Amy McCurry is wife to Mike McCurry and is his guest columnist this week. She grew up in Hinsdale and is a busy mother with four children.
Birth order. I’d like to deny the stereotypes, but over time I’ve learned that the many stories about birth order exist for a reason. When we were blessed with our first child, it was as if he was crowned the title, “first born”. Our second and third child soon came along after; only reinforcing that first born’s role. I remembering trying not to put the typical pressure on our first child but regardless of expectations or environment, twelve years later I would have to admit, he fits the mold. Of course, his God-gifted talents and our unique parenting skills have helped develop him into the special boy he is today, but first born he definitely is.
As I have become more skilled in the art of raising four children (aged 6-12) I realize the drastic differences between the first and last babies.
As excited as we were to welcome number four to our family, we were determined to do it right this time. No co-sleeping, and for once we would get use out of that crib!
And use it we did; Elizabeth slept immediately in the crib! However, as she got older she quickly learned to climb out. (She couldn’t walk yet, so this was cause for concern.) We invested in a crib tent, which she broke through … repeatedly. Eventually we put her in the Pack n’ Play because it was closer to the ground, and instead of a quiet baby sleeping peacefully she was like a caged child struggling to escape. It was as if she knew she was missing out on the family slumber party … which she was!
That first child was dependent upon a “cold arm” to serve as his blankie in the middle of the night — the arm of one of his parents! At age 2 we tried a big bed, at 6 a top bunk and at 8 a basement room. None of them worked. Children numbers 2 and 3 followed in those same footsteps, so our king-size bed often contained anywhere from three to five McCurrys cuddled up like kittens.
Our number 4 also sucked her thumb — a trait that was photographed in the womb. She must have known even then self-soothing would serve her well even before she joined our clan. In those formative months and years she also developed an undying love and adoration for who we call today, “Puppy”. Puppy is the 7th member of our family and without this well-worn and stuffed animal, our baby could not sleep through a night. She still can’t, unless of course I decide to lay down with her; which I admit is extremely easy to do now that my baby is getting older and cuddling is simply special.
Sometimes I take pause and realize that our first born, was the oldest already of four at this young age of 6. The funny thing about our “baby,” who has never had a younger sibling to coddle or care for, is that she’s also my most independent, busiest worker. She relishes the opportunity to do something around the house like clean a toilet bowl or polish furniture. So, it did not come to a surprise that during a family party I discovered the washing machine running. She had taken it upon herself to wash her cousins’ dirty clothes. She also taught herself how to microwave food (with and without metal utensils), turn on the toaster, run the vacuum, draw a bath … and of course, most importantly, apply lipstick.
Our oldest, on the other hand, still asks if it’s OK to eat his Halloween candy, help himself to a snack (healthy of course), eat a donut at church or even use the phone. The youngest helps herself to anything, “borrows” my phone without permission and has yet to realize that an attitude of gratitude will earn more in the long run. I know with continued modeling and prayer, she will develop those necessary traits, but being the “baby” has not provided her the same sacrificial experiences as our first children.
Looking at these wildly different kids, I wonder all the time what I have done wrong. Birth order alone can’t be the answer … or is it? What have we done differently from child to child?
Well … a lot. My first was read to constantly, and therefore entered kindergarten reading chapter books. My youngest would rather do anything than read, such as cook, create or discover. My first is dependent upon the family — and quite frankly, me. Our youngest would rather run the neighborhood and make friends with strangers. Our oldest children cherish family dinners; in contrast, the last two can eat anything anywhere. My goodness, the last two have helped themselves to the fridge and pantry since they were 18 months old, while my older two still ask for permission.
I am beginning to realize there is no right or wrong. None of the kids have been cheated out of an experience — or worse, shortchanged time with their mommy. Each in his or her own way received what was needed and what I was able to give … which has indirectly or directly formed who they are and will become.
My husband reminded me recently that rather than beat myself up, I need to let go of my guilt. The children are growing, learning and well loved. Kids are who they are regardless of all the external circumstances, and after all: we are just their parents. We know that God has their lives in his hands and we are here to direct, expose, protect … and eventually let go.
Not an easy task. So until then, I’ll heed the advice my mother-in-law likes to remind me: “Just do your best at the time, because that is all you know how to do.”
And as for the McCurry sleeping arrangements our children (and puppy) still monopolize our bed. Oftentimes we find Daddy in the basement guest room, just trying to get a good night’s rest.
Mike is a Clarendon Hills resident; husband; Indian Princess; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.