We don’t tell expecting mothers the real side of parenthood–the stuff it’s really made of. It’s simply joy that we shower upon our expecting first time friends. And it should be. Motherhood is beautiful, and pregnancy is (mostly) joyful, and having children makes people…different. I wouldn’t say better, because people who choose to become parents are not better than those who do not. Parenthood is just different. A wonderful kind of different.
But what we don’t know upon holding our firstborns and looking into their eyes and admiring their every detail is that we will screw up and cry and apologize and wonder what the heck we are doing. We will make mistakes and then learn from those mistakes and not make them with their younger siblings. Our poor firstborns get the brunt of our rookie-ness.
My oldest is my boy Nate. Nate was born in 2002 and we are in the middle of the pre-teen years of hormones and mood swings, going wildly from happiness to sadness to anger to sheepishness to humor. When Nate was born I couldn’t believe that someone so perfect could happen to me. He was a sweet little mix of dark hair and mischievous smiles and belly laughs. He made my world flip from egocentric to selfless, and I loved my new role with this sweet boy. My husband and I were blissfully young and somewhat naive in our new family life.
Then life happened. The older Nate got, the more we realized that parenthood is 90% winging it and 10% hope. Hoping you are doing everything right and not making giant mistakes in the meantime. Because nobody tells you that when you have another baby, the pieces don’t just fall magically into place. Sometimes it takes a lot of rearranging and shuffling around to make life work. Nobody tells you that when you wake up your day will revolve around everybody else but you, and sometimes you have to make one of your children upset in order to find a bit of calm in a hectic house. Nobody tells you when you are holding this perfect little baby that one day he will challenge your every bit of patience. That what you think is right, he will protest is wrong and you will be left with your head in your hands wondering what the heck just happened and why this sweet little angel has been replaced with a hormonal stranger. Nobody tells you that you will lose sleep at night hoping and praying that you are doing it right.
Because our firstborns don’t get a seasoned, veteran parent. They get you and you will make mistakes. You will fumble and wonder and stress. You will realize with your second and third children just how much you screwed up and wish you could go back and do things differently. You will be rocking your sweet firstborn little baby to sleep and wake up twelve years later wondering where the time has gone and how you got so lucky to be this boy’s mom.
To all of the oldest babies, to the firsts, to the ones who paved the way for the other siblings, this is for you. Your parents love you, despite their mistakes.
And Nate, my boy, I love you more than you can imagine. You amaze me every day. Your intelligence. Your athleticism. Your kind heart. Your sense of humor. Your persistence. Your ability to love. I love you so much, buddy.
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