First Pancake Theory

Have you ever made pancakes? If you have, you know the first one usually doesn’t turn out right. While it might be edible, it was also an experiment. You had to assess for pan temperature, batter thickness, fluffiness, and so on, before you’d put the rest of the batter at risk, and that’s kind of the point. You can’t know how things are going to go until you do it. For all of the future pancakes, one pancake takes the learning curve for the team.

While it might be a silly analogy, raising your first child is a little bit like making the first pancake; it’s a thoughtful experiment you hope turns out okay. As new parents, you simply cannot know what you’re doing until you do it. That’s partly why third or fourth-time parents are perceived as becoming laissez-faire; it’s not that they love the children any different, it’s just that they have established some benchmark by which to assess if things are going to turn out okay. They’ve failed hard and survived, developed some resiliency and inner confidence, and have learned to hold onto grace for themselves and their subsequent children.

I’ll be the first to admit that kids are a higher-risk endeavor than pancakes. We can’t just toss them in the trash when they don’t turn out right, tweak the ingredients to match our preferences, or purchase some utility that promises to produce the “perfect pancake every time.” Pancakes don’t grow up to be entitled to things, or have the capacity to hold their injustices against their creators, or learn to talk back. However, there are some uncanny parallels that resonate with clients when I tell them about my first pancake theory.

First born children disproportionately feel like they have to be able to figure things out for themselves. They feel like they’re the experiment, they resent when the younger siblings have things easier, and often hold things against their parents that are totally out of the parents control. Parents and children alike benefit from hearing that they are not alone in the struggle--that this is a frequent, almost universal problem that so often occurs between parents and their first born. To put a name to it, to add humor… both become liberating experiences for all parties involved. Besides, who ever said that pancakes had to be perfect? Sometimes the misshapen, alternative pancakes are the ones we have the most fun making. So free yourself from the burden of being human, learn to find humor in the hurt, and put your best pancake forward.