Dear First Born,
I remember the day I first held you in my arms. You became, and I also became. I’d thought about motherhood for a long time, about how I’d be and how you’d be. But I was still so unprepared. Heaven and Earth kissed for a moment and I’d never felt so sure and so uncertain all at the same time.
I knew you and I—we’d be okay, but I also knew I had to grow up in just a moment to be your mom.
You believed in me, I could tell.
I expected that I would know how to do this—that I would know how to love you and raise you well at each stage of your life. But I haven’t known. When you were a few days old I called the doctor at 1 a.m. sobbing because I couldn’t feed you. You were screaming and I was crying. We were a mess. Now I’m helping you navigate the school age years and process the grief of your best friend moving. I should know how to do this well son, but sometimes I don’t.
I expect too much from you too, son. I try not to, but I do.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Sometimes my own insecurities and unrealistic expectations of me overflow on to you, and I’m so very sorry. Please know, when you wonder if you’re doing it wrong, if you’re not getting it all right…you are doing just fine.
I’m a firstborn too, son, and I dreamed in my school age years of having you someday and finding a way to raise you to never know perfectionism. To never have the task master of fear and idealism whispering in your ear, “don’t mess it up.” But I haven’t done that. I see it in your eyes when you worry about tests at school or when I come down on you to harshly for small things.
I’m so sorry, son. It’s not you , it’s me.
The thing is, son, you are perfect.
Because perfect isn’t what we think it is; it isn’t a standard we have to achieve or an impossible expectation to reach—it’s the gold that is already inside you. It’s who you are outside of all your mistakes and all your successes.
I am so very very proud of you.
Even if you weren’t “nice”, son, even if you forgot to think of others and to be the one to have a “good attitude”—I am on your team, . I am rooting for you and we will figure it out together.
You could be terrible at school and never pass another AR exam or timed math test and I’d never ever look at you differently or be less proud.
You could be uncomfortable with organized sports and take off running when they ask you to do a drill just like you did in kindergarten. I get it, I felt like that too. If you sense that you’re disappointing me, you’re not.
You could get married, or never get married, you can go to college or not. You could pursue a fancy career or nothing at all. You could be very successful or make tons of mistakes, and I’m not going anywhere. There is no mistake or decision that would make me go anywhere, not one. I couldn’t be prouder or love you more.
When you sense something from me that makes these things feel untrue, please know, it’s not because you’re failing, it’s because I’m scared.
I’m scared I’m not doing it right or that I won’t be able to give you what you need. I’m scared I’m not cut out for this and maybe other moms get it more than I do. I think about how I let you watch TV and I don’t cook every dinner from scratch and I wonder if I’m not loving you as well as I could.
I think about how I’m still so very selfish and sometimes I’m so consumed with me, that I miss it with you. I think about how I put expectations on you that I swore I would never do. And I’m scared and I’m not sure I have what it takes.
Other times I’m being frivolous and dramatic. It’s because my pants are too tight and the house is too messy and I feel like I’ve failed miserably. Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to not eat sugar or drink coffee and all I can think about is sugar and coffee. It’s silly, it’s humbling, but it’s true.
It’s not you son, it’s me.
You’re nine now and sometimes I wonder if my time is running out to make mistakes. If you’ll turn me away one of these days when I expect too much. But you keep forgiving me, believing in me, and trusting in me–just like you did when you were an infant and I couldn’t figure out how to nurse.
Thank you for loving the most imperfect me, I am so very much better because of you, and I’m learning…
I’m learning to accept me as much as I accept you.
I love you son, more than words can say. Thank you for growing up with me.
Your Mama forever
This article was originally published on the Wonderoak Blog.