Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In Praise of First Time Parenting

First time parents are often considered a joke. Everyone rolls their eyes a little when the see a new pregnant couple over loaded with the latest and greatest gadgets out of the pricey baby store. People laugh even more when they hear how excited and/or nervous new parents are about everything their little angel does. And when babies get sick/eat something questionable/do something the least bit dangerous? Well, only new parents get really worried and uptight about it.

While I think there are a lot of things that new parents worry about that parents with a lot of experience don't (like maybe my baby will never sleep/stop crying/walk/talk, etc.), new parenting has it's place in the grand scheme of things, and I think that new parents are not the joke they are made out to be. After all, new parenting actually has some pretty good results to its credit. Eldest children have higher IQ's than their siblings. They also tend to hit milestones sooner. Eldest children and only children also tend to be very responsible and independent. (There are, of course, exceptions!) Does this mean that eldest or only children are in any way superior to subsequent children children? Absolutely not! Eldest children are also punished more, tend to be perfectionists, and have their foibles just like all children do. But what this does prove is that first time parenting works just as well as experienced parenting does.

Perhaps this is because, for most parents, all parenting is first time parenting. Every time we welcome another child in our home, we become new parents once more. We are new parents of two (or three, or four, or six, or seventeen!) children. We are new parents to a girl or a boy or simply this girl or this boy. Yes, we don't have the same worries. Experienced parents may have an easier time realizing that they will survive the sleep deprivation, crying fits, tantrums, illnesses, etc, but even experienced parents worry about the job they are doing and the new experiences they encounter. (Tandem nursing, three or four kids all with different needs who are asking for help, whether every child is getting the attention they deserve, the list goes on and on for the "new" experiences that subsequent parenting brings). Each child also brings his or her own challenges to the picture. I often hear from experienced mothers, "My son never did "x!" I don't even know where to begin! or even "My eldest twins never did "y!" You'd think I'd seen it all, but this?"

Every day, if we let ourselves, we wake up new parents with fresh insights, worries, and approaches. Our children almost insure it by developing into the new, fresh, ever-evolving, little people they are every day. If we allow ourselves to be forgiving of our "first" time mistakes as parents, I think we'll find that we can also have much to praise about ourselves (if only for our ability to survive). Just keep your connection to each of your children strong and your love (and forgiveness) of both yourself and others transparent and you will get it right the first time, every time.

Lots of love to every first time parent out there!

Thanks for reading.


Kitty said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for this post. I often feel like I am a bit of an idiot because I worry about the small stuff like why is my baby crying so much. Being a first time parent is hard but so is being a parent in general from what I have seen.

I like the idea that we are new parents with each new child. It reminds us that children are individuals with their own needs and wants. I hope if and when I have more children I can keep this in mind (while I am slowly losing my sanity to sleep deprivation).

EmilyatLarge said... [Reply to comment]

I felt much more relaxed the second time around, because I had been there once before and knew it wasn't as easy to "screw it up" like I'd previously thought. That being said, good points about oldest children! My oldest continues to amaze me. As do my youngers, but yes there is something special about her. Love the post, great piece!

Heather J to the ames said... [Reply to comment]

Ok, so I wouldn't exactly have much to say in the way of praise for first time parenting even though I'm a product of it and was a 1st timer myself once upon a time (have a 9 yr old, a 7 yr old and am cookin' a bun at the moment) but most of those stereotypes are true. I know because I've been there and I don't think eldest children turn out so great because of their parents' parenting is superior or even good necessarily.

BUT I will say... as a first timer, you will have more time to put into that one child... you won't do things necessarily as well as you will the next time but the time you have to spend on that child one-on-one probably makes up for some of it.

Oldest children get undivided parenting: good, bad or indifferent but they get it all. I wouldn't say they're parented better and that's why they turn out that way... I got in trouble more, I had to help more, I was held to certain standards when my siblings were not...

Oldest children are more likely to be president, sure, but they're also more likely to be sticks in the damn mud (myself included).

All this is not to say that first-time parenting doesn't have its place and they can't be good parents. They're fine parents and in the scheme of things, it will all work out but they will be better as time goes on when they stop worrying and start letting subsequent children live a little.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Kitty I know exactly how you feel! Thank you for reading and hold on tight to that sanity! I have no idea how I survived that first year with my son (I was a mess!). The second year went much faster and was much better!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@EmilyatLarge Thank you so much for sharing your experience! We had such a rough time with our son that it really gives me such comfort to know that the second time may actually be better!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Heather J to the ames Thanks, Heather! That's actually what I was really trying to get at. First time parenting may be mistake ridden, but it still works and it's okay if we are not all professional as parents! Thanks for pointing out the difference of time!

Zion said... [Reply to comment]

Great post.. Love right back atcha! x

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Zion Aw, Thanks!

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