For many of us who have difficulties feeling
emotionally secure in close relationships, we tend to play this
out with our first-born child. Because I am a first born, I pay
particular attention to this role in family. I breastfed my first
son for a year and spent a great deal of time locked in mutual
gaze (I am grateful that smartphones were not on the scene in
my earliest mom years!) But as he became a toddler, I struggled
to mirror him well. I think back to the earlier story of chasing
him with a spanking stick as I nursed his baby brother. Not
only did that interfere with my infant’s attachment, but also
that of my toddler. My two-year old boy was expressing his
autonomy and separateness from me, but I saw him as an
extension of myself. I treated his developmentally appropriate
behavior as something to be suppressed. Rather than mirror
his emotions and delight in his uniqueness, I tried to get him
to mold to my expectations.
I imagine that it is not always the first born that ends
up in this dynamic, but they are so often the “guinea pig.” So
many of my hopes and dreams were forced onto this one
individual child. In our family, our second born was so
interestingly different from my husband and me that we were
more able to delight in him. Our firstborn son is like me in
many ways, and maybe that played into my blindness around
these issues. I experienced him as an extension of myself rather
than a separate, individual soul.
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