound ways. A fellow chaperone stated, “they got this one right” of the memorial. I completely agree.

 

IMG_0579

 

IMG_0582

 

Listening to an enthusiastic Vietnamese boy tell over and over that his grandfather had fought in the Vietnam war. After experiencing what is personally one of the most deeply moving memorials, he said soberly, “my grandfather never talks about the war.”

 

IMG_0597

 

IMG_0596

 

 

Saying well over 100 times, “where’s Eliza”? One of my charges was a bit of a wanderer, but a very sweet and enthusiastic soul. I am grateful that several other chaperones teamed up and happy to report that we never truly lost her.

Getting a kick out of our cranky but knowledgeable tour guide. I am sure that guiding school children around DC can be exasperating and tiring at times. We learned a lot from our guide and she mostly held the kids’ attention. I was somewhat incredulous when a loud alarm sounded and she said out loud with the kids gathering, “was that another child kidnapping siren?” – I turned to a fellow mom and said, “did she really just say that??”.   Thankfully most of the kids seemed oblivious and Eliza was within my sight at that moment.

Watching four of my daughters’ fellow 5th graders present a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This Arlington National Cemetery ceremony is always moving, but seeing familiar children who have a parent or grandparent in active military duty touched me deeply.

 

IMG_0629

 

IMG_0633

 

Once again, I am grateful for the privilege to experience this field trip with our daughter. Good news is that since her sister is only one grade behind her, I get to do this all again next year.

Note:  Thanks to google images for the 9-11 Pentagon memorial photo.