It’s 8 p.m., and you have a newborn crying in your arms. They haven’t stopped since dinner, and you feel desperate and tense. So you do what any mother of multiple children does, and you cry out to your oldest (four-year-old) for help:
“Hey, love. Can you grab me a diaper for your sister, and also, can you turn the sound machine on? Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, can you bring mommy a water?”
They sweetly oblige, and you thank them for being your biggest helper. Finally, after the baby falls asleep, you go and tuck them in. They don’t complain but tell you they are glad the little one finally fell asleep because “the crying was getting old.”
You both laugh together because you feel the same way as your preschooler. It’s like you’ve just debriefed with a fellow comrade who has gone through an epic battle with you. One that still wears a pull-up at night, mind you.
But you feel better knowing you’re not alone, and within a few minutes, your laughter turns to snores as you fall into a sleep-deprived mother coma next to your first child who inducted you into the club years before.
Advantages of being the oldest child
Awww. There’s nothing quite like being the oldest child in the family. And it’s relatively easy to argue why it might be the best birth order spot. And here’s why:1
- You get to be the first one to have all the attention focused just on you.
- You get to have your parents when they have the most energy. (Any older parents saying Amen to that?!)
- You get to be the first to do everything.
- And you get to have a special relationship with your parents that is different from their relationship with the younger children.
Disadvantages of being the oldest child
All of these realities make being the oldest seem pretty appealing. But along with these advantages, I think it’s important for parents to remember that it can be hard to be the oldest, too. And here’s why:
- You have higher expectations placed on you.
- Often you are expected to be a helper to your parents more than your younger siblings are.
- You are expected to be an example for your younger siblings.
- You often get less attention than littler siblings because you are already doing the right thing and behaving.
So what’s my point?
Why you should take the time to focus on your oldest child
These reasons are good reminders of why I want to make sure I take time out to focus on my oldest child (or older sons, in my case). Because it’s easy to forget how much our children need us when we have a new baby in our arms.
Or a toddler. Preschooler. Or anyone younger than them. (Do you feel me?)
I cannot tell you how many times I have cringed looking back at my expectations of my first son when he was JUST 2 and 3 once his little brother came along. And then again after his two other siblings came along after that. I’ll say this: I thought meltdowns should be over by four.
When he was five, I looked at that age as SO old. But now that my third son is six, I feel like five is still a BABY! And I treat my now 3-year-old as if he’s an infant at times because now I see how little 3 is compared to age 11. It’s all truly just perspective.
But here’s the kicker.
When my youngest is 11, I will have an 18-year-old and think 11 isn’t so old after all, which is why I want to encourage everyone to take time to thank our oldest children for all they do. And to take time out to focus on them at the age they still are.
They still aren’t grown and still need you just as much.
We often forget that we expect them to do a lot for our families, but we also expect them to submit to our authority and listen to us. And that can be hard and tricky if we treat them like adults and the next moment, we treat them like a child. All in all, it’s just a unique role. So they deserve some TLC from us when we get the chance.
Three ways to focus on your oldest child
And here are three simple ideas for you to make that happen.
1. Take them out for ice cream every month on the day of their birthday.
So if their birthday is July 16, you take them out for ice cream on the 16th of each month. You use this as a quality time date to chat with them and catch up on life with them. (This is also just a great idea in general as a way to have quality time with each child every month.)
2. Go on a trip just with your oldest child.
Let this be a memorable trip involving things you would not want to do with your littler kids. This can be a one-night staycation in your hometown where your hubby stays home with the baby and other children, and you take your oldest somewhere. Whatever it is, the point is to build them up for being the mature ones.
3. Keep a journal out for your oldest child to write messages to you.
Here’s a creative way to focus on your oldest child! Let this journal be a place where they can connect with you and where you can connect with them. Write affirmations to them. Draw them pictures. Write them poems. Let it be a fun place of interaction. You can do one for each school year or have one you write in periodically. No matter how you do it, just affirm them for being them. If their younger siblings can’t write yet, this will surely make them feel BIG. And because you love them BIG, it’s a great way to show it.
Cheers to loving on our oldest kids.