First-Time Mom: Getting Off on the Right Foot from Birth to First Grade

(Paperback - Dec 2004)
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Parable recommended!


If you feel nervous about this new role of parenthood (and who wouldn't?), Dr. Kevin Leman will put you at ease. While affirming your joy, wonder, and fear, "First-Time Mom" prepares you for this influential task by sharing the essentials of child-raising, including the personality traits and typical interactions you can expect to have with your first child. Now available in softcover.


  • SKU: 9780842360395
  • SKU10: 0842360395
  • Title: First-Time Mom: Getting Off on the Right Foot from Birth to First Grade
  • Qty Remaining Online: 3
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Date Published: Dec 2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Illustrated: Yes
  • Weight lbs: 0.65
  • Dimensions: 8.30" L x 5.54" W x 0.64" H
  • Features: Price on Product, Illustrated, Bibliography
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical; Sex & Gender | Feminine; Topical | Family;
  • Subject: Parenting - General

Chapter Excerpt

Chapter One

Welcome Home

Good for you. You did it.

You're a parent! Maybe it happened through birth. Perhaps it was through adoption. But the agony of waiting through hours of labor or months of paperwork has finally culminated in you getting to meet your special treasure face-to-face. And now you're bringing that wonderful, incredible child home with you! Welcome Home

All sorts of emotions are flooding through you-a mixture of joy, wonder, and if you're smart, most likely a little healthy fear too. You wonder, What kind of parent will I be? What will this child be like?

If you birthed this child, you went to Lamaze class, wearing your sweats, carrying your pillows, and watching as your classmates' bellies bloated to ever-increasing proportions and then dropped with the weight of a bowling ball. You learned how to breathe in different patterns during those week-day-evening classes, while on the weekends you shopped in baby stores for your first crib, changing table, and baby clothes. You've scoured several books to find just the right name, insisting that no child of yours will ever be called Buford or Betty.

You suffered through months of restless, sleepless, and seemingly eternal nights. You might have enjoyed the extra calories you could take in, but the sickness, nausea, backache, and swollen ankles you could have done without.

When the day finally came, you had five people in one small room, all telling you what to do. They all seemed so sure of themselves and, to be fair, encouraging of you. But it didn't take long for you to realize that you were the only one in the room who was in true pain.

Before you had the Epidural, you grabbed and clenched your fists, you thought words you never thought you would think, your throat was as dry as a desert, and all they would give you were those pitiful little ice chips, parceled out as if they cost a million dollars apiece-and yes, I know you were pushing as hard as you could. (I also happen to know that you wanted to punch out three or four people in the room.)

But as that special little gift from God worked her way down your birth canal and suddenly popped her head out, and those tiny shoulders worked their way through your body, you finally heard the delightful cry of your newborn. The doctor asked your husband if he'd like to cut the umbilical cord. A quick glance at your husband's queasy complexion told you he was in no shape to do anything.

And when that twenty-inch child was laid upon your breast, you buried your chin into your chest to get as good a look as possible at this new miracle, saying to yourself, She's so beautiful. I can't believe she's mine.

Or perhaps you became a parent through adoption. You spent months or years researching just the right people who could help you find "the child of your heart." You talked with multiple agencies, attorneys, agonized over how to become a parent, wondered if you would ever become a parent, investigated domestic and international routes, and, in hope, waded through enough paperwork to make you completely dizzy. If you had to travel internationally, you had doctor checkups too-and more painful shots than you want to remember.

Then all the feverish activity stopped, and the real waiting began. Even though you weren't physically pregnant, you were emotionally pregnant-waiting with longing for anywhere from months to years for your child. Perhaps you sat in a rocker, hand-stitching a baby blanket or dreaming your way through a baby-name book. Or perhaps you held off, worried that your heart would break if you didn't get a child. And then you got "the call" or "that first sweet picture." And you fell in love with that child from the first instant. Your world spun into the feverish activity. You did what you didn't dare to do before: bought a crib, decorated a baby's room, packed a bag with diapers, lotions, and all the essentials.

When you saw your child's face for the first time, you saw the realization of years of hopes, the joy after the pain of infertility or miscarriage. And your awe in holding that child was mixed with a pang of pain-knowing someone else's sacrifice to bring this child into your life. As you headed home, you vowed to be the absolute best parent you could be for this truly special child.

So, whether through birth or chosen through adoption, your firstborn has come into this life with a great entrée. Now the question is, what are you going to do with her?


Remember: This isn't just an ordinary kid that you've brought home. She's a firstborn. It's not that subsequent children in your family will be chopped liver, but firstborns are a special breed (and, after all, the subject of this book!). Although you may not be able to believe it looking at your tiny bundle of little toes and miniature fingers, nestled deep inside that baby blanket is a little Judge Judy or Judge Wapner.

Firstborns have a knack at excelling. You already know plenty of them. You've seen them in the movies or on television-Sharon Stone, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby. They're all firstborns. You've read about them in your history books-George Washington, Jimmy Carter, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and a whole host of other presidents. You've seen them excel in business (it seems that just about every CEO is a firstborn), and you've probably read some of their books-those of Dr. James Dobson (actually, since he's an only child, we'll call him a super firstborn!), Dr. D. James Kennedy, and William Shakespeare, to name just a few.

Firstborns are the generals of our world. Frequently exacting, very rule-conscious, normally conservative, your first-born will probably be your most reliable child, if you have more than one child. The chances of him or her being an astronaut, engineer, or CPA are higher than you can imagine.

Despite your best efforts, this child will get more individual attention from you than any other children who might join your family down the road. For your part, you'll probably have higher expectations for this child than all of your other children combined (though I hope this book will challenge your thinking in that area). Why will all this be so? Think about it-this child is now your only child. She doesn't have to wait in front of the television while you fix dinner for another child. For one year, two years, three years, or maybe even four years (or a lifetime, if this firstborn is your only child), this baby will have you all to herself. Everything she does will be new to both of you. You'll clap for her first steps, coo over her first spit-up, and probably take pictures of her first bath. Her "baby book" will bulge with photographs, mementos, and keepsakes.

Down the road, if you do have more than one child, when the last child spits up, you'll probably either wait until bedtime to clean the shirt or ask your firstborn to grab a washcloth. When the middle child starts walking, you may mention it to your husband when he gets home from work, but other than that, you may think, Yeah, it's about that time. You'll probably buy a baby book for the middle child, but when he turns five you'll feel guilty for how empty and slim it is, compared to the firstborn's book.

Why is this? Because you've already seen everything a baby can do one, two, or three times before!

The extra attention a firstborn receives gives him a "performer's" mentality. He learns early on that he's there to meet expectations. This has the negative effect of creating some anxiety but the positive effect of making him really want to please you by being outstanding. Consequently, he'll wear responsibility and leadership like a pair of comfortable slippers.

So take heart-you've got an opportunity to raise a child who's a great leader and contributor. I've raised three firstborns, so I know what I'm talking about.


"Now Dr. Leman," some of you might be saying, "how can anyone have three firstborns?"

Our true firstborn, Holly, came before all the other kids. Our second "firstborn," Kevin, was actually our third child, but as the first and only male he has taken on many firstborn characteristics. And our youngest surprise child, Lauren, is six years younger than her nearest sibling making her, in effect, a firstborn in many ways. After all, her siblings were all in school by the time she was born, so she has received from us all the extra attention a firstborn would receive.

They want to achieve.

Here's what life is like with a firstborn. I'll use Lauren as an example, since Holly is now thirty years old and out on her own.

Just after Easter break, I was taking Lauren, an extremely conscientious student, to her third-grade class. Lauren, believe it or not, was studying Latin. Even though as a psychologist I've spent a good bit of my life studying human nature, I have to confess that I never anticipated driving my eight-year-old daughter to school while she read Latin in the front seat.

Curious that Lauren was working so hard on the first day after a vacation, I asked, "Do you have a test in Latin today?"

"No," Lauren said, "I'm just reviewing my verbs."

As a lastborn, the only time I "reviewed" my verbs was when the neighborhood tough guy, Wooly Bully Wayne, used to teach me dirty words!

That's the positive side of a firstborn-they really do want to achieve. But that drive to achieve can have a negative side too. One semester Lauren's grades suddenly dropped from an A to a C. There's not a C thing I can think of about Lauren, so my wife, Sande, and I immediately went down to the school to see if we could find out what was going on.

As we sat down with Lauren's teacher, she explained that the big thing at Lauren's table was who gets done first. The first student to complete an assignment carries a great deal of clout in Lauren's peer group. Well, Lauren, by her nature, is not a hurry-up kind of a person. She can do A-level work, but not if she rushes. I remember several instances when Lauren would work on a homemade birthday card for three days or even a week; she doesn't just grind them out in five minutes like so many kids do. But a firstborn will usually rise to any challenge, particularly one that builds a sense of esteem and accomplishment, so Lauren sacrificed quality for speed-to become an integral part of a peer group.

They need to learn that failure is a part of life.

The normal firstborn wants to excel. Adding to this already inherent desire are overblown parental expectations-even more so because this is a first child. Many parents today attempt to build their own self-esteem by pushing their children to excel at everything. They view second place as losing out to first place, rather than being well above average, which is quite wonderful in itself. Firstborns quickly pick up this mentality and run with it; they are the family's flag bearers.

However, as you'll see later, I believe the home ought to be a place where kids learn to fail, because failure is a part of life. It isn't something to be feared; it's something you learn from. And then you pick yourself up and go on. But you'll probably have a harder time putting that philosophy into practice with your firstborn than you will with any later children.

They are examples for later (if any) siblings.

There's yet another element that makes firstborns so different from later children. Because your firstborn is older, his younger siblings will look up to him with awe. As the baby of my family, I wanted to do everything my older brother did. He was my biggest hero, and I wanted to be just like him.

The oldest-born child is usually the strongest, smartest, and biggest in the family. If he has several younger siblings, by the time they catch up to him, he's already moved out of the house!

That's all the more reason to raise your firstborn right. If your younger children look up to him, you want him to set a good example. Though it's likely that at least one of the younger siblings will eventually rebel against his example, you still want the example to be there.

Even though I tell first-time parents all this information in my seminars and counseling practice, many still fall into the first-time-parent syndrome. And so will you. My wife, Sande, and I did too. You probably will expect too much from your firstborn. You will be stricter with him than with any of your other children. You will follow his progress more closely than all of your other children combined. More likely than not, however, this child will ultimately reward you for that attention.


Two months ago, it was just you, if you're a single parent, or you and your husband, if you're married.

If you're a single parent, you're used to making decisions on your own-getting advice from others and then making the final call. If you're married, formally or informally, you two have worked out a compromise for who has what kind of power and influence in your family decisions. Like most couples, you've probably grown fairly comfortable with this arrangement. The lines have been drawn, both of you understand how it works, and you've reached a relative state of peace.

All that is about to change.

She'll take over your life.

This child, as innocent as she seems, and as docile as she appears, will immediately begin to formulate a game plan to completely take over your life, your home, your checkbook, and every second of your day. I'm not kidding you, and I'm not exaggerating. It's human nature. Your child is going to figure out how to manipulate you. Consciously or unconsciously, she's going to explore what buttons need to be pushed in order to get you to do what she wants you to do.

Are you motivated by fear? She'll learn to prey on that. Do you give in to relentless whining? She'll figure that one out soon enough. Are you persuaded by hostile rebellion? If so, she'll be all over you.

She'll have a strong sense of order.

You'll always have a power struggle with this child. By nature, first children tend to be a very meticulous breed. Holly wouldn't accept it when I told her, "Oh, honey, we'll be leaving around nine o'clock." If I tried that, she'd say, "But how long after nine o'clock? Or are we leaving before nine o'clock? What do you mean 'around nine o'clock?'"

I had to learn to say, "Holly, we're going to leave at 9:05."

And at 9:06, I'd get a firm reminder: "Dad, we're running late!"

Firstborns have a need for order. They like to be in charge, and for good reason: They usually are!

She'll lead the pack and figure everything out.

It's like this. I have a friend who runs road races and marathons.




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