I suspect that like most people my life was incredibly complicated, with alternating moments of euphoria and dysphoria. One day would run into the other with a new set of problems to be solved and tasks to be completed. Then my wife and I had children and things became even more complicated.
I am the oldest of three, and I always thought that I had it the hardest since I had no model to pattern my life after, no carefully worn path by some older sibling to follow. For a long time I thought that being the eldest was simply a stroke of unfortunate luck. When my wife and I started having children of our own I began to see just how lucky being the first born really is.
My son is five years older than my daughter, and for all intents and purposes, he has had five years of wonderful attention. Then came my daughter. Now that her infant stage is behind her, she has become a whirlwind of activity with an almost unlimited amount of energy. Her brother has been very patient with her, and he seems to really enjoy being the elder brother in a way that I did not. Most of the time they are inseparable. There are times when my son loses patience with her, and, to tell you the truth, I can’t blame him. But as I watch my children play, I am constantly struck by just how much my daughter wants to be involved in everything her older brother does. She is constantly following him around, and when he has friends over she is involved in nearly everything they do. I’m amazed by how she is actually able to hold her own with a few older kids.
Recently I have overheard my daughter exclaim the “Wait for me!” phrase as she tried to keep up with her brother. Of course, he moves much faster than she does, and this fact sometimes frustrates her to the point of tears. Yet, to my amazement, she never gives up trying to follow him or copy something that he is doing. When, on those increasingly more frequent moments, when he ends up becoming frustrated with her and he sends her out of his room, with both of them usually in tears, she comes to me crying hysterically. I try to console her as best I can, while at the same time giving her enough space to try to learn to cope as best as she can. This is never easy for me, and I always feel the need to protect her much more than I did her brother. In fact, I almost always take her side in the disputes she has with her brother. I’m not sure why this is, but I feel the need to protect my daughter much more than my son. I know, I have fallen into the “daddy’s little girl” cliché, and as pathetic as I find this, I cannot help but succumb to its lure.
It now occurs to me that the second child will always be trying to catch up with his or her older sibling. Time and experience are on the side of the first born, and as difficult as it may be to make a path, the second will, in a way and at least for a time, be forced to take that same path until he or she is old enough to wander off onto his or her own paths. For now my daughter continues to yell: “Wait for me Aiden!” as her little legs try to keep up with her brother. I know that these moments are fleeting, and that sooner rather than later my daughter will begin to make her own way. But in the meantime, hearing my daughter yell “Wait for me” in her excited state is one of the small treasures of being a parent.