Friday, April 28, 2006

On Cats and Children

Twelve years ago today, I gave birth to my first child. I didn't know what to expect. I hadn't been a mother before, except to a couple of cats. And well, cats don't really need mothering..


Cats own you and are fairly self-sufficient. They don't need help going to the bathroom. They don't really want anything unless they want to be petted or fed. Beyond that, cats are independent. You can leave for the weekend and they will be fine.

We waited for a few years after marriage before we had a child. And I wasn't sure that I even wanted to have children; I had cats, it was enough for me. But when I found I was pregnant, I was very excited. Scared, but happy..

And of course, wondering how life would change for us. I laugh now thinking of the conversations we had: "So, can we still head to San Diego on whim for the weekend?".

"Of course, nothing will change! It's a baby, not an anchor!".

Nothing will change! Funny. Even funnier to think I would think it. But as I prepared to meet my baby, I was oblivous to the changes that would come. And they were so gradual that it wasn't painful at the time..

She was the first born, and everything was new. I worried about everything. What if she didn't eat? What if she ate too much? What if she wouldn't sleep? What if, unthinkably, she wouldn't wake up? What if she got sick? What if, What if, What if..

As she got older, the questions became bigger. In some ways, it was easier, but in some ways, it was a lot harder. What was discipline? How should she be disciplined? What did we want to teach her?

What if she couldn't learn? Worse, what if she was smarter than I was, at an early age? What if she hated school? What if she was always stressed out? What is her friends laughed at her? What if a boy broke her heart?

Some questions have yet to be answered..

Now at 12, she is a serious, studious young woman, who still finds joy in life. It is a wonder that we don't break the first born child, since we know so little. She was the guinea pig. Each child in our family that came after her has the benefit of her having been there before them.

I am much more relaxed about my parenting, because she came first. With her, I freaked out when she spilled on the floor. Now, the spill gets cleaned up, together. With her, I freaked out over uneaten peas. Now, eh, eat them or don't...I provide the food, I can't make them eat it..

With her, I was able to practice and become a better parent. And I really appreciate that.

I know it isn't easy to be the firstborn child. There are expectations and responsibilities What do you mean "they're watching me? I don't want to an example!" I was the firstborn, too. I understand well the frustrations of having to be the one to do the right thing, to suck it up instead of punching a little brother's lights out. I know it is hard. But it is also character building..

We become who we will be based upon the day to day contact with the people in our lives. Iron sharpens iron is the way the Bible puts it.

So I know my daughter reads my blog "Go to bed, J!" and so I just want to wish her a happy, happy birthday. She brings a light into my life that I never knew I needed. With her, I was able to practice and become a better parent. And I really appreciate that. She is much better than a cat. But a cat would keep his room cleaner.

T, who gets to spend the day with my daughter tomorrow for Girl's Day Out"

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