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My Firstborn Son

My Firstborn Son

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Sometimes I forget how old he is. I know I put more weight on his shoulders than the other ones. He definitely has more responsibilities, and I expect more from him. For seven hours of my day he’s the closest one in age to me, and when compared to his younger sister and baby brother, the six-and-a-half years seem so big. After all, he’s really the only with an understandable vocabulary.

I talk to him, he talks to me. I ask his advice and consult with him. He’s always the first I turn to when I need help. He’s my right-hand man, my companion, my eldest. I love all my children, and each one has their special place in my heart, but my eldest, my firstborn, there’s no doubt that he has a special status. He’s the one who anointed me with the crown of motherhood and gave me the exalted status of Mommy.

Sometimes I forget how old he isI’m sure that—partly because he’s the first, and partly due to his personality, at least in our home—my son is a leader. What he says, the others say; what he does, the others do. He’s the example. Yes, I expect more of him than the others, there’s no doubt he has more responsibilities, but I don’t take it for gratis.

With the responsibilities and the extra tasks come more privileges. He gets to stay up later. At the Shabbat table, when the others have gone to sleep, he stays and talks with his mother and father. He’s the only one who can chew gum or go to the mini-market. He gets to pour his own glass of water, because we trust him and know that he can do it without it spilling and without a break. And the very chores that I give him bring him closer to me, make him that much more endearing to me and elevated in my eyes.

When I take him over to a friend and his little sister tags along, I look to him to watch out for her. He does. The friend’s mother tells me, “You can tell that he’s the firstborn. You should have seen how he made sure that his sister was okay, even attending to her by bringing her water!” I smile and nod my head. Yes, he fits the role, the role of the firstborn.

But can you imagine if I didn’t give him more privileges? If all he had were more chores and responsibilities, and didn’t get any of the perks? I doubt very much whether he would have taken care of his sister with the same affection or attention. In fact, I don’t think he would enjoy being the eldest at all.

In the Torah, we see when it speaks about inheritance, the firstborn receives a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17), regardless of how the parent feels towards him. What does this teach us? A parent can’t expect more unless we give more. The oldest, who looks so big in your eyes, he has to want to be big; otherwise it would be better to stay a baby. Getting older has to be fun. The added weight on the shoulders has to be balanced, so that the weight won’t topple the person and make him fall. Remember, with his example the others will follow suit. Meaning that, as each child receives more responsibilities, they too should receive more privileges.

Getting older has to be fun“Why does he get a new big backpack and I don’t?” the younger one complained when the school year started and my eldest entered first grade.

“Because he’s going into first grade and needs one, and you don’t. When you start first grade, you’ll also get one!”

My answer quieted her and made her excited more than if I were to buy her a new backpack. Why? Because it gave her something to look forward to; it gave her a reason to also want to enter first grade.

My firstborn, he’s my right-hand man, the leader. And yes, he lives up to and loves his role.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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Anonymous lagos, Nigeria February 9, 2012

careful its better to careful treat them equally for you not to miss it, take for example if G-d should look David family, He won't choose David to be King over Israel and His family, so you are looking at the rank while not next in ability Reply

Anonymous L.A. December 6, 2011

careful! Just please be careful with the way you're nailing him into that role!! For his sake, yours, and the younger siblings, don't make him always your helper, your leader. I'm sure you don't do this as much as this article illustrates; when a mother really does that, I pity the child not being given the freedom to be babyish or irresponsible, and the younger children who are not being given the room to express their own leadership qualities and develop their own responsibility. Casting our children into roles is one of the most unfair and dangerous things we can do for them. Reply

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