Dear oldest child,
Thanks for taking one for the team. You’ve probably thought by now that Dad and I really have no idea what we are doing. You’re not wrong. Please don’t misunderstand, we have goals and ambitions as parents. We’re trying to raise you to be a healthy, positive, and contributing part of society. But you are—and have always been—our guinea pig. You are the test subject to this whole parenting thing. Each new phase you encounter brings another new phase of learning and growth. Unfortunately, with that comes growing pains, and you often take the brunt of those.
I’ve always said that no one deserves to be the oldest child. No one deserves to start out as a new baby with their terrified parents who have been up all night and still have no idea why you are crying.
It was so unfair to you when, at two years old, everyone thought it was cute for you to jump off the couch onto a pile of pillows, but then we changed the rules, and it wasn’t cute at four anymore. It never crossed our minds that things we let you do as a baby wouldn’t be acceptable in a couple of years. I understand your confusion and frustration with the changes that have come along with your growth. Dad and I have always loved you, but sometimes we just didn’t know better.
There’s no way to test out these different parenting styles and see which works best for our family, without having you—our oldest. We tried to prepare, but usually, it came out in some form of “well, I would never let my child do that,” followed by what we thought was a great alternative for the situation. We underestimated that you would come vibrant and full of your own personality, and we would struggle, like those other parents, to discover what worked best for us.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I thought being a mother would come naturally to me. I came from a big family, so I assumed that motherhood was an ingrained part of my being. Goodness, was I wrong! One of the biggest surprises of my life was that moment in the hospital when they first laid you in my arms. As I looked into your tiny face, I was shocked to realize that I was meeting someone new, who I knew nothing about. I had carried you for nine months, but I didn’t know you.
I also didn’t know motherhood would be so easily overstimulating. There was no way of anticipating the different things toddlers and babies do that are so infuriating. I didn’t know what sleepless nights would do to my mental health and how that would impact the kind of mom I could be that day. So much of this was a surprise, and you’ve rolled with the punches with the rest of us.
Along with all this learning and growth came the love—so much love! We became best buddies . . . you, dad, and me. We took you everywhere, and you experienced all of life with us. As the oldest, you had the sole attention of two loving, doting parents. We played on the floor with cars. We took you to the park. You watched cartoons with us on Friday nights. We adored you.
And then we invited another baby in to take over your bliss. I can only imagine the adjustment it must have been for you as your little brother entered into that perfect picture and switched it all around. Suddenly, you needed to share all of the love and attention that had been solely yours. With a new baby, you often got less than your deserved half. It took a bit, but you adjusted so well.
I also want you to know that you were meant to be our oldest. You have a strength and resilience different from that of your younger siblings. You are loving, gentle, and kind. And you have a willing attitude to always help out. More than all of this, you were blessed with a very forgiving heart. You see me, as your mom, and can pick out my flaws. You’ve experienced my many mistakes as a parent, and yet, you love me unconditionally. Each time I apologize for another wrong turn, you receive me with open arms and a positive outlook for our future.
Thank you for being my oldest and helping me as I started my journey with motherhood. Thanks for taking one for the team.