Monday, November 29, 2010

Birth Order

Where have I been, you ask. Let me assure you that I am alive (barely) and still pregnant (extremely). I have used all my spare time and mental energy the last few weeks on full-time language training. I'm sure it will take exactly 48 hours of post-partum sleep deprivation to forget everything I have learned not only in the last month but in my lifetime. By Christmas I'll probably be calling Africa a country. Her 5 kids are no doubt the source of Sarah Palin's own ignorance on the subject, and every other subject for that matter. They are also the reason I can't vote for her in 2012--any woman who has that many kids clearly lacks the sanity to have access to nuclear weaponry. But I digress.

I have a theory that becoming a parent is particularly hard on last born children. Sure, youngest kids are just hysterical amounts of fun, which logic would suggest aids good parenting. But one of the reasons they are hysterical amounts of fun is because they grew up having other people take care of all of the logistics in their life and were responsible for very little. It's a very relaxing lifestyle. When my parents weren't around or couldn't be bothered, my sister took care of everything for me. For instance, she got me settled in college, which included taking me to Wal Mart and telling me exactly what I needed and what I should buy. That is something I would never do. If I were responsible for getting someone settled in college, I would give them directions to Wal Mart. Maybe. Then I would take a nap. People are adults and can buy their own comforters and plastic storage shelves without my assistance.

But what happens when people are NOT adults? And what happens when the only "adults" around are BOTH youngest children? Well, then you have a problem. Not necessarily for the kids--Kevin and I were after all raised in good families and can be responsible when pressed. It's not like our kids are out there robbing banks. Yet. But being responsible for others is definitely not my preferred way of operating. When I am given responsibility over others, I either go the most lax route possible to ensure as little work as possible--thus the reason Charlotte will not go to Disney World until she is old enough to drive me there--or I overcompensate and become a German prison matron, as I do when it comes to Charlotte's sleep schedule, although this is primarily motivated by my own comfort more than anything else. But in general, the responsibility of parenting requires an incredible amount of logistics and planning that youngest kids find boring and exhausting. You have to make sure they have the right size and season clothes at any given time, that there is more than just peanut butter in the house to eat (you may even have to--gasp--plan meals and make grocery lists, one of my most hated activities), that they have something to do, which often involves leaving the house, which then requires more forethought and preparation than the D-Day invasion. Kevin and I had a hard enough time leaving the house when we didn't have any kids. Mostly we sat around and had conversations that went like this: What do you want to do today? I don't know, what do you want to do? I don't know. We could go to a movie. Which movie? I don't know. Hmmm. Wow, look it's already time for bed. Now, of course, when it's too late for us, I can think of lots of things we could have done with our childless time. I was 8 months pregnant with Charlotte when we discovered we had a mutual desire to play tennis. Now if we want to play tennis, which we rarely do, who has the energy, it involves more preparatory steps than a Martha Stewart craft project. Maybe when we retire.

Most of the Classic Moms that I know are oldest children, or at least middle children. Take my friend Kenna. First I have to say that despite her claims to the contrary, this woman is a Classic Mom, for which her lucky kids and husband should be thankful. Kenna has a 2 year old and a 1 year old, they are 18 months apart. If I had found out when Charlotte was 9 months old that I would be having another one, I would have called my mother-in-law crying and begged her to raise one of them for me (because she is that nice of a person). Kenna was unfazed and remains so from what I can tell. Between diaper changes and breastfeeding (which of course she loves to do), she frequently bakes cookies and repaints entire bedroom suites singlehandedly in her spare time. According to our mutual friend Christina, when Kenna went into labor with her second child, she finished a craft project, probably even a Martha Stewart craft project, and made lunch before mentioning to Christina or anyone else that she was having contractions. Kenna is such a competent mother, her husband seems to think motherhood is easy, as evidenced by his insinuation that I complain too much (I don't know where he would acquire such a ridiculous idea, certainly not from this blog. As if!) Kenna is, of course, an oldest child. Oldest children ENJOY taking care of people and managing the logistics of life for the happiness of others. This is the key to being a happy, Classic Mom. I on the other hand think other people, including small children, should manage their own stuff and leave me alone. And I'll bake cookies only when I want to binge on something and we are out of Readiwhip.

Our youngest-child-as-parent situation is not improved by the fact that we are currently raising a first born. When we decided to have kids, this was an inevitability. I don't know how you avoid having an oldest child (maybe with twins? or are they both oldest children?) In any case, we are completely out-bossed by her. She is particularly draconian about our "nap time." She lays out pillows and blankets and demands that we lay down on the floor. She covers our heads with blankets, and God help us if we try to lift the blanket a little for some air. She then pats us on our backs and whispers insistently in our ears, "Close your eyes!" I'm not going to lie to you, it's more than a little Stephen King-ish. She is also very demanding of our attention, probably because she is accustomed to getting it. The other day she stood in her room and wailed for 10 minutes because I had the nerve to walk into the living room instead of sitting in the chair in her room as ordered. Kevin, the sucker, finally went in and got her (I ultimately blame him for all her bad behavior). I fear Baby Brother's arrival is going to be something akin to the last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Ark and the fury of the Lord melts everyone's skin off. Studies have shown that oldest kids get more of their parents' attention not only before their siblings are born but throughout their lifetimes. I believe it. Parents are afraid to have their skin melted off for one thing. That, and old habits die hard. I already have it in my mind that Baby Brother is just going to have to adapt to whatever we have going here, such that it is, because I don't really have the energy to accommodate another little dictator.

Basically, I'm hoping that given a few more years, Charlotte will just take over completely and put me out of a job. We'll probably be eating a lot of chicken nuggets, but if I don't have to cook them, who cares?

2 comments:

  1. I had NO idea I was going to be reading about myself when I started this post. As always, your blog was entertaining. From our mutual friend (not that WE aren't friends), Christina says you are very good with Charlotte--much more than you give the impression here. If it makes you feel any better I totally lost my temper with Molly this morning and had to apologize to her. And Toby is demanding attention in his own right, so I'm not sure Molly is getting as much attention as she would like these days. As for the breastfeeding, it's true, I do like it. :) Love you Holly!

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  2. Oldest children ENJOY taking care of people and managing the logistics of life for the happiness of others.

    It's not that we enjoy it. We don't. It's that we know it's the only way things will be done right.

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