Frets over first-born result in one confident mom

The only thing I worry about is my lack of worry
by Jen Rouse
The Short Years

Before I became a mother I was pretty sure of one thing–that whatever else may happen, at least I would be a *fair* parent. You always hear that the first-born gets the most attention and the youngest is constantly babied and the middle child is neglected. None of that would be true in my family–I would always treat each child equally and love them all exactly the same.

Two years ago, when my firstborn started kindergarten, I cried. Not big tears, not lengthy tears, but tears, just the same. And now, this year, my middle-born started kindergarten AND my youngest started preschool and not only were my eyes entirely dry, I didn’t even get around to blogging about it until two weeks after the fact. That’s how not a big deal it was, the second time around.

So here’s the truth: you really DO give more attention to things the first-born does, because with the first-born everything is all brand-new. She’s always sailing off into uncharted waters, and you feel like you’re just throwing her to the lions all the time (please excuse my mixed and cliched metaphors here–I’m not sure why there are lions in my uncharted waters). When Beth started elementary school, I didn’t know if it would be a good school, if her teacher would be nice, if she’d learn a lot and make friends and have fun.

Turns out the answer to all those things is yes, yes, and yes. And so when I dropped Lucy off at the same kindergarten this year, with the same classroom and the same teacher, it wasn’t nearly so scary. In the past two years of walking back and forth to this school every day, we’ve gotten pretty intimate with the place. The staff members, from the crossing guard to the principal, know our names. As I stand at the door, waiting to pick Lucy up, listening to the sweet-faced five-year-olds inside singing the good-bye song that they sing every day, I already know all the words.

My own sweet-faced 5-year-old

And Evie. Little Evie, who is starting preschool a full year younger than either of her sisters did (and, I will admit, that’s partly because she really wanted to, and she’s the baby and the baby tends to get what she wants). She’s in the same preschool classroom that not one but two older sisters have been through already, with the same little tables and the same story-time rug and the same cubbies by the door. When we walk up the big set of steps to her school, it doesn’t feel like we’re embarking on some grand new adventure. It feels like coming home.

My crazy Evie-child, off to preschool.

Sure, I had some slight concerns about each of the younger ones. They are different people than my oldest. Would my sweet Lucy be intimated by the louder kids? Would my brilliantly bold Evie be able to remember that she’s not the boss of the entire classroom?

So far, it seems, the answers to these questions are yes and yes again. All three of my children seem to be thriving in their classrooms–and this happened even though I didn’t shed tears or fret or lose an ounce of sleep.

And my oldest, who gets to be last, for once, just in this post.

Does my lack of angst this time around mean I love them less or that I’m not mothering them as well as I did my oldest? Let’s hope not.

I actually think it’s the opposite. My oldest child always has to deal with this cautious, worried mother who is concerned whenever it’s time to go off and do new things. My younger kids get a confident, relaxed mother who can send them off to school with a hug and a kiss and a dry-eyed smile.

Poor first-born. It’s just not fair.

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