Dear First Born,
I’m sorry that I was so very young when you were born. I wish I had given myself the gift of time before you were conceived. Time to be immature, time to be foolish, time to be without responsibility, time to make mistakes without a baby on my hip. Babies shouldn’t raise babies.
I’m sorry I didn’t breast feed you for longer than a few weeks. I had to go back to high school and I was too young to care that much or think it mattered. I think it’s one of the reasons that I’ve had a harder time bonding with you than with your siblings. I didn’t have that precious newborn closeness of mother and babe.
I’m sorry I fed you so much juice and vanilla wafers. I didn’t know anything about nutrition.
I’m sorry that I spanked you. You were the most obedient of little people, there was really no reason to ever hit you. I was working under the false dichotomy that spanking is how you discipline children into responsible adults. I was wrong. I think this also affected our bond.
I’m sorry that I didn’t hold you more.
I’m sorry that you were so often in trouble simply for being the oldest. It’s not fair to shackle a 5 year old with the responsibility of always being a good example for the 2 year old. I’m sorry that you were robbed of the childishness entitled to little ones simply because you needed to be the big sister.
I’m sorry for fighting with your dad in front of you during the tough times.
I’m sorry that we weren’t more sympathetic to your emotional sensitivity. We thought being harsher on you would cure you of your nervous disposition. In reality we probably made it worse. I’m sorry for every time I said that your reason for crying wasn’t good enough.
I’m sorry that so often I set a bad example and then reprimanded you for following it.
I’m sorry for being so selfish this last decade. I’m sorry for being so tired now. I understand your situation more than you know. I was also the oldest and only girl, the helper of little brothers. It’s not always fun, I know.
I love you. I didn’t want to send you into the world with the same hangups that I was saddled with in childhood and so often I’ve failed. You will have problems as a grown up and they’ll be partly my fault.
I’ve spent the last few years trying to repair some of the damage that I dealt in your younger years. And sometimes, when we’re laughing together, I think I may have helped undo some of the hurt. I know there are bound to be more bumps in our future as you become a teenager and adult but I promise to try to remember that love comes first.
Before judgement, before correction, before condemnation, before disappointment. I want love to be the weapon I wield against the troubled times. Because I know from my own childhood that harshness doesn’t repair. Harshness widens the brokenness. But love conquers all.
And you’re allowed to remind me when I seem to have forgotten.
Parenting is a life-long learning process. I’ve made many mistakes and have many regrets, especially from those beginning years. I share many lessons that I learned in parenting toddlers, preschoolers, and children in my book Parenting Wild Things. It contains the things I wish I had known when I first brought my sweet first-born home.