It is widely believed that the last-born child in most families is the spoilt and pampered one. This child usually gets away with a lot and is usually the cause of counselling for older siblings later in life.
I’m the eldest of three siblings and I know, after reading up a lot on this and being a parent of two children, that the eldest child is a parenting experiment. From what you are fed as a toddler to who you can hang out with as a teenager right up to who you should get married to — as an eldest child all this was decided for me.
I was never allowed to go for out-of-town school trips that had overnight stays. Day trips were OK but staying away from home was never allowed. Sleepovers with friends were never encouraged. I was allowed to have friends home for sleepovers but was never allowed to stay out.
While growing up, I guess I never resented it but somewhere down the road in my late 20s I started making comparisons between my life and that of my siblings. They had it so much easier than I ever did. While my parents weren’t fanatically strict with me I somehow feel they could have let loose the reins just a wee bit.
On the other hand when I speak to some last-born kids, they feel they had the worst of it. Rebellious older siblings made sure that their lives were well controlled by their parents and there was no way they could get away with anything at all. One friend even said the only reason why she studied so much at University was so that she didn’t have to come back home to her parents and be married off.
It would be wrong to blame parents totally. Before I became a mother, I did not appreciate my own parents fully. I have realised the sacrifices and the things they have had to go through. I also know that despite saying ‘I will never do that with my kids’ I tend to think like my Mum when I’m doing something for them. I won’t call my techniques ‘parenting experiments or mistakes’ but I can confidently say that I have gleaned the best watching other parents and tried to instil it in my children.
I’m a single parent and it gets difficult role-playing for both parents. I sometimes get frustrated that I may not be giving my kids enough, sometimes I fret I’m doing too much, other times I have sleepless nights worrying if I am doing the right thing but when I see my children who are well-mannered, polite and mindful of others, I feel I have not done too badly.
My children often ask me who I love the most from the two of them and at that very moment I thank God for blessing me with a girl and a boy so that my diplomatic answer to my son is ‘From the boys I love you the most’ and the answer to my daughter is ‘From the girls I love you the most’.