Growing up the eldest of four children, nothing was ever really fair.
I had the most rules, the highest expectations, I had to share everything. EVERYTHING. If I was invited somewhere, and my sister was not, well then, I wasn't going.
I hated it.
I was a serial overachiever, and I always resented the way my mother seemed to downplay my accomplishments, but would pat my sister on the back for what seemed like the most nominal achievements.
Report card full of A's, okay, you lived up to your minimum, Shanika. But if Karolyn brought home a B, break out the band.
But now I'm a mom.
With a very Precocious, charming, superstar first born, and a more meek, balanced second born.
Mino wants, and has gotten, the very best of everything. He's always been quick, he walked before his legs were even straight enough (seriously, the most bowlegged 9 month old walking you've ever seen) he gabs and gabs, he'll jump up in church without hesitation and sing a solo for all of the church to see.
But Nelly is quieter. He doesn't rush to much. He talks when he has something to say, not to fill time. Where Mino seeks constant attention, Nelly self soothes, plays with puzzles, looks at the pictures in books and entertains himself.
Their yin and yang seemed harmonious until recently when Mino's school struggles turned our house into his own five year old version of "Intervention."
I began to see Nelly acting out. Our play therapist ventured that it was his mirroring of Mino's behavior, since it'd been working to get him boatloads of attention, why not Nelly?
And suddenly all those memories of my own childhood played out.
I know just what it's like to be Mino, the oldest. The attention grabber. I too was a little performer, a drama queen to match his drama king. But I had never really thought too much while I was resenting my sister, what it was like for her.
To live in that figurative shadow.
To struggle to get those grades when I seemingly floated through academia and extracurriculars. I couldn't see then that the reason my mother always seemed to shield her is because she needed it.
She needed a voice, too.
So I've taken better caution in speaking up for Nelly. Making Mino share, even when Nelly would probably cave and just let him control the t.v., the iPad, the matchbox race etc. for hours on end.
Yesterday, we went to the park to play, Mino on his bike and Nelly on his scooter, since he's still not so good with peddling.
Mino took off in a dash, his hot wheel bike with the lights, gone in a flash.
Nelly screamed, "Hey wait for me Cwis!"
But of course, Mino didn't wait.
Nelly cried when he couldn't seem to catch up.
A few minutes later, Mino proposed he and Nelly have a race. The voice in my head envisioned a whole lot of crying in just a few moments, but I let them play without interference.
And then they were off!
Nelly was just on Mino's tail, screaming with glee on his scooter, when he hit a bump in the old park concrete and fell over. The expected wailing ensued. I ran over and told him to dust off and catch up.
He looked up at me with defeat and said "Mom, I can't catch him. I never win."
So I threw the scooter upright, yelled, "yes you will, hop on." And once he was on it, hopped on the back and the two of us took off. We sped by Mino, and a few other moms who must have been watching since they cheered for Nelly. We crossed the unofficial finish line, and Nelly's face was all aglow. "I WIN?" he asked.
"You win!" I told him - half out of breath and about ready for a nap.
Mino followed with a barrage of complaints and accusations of cheating, to which I responded, "You can't win all the time."
Even if it wasn't alone, Nelly had won fair and square in my book.
And to Mino, being first isn't always fair. I know firsthand. But it serves a greater good. The second should feel just as much first. He'll never be second banana to me.