As I originally wrote this, our eldest was hosting her 7th birthday party; a sleepover with three of her closest friends. Pile on our 4 year old and our 20 month old and there was no doubt that the first three hours of the party were a total gong show.
The party got me thinking about the challenges that our firstborn is going to face and the challenges that we are going to have to navigate for the first time together. As the eldest, she has no choice but to pave the way. As she gets older, situations are new to us just as they are to her.
With our middle child, I believe we were able to avoid some of the chaos and perhaps correct some of the rookie parenting mistakes we made with our first. Certainly I was a lot less timid and much better prepared to handle to lack of sleep during the early years.
With our littlest one, since we’d already gone through most things not just once, but twice, so far it’s more “been there, done that." In spite of her nickname, Angry Baby, it’s actually really nice to avoid or at least be prepared for most of the standard issues and be able to watch her develop on her own terms. Don’t get me wrong, I hold no illusions regarding our “super parenting” skills. Rather, I like to think of it more like muscle memory; once you know the moves, it’s just going through the motions.
The birthday party also got me thinking about how our eldest has managed this past year. She changed schools and has struggled with competing for our attention with a demanding baby and another little sister who always wants to be the centre of attention. For the most part, I would say she did well, but the year was not without a few challenges like nightly 1st grade homework which was a struggle for me, let alone a kid who'd been up since 5:30am.
There have also been lots of positive growth and improvement. Chores and general direction were more or less followed. She found a sport that both she and Laura love which has meant some great quality time for the two of them. She has been learning to give us the time to deal with her sisters when needed.
But I think the thing that has struck me the most has been her emerging independence and growing personality. Sometimes this was reflected in a positive manner. Other times, not so much. I will never, ever forget a few months ago, when tears streaming down her face she told me how I just don’t understand the pressure she’s under. I believe I had asked her to pick up a banana peel and put it in the garbage can.....
As the girls at the birthday party watched the pre-teen main character on some American Girl movie work through her angst over friendships and an apparent inability to make good French Toast, I started thinking about the upcoming challenges that will face our children as they get older. Our eldest won't have the benefit of her siblings' experience and I know It’s been a long time since I was a teenager. Truthfully, I'm not certain that I ever was a tweenager. (Is that even a word?)
In talking to friends with teenage girls, I am led to understand that the years from 9 - 19 can be a wonderful, but emotion-filled time for the entire family. I have been told to expect some tears, mostly my own and perhaps some extensive hair loss due to worry.
For now, I’m going to do my best to look for all the wonderful positive things that come with our eldest getting older and more mature. I'll try my best to enjoy the new, hope the “you don’t understand the pressure” moments are kept to a minimum. I'll pray to higher powers in every faith that by the time our littlest one goes through the same stages, we'll be fully prepared for whatever comes our way.
One final tidbit related to the birthday party slumber party: Bedtime drama over whom was going to sleep next to whom went on for least 45 minutes. Perhaps the only real reflection should have been to host only infrequent sleepovers.