First Born’s Burden

Our Charlie is our first. With him we found our legs. When he came home from the hospital we were so over-awed by him, and so terrified of him stopping breathing, just randomly, because how could something so perfect KEEP breathing, that we took turns staying awake through the night just to watch his chest rise and fall as he slept. By the time Teddy came home we knew better. We just slept when he slept. Having two was new, but we knew a little better and we’d learned that the kid wasn’t going to stop breathing.

It’s so hard to describe how uninformed and how incompetent we felt with Charlie. We still do a lot of the time. Everything, every change he manifests or attacks is a new phase not just for him, but for us as well. I mean, he’s going to 20150319-234124-85284028.jpggo to school some day, and while it won’t feel EXACTLY like it did when we felt like we were stealing a baby on our way out of the hospital that first time, it also won’t feel exactly unlike that either the first time we leave him there. He’s at the tip of the spear and as his journey proceeds he’s leading us to new places we’re often less comfortable in then he is. It’s quite a burden first kids have. Each of his firsts reminds us that we’ll be new parents until we die and we’ll never have direct experience to draw on with him. We look for guideposts and berate ourselves if we feel like we’ve failed him. With the second we are not at all fussed with the exact same guideposts. Sure, we bemoan that he still uses his binkie, but we know it’ll disappear sometime before or after college. Either one would be fine. Whereas with Charlie, we had strategies and planning and misguided attempts.

When Charlie confronts a new issue we worry and fret and do stupid things because it’s all new to us and we worry we are failing him if we don’t do these things. Turns out almost every time we’re not and in fact I’d be willing to bet that our fretting and planning and trying and failing do more harm then good. For example, right now he’s obsessed with his body, if you know what I mean, and has recently developed a fear of pooping. So we’re talking to teachers and talking to him and getting in power struggles and redirecting constantly and giving hour long baths in hopes of loosening bowels. We see something we don’t want to see or don’t know how to approach and we immediately develop a plan to ‘consciously uncouple’ him from a behavior. It fails. We try something new. Fails again. We repeat this for as long as it takes for him to stop doing it then we think we had some big role in it.

I’m starting to think we might be all wrong on this one. Perhaps our best move would be to simply allow things to ‘naturally uncouple, thoughtlessly’.

At the risk of sounding too folksy and ‘homespun’, is it all this thinking that’s getting in the way? Are they not designed to endure inept and incapable but very loving parents? Is it possible that the ‘information age’ has put too much knowledge in the hands of new parents and robbed them of the ability to acquire knowledge in a way that time has perfected?

I’m probably over thinking.

Author: joejmedler

Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife, who is universally understood to be far too good for him, and his two young sons, who are far too smart for him. His work has been featured on MamaLode, The Original Bunker Punks and Sammiches and Psych Meds. You can find more of his work at and follow him on Facebook at

5 thoughts on “First Born’s Burden”

  1. Um…TOTALLY overthinking!!! Do you remember being a kid, and your parents handed you a spoon for you to go play in the dirt? Yeah…do more of that! Too much thinking leads to worrying, and that robs you of all the joys. Just follow his lead. You’re doing great!!!


  2. There is definitely a lot of info out there to make new parents paranoid, but you don’t need to buy into it. I’m with you – we were so much more concerned about doing everything right with our first and were so chill with our 2nd, but the love for each child is the same. That you care so much about being a great parent is most important.


  3. I feel every word in this. Since we only have one, we did the same thing. We checked every hour to make sure he was breathing. When he gets sick, we keep him close to us just to watch over him. And you are right, there is too much information. My babe had a herniated belly button (it’s really common and it probably accounts for most outies.) Google said his intestines could come out. I worried about this for months. And don’t get me started on all the crap I researched for Colic. I was a first born, I always joked that I was the ‘test kid.’ Loved this. It captures the anxiety and nervousness perfectly of a first born child through the perspective of first time parents.


  4. I try not to over-think things with my twins; I don’t have experience to draw on, but I also try not to do too much research and get in their way too often. I want them to be able to balance independence with an ability to ask for help when they need it. And yet, I still feel like a helicopter parent – in fact, their father is constantly reminding me to stop hovering…so who knows??

    Great piece, Developing Dad! šŸ™‚


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