During my conversation earlier in the week about what I should write about, one of the suggestions was how it felt to be a parent for the first time. I thought this was a great topic because there are so many ways to look at it. Obviously in this space I can only visit a few of them, so perhaps I will revisit this topic again later.
The first point I need to make about this, however, is that, for a couple of reasons, I do not really have a perspective on the question as it was asked. I consider both of my children unique to the point that I would not say my youngest is my second child, but rather that he is my second first child. I know it sounds cliche, but that is how I feel.
Further, in many ways, I consider my sister Marni to be my first child. I helped raise her when she was a baby (I was in middle school when she was born and spent a lot of time baby sitting), and I feel a relationship with her that, in many ways, transcends that of brother and sister. While I would be protective of her as my sister, that protective instinct is re-doubled with her, and it really feels more like the emotions of a parent than those of a sibling.
In a similar way, I feel a “bigger” relationship with my brothers (they are twins, born when I was in high school) than simply brothers. We play football on Thanksgiving, hang out and watch football games together etc. but, I also changed their (cloth!!!!!) diapers and fed them and took care of them when they were infants.
None of these experiences were quite the same. With Marni, I experienced many of the “basic” parts of parenting. Changing diapers (including the time my sister teamed up to use an entire box of wipes to change one “steamer”), feeding and just the reality of chasing a baby around were all things I experienced with her. It was crazy and it was harried, however I had the benefit of not actually being the real parent. I didnâ€™t have to get up at 4:00 to feed her, or find ways to afford to feed a new mouth in a family of five, so it was a nice measured indoctrination.
The twins were a different level of intensity. What you donâ€™t know, until you have dealt with twins is that they are hard wired to act with a synchronized independence that makes them more difficult to watch than three babies of the same age that are not twins. From babysitting them, I learned how to better, and more precisely manage my time and attention, while building on the lessons learned from my experiences with Marni.
And, again, I was able to learn and mature certain parenting skills without the hardships of full blown parenting. In addition to making the responsibilities I did have more manageable, I was able to learn some of the teamwork components of parenting that most people have to discover under fire. Things like being able to lean on and count on others to handle some of the load, and realizing that you do not have to do everything yourself were easy to pick up on because I was able to watch my parents do it, not only amongst themselves, but with my sister and I as well.
When I graduated from college, I moved up to Idaho, and jumped right back into my relationships with my younger siblings. Hanging out, helping my dad coach their sports teams, even powdering my hair and going to Marniâ€™s grandparents day at school. In doing so I learned even more lessons. Things like interacting with teachers as an adult (I used to go on some of Marniâ€™s field drips with her), interacting with children at school (visiting school and having lunch with them), and interacting with other parents.
All of Those lessons were invaluable when my first son was born…
When Preston came home, I was supposed to be nervous… I wasnâ€™t. I was supposed to worry about how to manage everything… I wasnâ€™t. Most of the aspects of parenting, I had already experienced in one way or another. So what I was able to do, was simply enjoy the wonders of having my very own child… largely free of the worry ans stress that usually accompanies a first child. When he had convulsions, I knew exactly what to do… Marni had them as a baby as well (so did my sister Cody, but we were too close in age for me to be anything but scared for her). When he couldnâ€™t sleep at night, I knew exactly what to do.
Almost everything that came up, I had already experienced… even using an entire box of wipes for oen diaper!!