I was the oldest of four children (well, I still am!) As a child, I was always well-behaved, and I modeled excellent behavior for my younger siblings. Even though we were very close in age (2-1/2-years between my youngest brother and me with twins in the middle), I knew that my mother counted on me to set the example...so I accepted the responsibility with grace and maturity from a young age.
At least this is how I remember things ;). Please note, I did not interview my mother before writing this post!
Because I was so angelic (until middle school...then I'm very grateful that anyone loved me!) I expect my oldest, who is also a girl with younger siblings very close in age, to shine in good behavior. And, in fact, according to her teachers, she does just this in school! And, I am very grateful that she stands out as a "great kid" in sports, Girl Scouts, and everything else, as well.
But, when I take her out, for example to Target with her younger siblings, we tend to have major issues. I don't even think she realizes it, but she immediately starts imitating the behaviors of her younger siblings (whining, meltdowns when I won't buy something, complaining about walking instead of riding in a cart, you name it!) And, I get much more frustrated with her than I do with the younger kids because, after all, she should know better!
Just yesterday, she was home sick from school. She wasn't so sick that she had to stay home in bed, so I ran a few errands when her brother was at preschool. One stop was to AAA to get some brochures. While I waited to be helped, we (my daughter and her two young sisters, ages 3 and 1) browsed in the little store.
There was a life-sized monkey propped up in a window display. He was wearing a safari hat and was balanced in a very odd position. I thought it went without saying, but I said it anyway. "Please do not touch the monkey." I was directing this to the 3-year-old, but maybe I should have been more specific.
A moment later, I was being helped by a kind associate. My oldest daughter walked away because she decided it would be a great idea to let her younger sisters hold/give a hug to the monkey. What the? Really? Never mind that the monkey was much larger than my 1-year-old.
I spent the next few moments mortified as we tried to get the monkey back in its spot (much easier said than done!). I settled for a kinda leaning monkey holding his hat in his lap...and got out of there.. without making eye contact with anyone...fast!
I started lecturing as soon as I started the car. I didn't stop until I felt better. After all the excuses stopped, she simply said, "I'm sorry Mom, but 8-year-olds aren't perfect."
Ouch. Suddenly 8 sounded like a small number. Certainly not an age worthy of my very high standards. She should have standards for sure, but I wondered how is it serving either of us if she's never allowing her to behave like a child without my quick judgment and correction.
This certainly isn't the first time that I've had such a realization. It's just that when one's kids are 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, and 1, one is anxious for someone...anyone...to be able to hold it together and survive a 10-minute trip to the store without drama! Ironically, usually the 5- and 3-year-olds are quite good, so maybe I can afford to give the 8-year-old a (very small) break?! And, in this instance at least, she wasn't trying to defy me, but rather to be kind to her sisters.
I need to remind myself (daily, sometimes hourly) that my oldest daughter is still a child who deserves to be a child (lest I blink and she's 18!) I constantly pray for extra graces in my dealings with her, as I need to treat her as the precious individual that she is...not the "model" that I want her/need her to be.
Tonight she had so much fun putting on the same pajamas as her younger sister. Never mind that they're Christmas pajamas in April! I loved hearing the giggles and childlike joy of two young children. For a moment, I realized that my oldest was not doing what I asked her to do. Namely, a laundry list of chores like getting her clothes ready for the next day, finishing her homework, and brushing her teeth.
But, watching a child enjoy a silly, carefree moment without the pressure of her mother telling her to hurry up and grow up already...
Priceless! Chores will always be there, but sweet moments with my young children will not. I'm glad I didn't blow it (this time!)
God, please give me all the graces that I need to treat each of my children with patience and love...especially when I am stressed. Amen.
Copyright 2015 Trish Bolster.
Photo copyright 2015 Trish Bolster. All rights reserved.
About the Author
We welcome guest contributors who graciously volunteer their writing for our readers. Please support our guest writers by visiting their sites, purchasing their work, and leaving comments to thank them for sharing their gifts here on CatholicMom.com. To inquire about serving as a guest contributor, contact editor@CatholicMom.com.