The oldest and the youngest

Noah, Caitrin, and LiamOldest child, Noah, on the left. Youngest two, Caitrin and Liam, on the right.

Have you noticed how your oldest child gets the lion’s share of your attention no matter what age or stage that child is in? It’s as if 7 is the most critical age ever (will she ever learn to read?), or 10 (maybe he can watch the baby), or 13 (when it All Starts Counting), or 16 (he can drive!), or 18 (she’s going to college!).

Meanwhile, your youngest child hits 7 and you think, “Aw. Such a cutie. So young. It’s okay if you don’t read yet.”

That youngest child turns 13 and you think, “We’ve got time. He’s just 13.”

It’s time to drive and you think, “What’s the rush?”

Sometimes in home education, the oldest writes essays by 8th grade, and by the time the youngest hits that age, you realize you literally have done no writing with this child. It sneaks up on you. You wonder how the years flew by and how you never noticed. You panic. “I’m failing my child!”

It’s a common scenario.

It happens to the best of us. Why?

Because the oldest is always doing what you have never parented before.

The oldest child creates in you the most wide-eyed amazement, anticipation, and anxiety (the trifecta!) of all your children because each event, each milestone, each achievement hangs in the balance until you’ve crested that hill together with that kid. You do all of it for your child, yes. But these experiences are also training you. You’re on a learning curve with the oldest that you never feel in quite the same way again.

Which means… if you have 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 kids… as you work your way down the bunch, the newness, the novelty, and the nerves are greatly reduced… in some cases almost to the point of neglect! You wake up to realize that this youngest child is in high school and you almost forgot it would happen!

Guilt rushes in as your energy for doing it all again rushes out. It’s natural, even if not optimal.

One benefit that the youngers have that the oldest didn’t is role models.
They have been watching each older sibling achieve and they are aware of what’s coming. You can capitalize on this benefit. Get the older kids involved. Have them talk to the youngers about what’s coming and how to prepare. Have them ask the sibling: “Did you take your Driver’s License test yet?” or “Make sure you take AP European history. You’ll be good at it.” They can be the ones to help create the trajectory the youngers will follow.

Triangle in help.
It is tedious to go through algebra six – nine times. Maybe a co-op class or a tutor gives you just enough relief and provides the structure you no longer can.

Celebrate all milestones.
You might not throw eight parties every other year for a decade, but you can mark an achievement with a Facebook status, a dinner out, a gift, or photos to commemorate the moment. Take time to say how proud you are of the youngest, even if the achievement feels old hat to you. It never is to the individual child.

Lastly, it’s never too late to get involved in the education of your youngest kids.
If you accidentally lost your way or passion for home education, remind yourself that the goal is a quality education, not proving yourself as a homeschooler. Be sure you put your child’s interests first and find the right context for that child’s education—no matter what that is.

If you want to re-up for homeschool, do it! Get new curricula (so you’ll be interested again) and change up how it gets done. Computer classes, part-time enrollment, using an iPad, studying at the local library instead of the kitchen table…

As the older kids leave home, provide treats for the younger kids. It costs less to have everyone’s favorite drinks or ice cream in the house when you only have two kids at home. Keep them in stock. Go out to eat more. Catch a movie or get coffee.

Take advantage of the portability of teenage youngest kids. Do stuff together. Try a new activity like indoor rock climbing or watching old movies. Make sure these kids get a quality experience, even if a different kind of home education than your oldest kids got.

I love having a big family. It’s a different ballgame with my youngest two still at home and the older three out of the house. I’m still learning how to do it, too.

Cross-posted on facebook.

3 Responses to “The oldest and the youngest”

  1. Barb says:

    love this post. So practical. So empathising. Really good to ponder and put into practice. Thanks so much!

  2. Emily says:

    Totally off topic, please forgive me, but what game are they playing?! It looks really cool.