The sound of raised voices from the room next door disturbed my light afternoon nap and woke me up. Soon I heard a door bang and my niece came barging into my room, red faced and angry, indignantly muttering, “It’s not fair! It’s just not fair!”
“What’s not fair?” I asked her, wondering what could have upset a normally placid and happy girl.
“Mama always runs after Bhaiya. She always does what he wants”, she complained and proceeded to tell me a long litany of complaints she had about the way her mother looked after her. This, in fact, is the common grievance of many a younger sibling who always feels that he doesn’t get enough of his parents’ attention.
But contrary to what younger siblings may feel, all is not well in the world of the first-born either. Granted, the first-born enjoys the undivided attention of his parents and possibly grand parents too; and as first-born, he will occupy a very special place in their hearts forever and ever. His every wish is treated like a command, his every whim is pandered to and he will have the advantage of enjoying their boundless energy, patience and enthusiasm, the stock of which like the law of diminishing returns, gradually depletes with every subsequent addition to the family.
Much as one would like to deny it and insist that every child is equally special, the first-born is more special than those that follow and his every milestone is recorded, remembered, cherished and even revered! But alas! The first-born is also the parents’ live experiment and has to bear the brunt of their untried parenting skills, their ignorance, their paranoia, fears and live up to their expectations and aspirations.
Very often the first-born has to experience the hardships that young parents have to undergo while establishing themselves in their careers. If young parents have a money crunch, many a first-born has to wait for things that come easier for the second or third child. As the torch-bearer for the next generation, first-born has to be the epitome of all that is best so that younger siblings can follow in his wake. So while a younger sibling can run around the doctor’s clinic, screaming his fear of the impending injection, the first-born has to stoically bare his arm and bear the pain.
The first-born has the burden of being responsible for his siblings and often has to baby sit, mentor and protect the younger ones. In some homes, the first-born who enjoys the privilege of the best education often has to support the younger ones and contribute to their education as well. Parents also tend to unburden their woes on the first-born who then has to act as counsellor or sounding board. So the undivided attention, paranoia and monitoring/guidance can be stifling for many a first-born who envies the freedom and lack of expectations that younger siblings enjoy.
The next time a younger sibling feels unloved or neglected, he would do well to remember that the first-born has his moments of envy too!
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood