Monday, February 25, 2013

Obscure Parenting Advice

I was a parenting expert before I had children.

Since then, my children's aging and my parental know-how seem inversely proportional.

I am not really qualified to give parenting advice. You might think birthing three children in a span of 51 months gives me some credibility. 

Don't be fooled.

It doesn't.

But let's say, for the sake of discussion, 
I might have a bit of insight to share.
Let's say I am observing something 
of which I never heard other parents speak. 
(Let's just say, they probably did, but I was too busy at the time
thinking I would do a better job.)

If I were to give a piece of obscure parenting advice, 
this would be it...

Teach your oldest child well for they will become a teacher to your subsequent children.

I was well-versed in the truth that parents are the first and primary teacher to their children. My husband and I took that very seriously. We loved the idea that we could help shape their understanding of the world.

With our first, we were very intentional about almost everything we did or didn't do. After all, our daughter was learning from our every decision and behavior. 

Then the second child arrived, and our attention was divided. We were navigating the murky waters of equal numbers of parents and kids. Yet, we still looked to diligently guide and direct our children's lives.

Then the third child arrived, unexpected and beautiful. We learned the meaning of zone defense. And while, we desired intentionality, we were sleep deprived. And grumpy. 

We are now four years into this journey of being outnumbered by children. For the most part, my three children love each other and play well together. With age has come the blessed quiet on the main floor while they spend an hour upstairs building fairy houses and animal habitats. 

I also realize my oldest child is a teacher to the younger ones. My two youngest children look to my 8-year old daughter to answer questions about the world and how it works. On any given day, they might be just as likely to call for "Sissy" to find an answer as they are to call for "Mommy".

I suppose that is a natural course of action when you have siblings who share so much of life together and genuinely like each other (most of the time). It occurs to me, however, in the deliberate moments of raising a single child, never once did my husband or I think, "We need to do this right because one day this little girl will be a teacher to her brother or sister."

No, that was neither an intentional thought nor an aspect of parenting we were anticipating. Our eldest is an instructor to our youngers. For better or worse. For good or bad. She is.

So, there it is. My obscure parenting advice. As a parent, you are teaching a teacher. So teach your oldest child well for they will teach your younger children too.

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