As the oldest child in my two child family, I would often lament that I would be forced to wait until I was old enough for something, but as soon as I reached the appointed age of appropriateness, my sister, who is a full 18 months younger than I am, would often be permitted to do the same thing at the same time! It was an injustice! I swore that I would not do the same thing for my children! I swore that I would be just to my oldest child and let my younger children wait their turn as the oldest was forced to.
Today was the first test of this resolve.
The mackerdoodle is participating in her first scheduled group activity this fall. She is enrolled in a ballet class being offered to seminary community children by seminary wives. She began asking if she could take a dance class when she was two and a half. At that time Jonathan told her she was too young, but we would discuss it again when she was four. She’s now four. She has been telling people for a year and a half that she would be taking ballet when she was four.
The arrival of ballet clothing in the mail today was the physical proof to the mackerdoodle that her seemingly interminable wait had come to an end.
I have three pictures of her like this. Apparently this is how four year old ballerinas stand when being photographed. At least that’s what she told me each time.
What did her brother do in light of such delight?
Here’s the thing: he’s two, un-potty trained and with no words (or very few). Even if I was inclined to enroll him in something, there isn’t anything for him right now. He’s only two. His time will come.
I told him that. I told him when he is four he will get to choose an activity. I suggested soccer, and karate. The mackerdoodle explained that he could be in ballet-karate and he could twirl and then kick a board to pieces. (She really believes such a thing exists.) I redirected the conversation back to more masculine pursuits. As I talked, he began to nod his head a few times and perk up a bit, but it didn’t stop him from feeling left out of a big moment his sister was experiencing and he couldn’t.
I’m understanding a little more why parents with two daughters only 18 months apart would just go ahead and enroll us both in Brownies at the same time. I understand why a parent would set an arbitrary age for an oldest child – because “later” isn’t enough – and then amend that for a younger sibling.
I wonder if the cheesedoodle will ever think in his head “When I have kids, I’m not going to let my oldest child do something the others can’t do. That child will just have to wait until everyone can do it together.” Although I bet he won’t be so anxious for the whole family to participate in something when he’s the one who has waited, and the snickerdoodle is only 2 and doesn’t get a nifty karate gee (or ballet-karate tutu belt as described by my mackerdoodle. She’s really thought this through)
I still believe there is value in having him wait his turn and learn to anticipate something like his oldest sister had to, but seeing the look on his face the oldest child in me was losing its battle with the mama side that wanted to just scoop him up and tell him that we would find him something to do right away so he didn’t feel left out.
And for the bazillionth time since having children, I realized I owed my parents another apology. I’m seeing things from a different perspective.