To my firstborn,
It’s hard for me to reconcile the fact that you made me a mom eleven years ago. And it’s even harder now that I’m watching your youngest brother head off to Kindergarten to realize how fast the time is going. It’s heartbreaking to accept that I don’t have much time left with you. I know what seven more years looks like now, and I’m terrified to let you go.
I look at the mother I once was when you were little and I was so scared. I hardly recognize her. I’ve gained a lot of confidence since hovering over you at the playground as you toddled around, and rushing out of restaurants when you made the tiniest fussy baby noise.
You were an angel baby, and I was the mom that knew hardly anything. Thank you for letting me make all of my mistakes with you and loving me anyway. I’m sure I’ll make plenty more as you enter the teenage years, and we’re trying to navigate middle school and high school together.
Thanks for being exactly the kind of kid I needed to learn from, and to learn on.
You were always watching me inquisitively as a baby, and I could tell that you were a thinker. You still are, and I’m sorry I constantly ask you what you are thinking. I just want to know both because I am dying to know you even better, and because I worry I’m failing you in some way.
I want to know because of my own insecurities I have about mothering you. I’m so much more confident now than I was in those early years. I’m able to realize now that you’re probably not going to break your neck and get kidnapped if you’re out of my site for 2.3 seconds. But, I feel insecure about other things like if I’m too hard on you, or am expecting too much.
For the record, maybe I am, but I hope you know that it comes from a place of love. I never want you to feel like you have to be perfect.
I could list the extremely long list of mistakes I made like the time I put you in time out while potty training you, or forced too many pictures on you complete with wardrobe changes. I yelled more than I do now, and I probably didn’t let you get nearly messy enough. I worried too much about germs, and was terrified that something would happen to you if I let you swing too high or walk too far away.
I woke you up in the middle of the night tiptoeing into your room to make sure you were breathing, and I got entirely too little sleep myself while watching your chest rise and fall. Admittedly that made me super tired, and probably way more grumpy than I should have been.
I laid on the mama guilt thick, and overthought everything way too much. I was too strict with your diet, and too worried to let you explore like I should have. And, I got angry at stupid things like whether or not you’d cooperate when I brushed your wild hair.
My eyes were always fixed on you though, and anxious to be the perfect mom not knowing that letting go of that idea would actually make me a stronger, better mom in the end.
I’m sorry that I said,”No.” more than I should have, and put the play doh up high so you would forget we had it, and I wouldn’t have to clean up the messes it would create. I should have let you jump in the puddles more, and climb on the playground without me constantly shouting out, “Be careful!” every few steps.
I should have read more stories, and given in to one more hug. I should have snuggled more, and carried you more, and listened more intently to your little stories. But, if you happen to ask for a hug or a snuggle now, know that the answer should always be yes.
But, I want you to know that you were the perfect child to learn on. You still are. You forgive me over and over as I make mistakes and have to admit them with tears burning in my eyes from shame. You are happy, and easy going, and willing to be the big example I expect of you to your younger siblings. You are used to sharing the spotlight now, and you gracefully moved over when two other kids came along and accepted the role of big sister with ease.
You thrive in that role baby girl, and I know you were meant for it.
It’s hard for me not to feel pangs of regret as I allow your little brothers to do things I never would have let you do like skip the hand sanitizer before eating lunch at the park, or splash in mud freely on a hike. I want you to know it’s not that I was trying to slow you down, but I just wanted it to be just right. I wanted you to be safe, and because I loved you so much, I wanted to make sure that everything was just perfect.
I know better now. I know the bond that can come out of an apology for a mistake I make, and I know that teaching you that it’s OK to own your imperfections is a valuable life lesson I should have embraced a long time ago.
I’m still learning how to navigate the waters of raising a tween, and deciding things like when you can get a cell phone, and how much independence to give you. But, it will forever be hard for me when you’re out of my sight doing your own thing and living life. It’s what I want, but it’s what I dread too.
You’ll forever be the child that made me a mom first. And, I will forever find comfort in the fact that we still get to navigate this journey of parent and child together even though both of us are kind of clueless about what to do in each new stage.
But, most of all, I hope you’ll forgive me for trying too hard to make it just right. The beautiful thing is, I know you already have.
Thank you for being as close to perfect as a kid can get.
You’ll always be my baby.