What is it about the oldest child? The first born. They seem to share these stereotypical characteristics; wanting to please, good in school or sports, responsible, etc. Dare I generalize?
Is it just the kids? Maybe but probably not. I have a theory. I think it is the parents and how hard we push our first offspring.
I have watched hovering but loving parents push a violin on a 3 year old who could barely talk. Sure, they were opening up opportunities for their child. But, come on! I have seen kids buckle into stressed out tears at performances while the parents stand pinched lipped nearby.
I have seen parents push their oldest so hard at sports that it is embarrassing to see them at the games. You know these parents; the ones who don't act like it is a game. The ones yelling the loudest, talking trash about the other team. The kids who cry when they lose and are inconsolable. Maybe because they know there will be a long discussion about how they could play better next time or what they did wrong on the way home? I am not talking about high school kids, I am talking little elementary school kids.
We know of extremely talented high school athletes that won't play their sport anymore. They are burned out. They were pushed too hard. Played to competitively, too early. It wasn't fun anymore and they rebelled. There goes that athletic scholarship that mom and dad had been banking on.
And, there is plenty of pushing academically too. I remember a whole subsection of parents being mad at the school because Kindergarten wasn't rigorous enough. How rigorous should Kindergarten be?
And, at the Math is Cool competition, kids that didn't do well shed real tears too. Both parents and kids were crushed. Not a happy ride home after that.
One 5 year old we know is skipping over Kindergarten and doing a unprecidented 1st grade/Kindergarten. Hm. Not sure how that works. Pushing your kid from preschool to first grade. First child? You bet. Who is that for really? Where does parental ego stop and what is best for the kid begin? How will that kid like being the shortest, youngest kid in his grade when he is in, say, 5th grade? Was pushing him to 1st grade when he was 5 worth it? Only time will tell.
I told Molly about this kid. She asked if I think I pushed her too hard. I suppose I did to some degree. I suppose we can't help it. It is only when the next one comes along that you realize how hard you pushed. I asked her if she thought I pushed her too hard. She said no but I would like to ask her again when she is 15, 20, 25 or 30.
I told her I wondered about the wisdom of even pushing the violin on a 5 year old. She reminded me that she begged us for 2 years to take lessons. If she hadn't we probably would not have started her. Why? Because violin is the hardest instrument to learn to play and I didn't want to set her up for failure. I tried to talk her into piano!
See? That is the other side of this same coin. We want our first to fly high! For their glory and our own. The next kid? Maybe we realize by then, that they are who they are. With encouragement they will make their own leaps. That pushing too much is, well, too much. It can backfire and the guilt is all encompassing.
Jake has a story about his dad. When he was born, his dad asked the oldest son, 12 year old Danny, what he should do different with the new baby boy. He said, "Don't push so hard, Dad." Ouch.
We are all trying the best we can.