Today, my son officially became a big brother. Well, technically that happened one night about ten weeks ago, but today the ultrasound tech showed a picture of our new family member and we heard his or her heart beating
I stared at one baby cooing beside me as I looked up at a strange little bean moving around inside of me at the same time. It was definitely an extraordinary moment. But then I thought my baby is officially a big brother. What have we done?
The new baby is due 13 months and a week to the day after our first. I’m not worried my husband and I can’t handle it—we absolutely can. I’m not fearful if we’ll do it well—I know we are great and loving parents. But what I am fearful for is my son. Is HE ready to be a big brother yet?
We’ve always wanted more than one child, so I knew technically he would be the oldest sibling one day. Being the oldest sibling myself, I know what this role entails and I’m not sure I am ready to thrust him into that position just yet.
I’m sure all family positions come with their own set of obstacles and advantages. Being the firstborn for me has come with its share of ups and downs. There is an early sense of responsibility bestowed upon the eldest that I know all too well. As you are immediately assumed to be the person who helps take care of your siblings; for me at least my role could many times feel like second mom and less like a child. There is also that pesky way you have to be first for everything. There is no one before you to smooth over the bumps and cut a path out for you to at least have a little bit of a direction to begin heading. There is the responsibility of it all, too. And the need to always get it right, because you are the example to those younger siblings. It’s an honor, but it can be difficult.
But here is what I plan to tell him about being the oldest sibling one day:
You have to be brave to step out first. The majority of the time, you are the guinea pig, the tester, and the new kid in the activity. As your mom, there will be plenty of days when I send you into the world and have no idea how things will turn out. You are my first, and therefore we have to work out all the fears and kinks and growing pains together. You may have to just take a deep breath and leap out there into the unknown for the both of us. That takes some courage, to always be the tester. But I promise I will never let you fall too hard. And I’ll try hard not to smother you with my own fears and insecurities.
As you pave the way, pave it with kindness. You have the tremendous burden of having to create the path your siblings will likely follow. It’s a blessing and curse at times to have your sibling trailing on your heels. Sometimes it will be annoying because they will have a wide open route to drive down after you have done all the legwork. But try not to let jealousy or frustration get the better of you. Be kind to them. Be open to them. Show them the way and love them through their own journeys.
Remember you are now and forever a teacher. Teach with love. From the time your little siblings come home from the hospital, through all the days of your life together, they will be watching you. The way you smile and laugh, cry and hurt, play and walk and talk, the way you hug and especially the way you love. Each moment will be looked at and a little lesson will be ingrained in their heads. So my hope for you is that you will embrace your role as a teacher and even when the burden is heavy, find a way to impart the lessons with love, patience, and forgiveness. Live your life toward all people this way and you will be an exceptional teacher.
Just because you go first doesn’t mean you have to be first. This is a big lesson I want you to learn because it has always carried the most weight for me: you do not have to perfect. You do not have to win first place every time. You do not have to always be the light that shines the brightest. You do not have to worry that I will be disappointed in you if you fail from time to time. And I promise when I find myself putting my expectations on you, I will work hard to catch myself. If I could have you achieve one thing in the world, it would be that you love unconditionally, live courageously and be kind. That’s what I expect from you, my sweet baby—nothing more.
Originally published on the author’s blog