Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me.

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 1AM 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, every.single.time. 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.

My boy, captured by Marianne Wiest Photography

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


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94 responses to “Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me.”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing. It is perfect. I expresses exactly how I felt as a first time MOM. with your permission I’d love to print this (without the pictures) and send it to my son. He’s 21 almost 22, but there is that bond between me and him that is just different then with his brothers. My bond with the younger two is strong yet different. Thanks again for you beautiful words.

  2. Yes absolutely I’d be honored!

  3. I find myself thinking those thoughts daily with my 2 boys. I second guess myself often and feel guilty when I see them making mistakes just like I did. Thank you for putting into words how I have felt since our 13 year old came into this world.

  4. I read this, I sent it to my 15 year old and I shared it on my FB page where it was shared again. As I read through the comments here I am struck by how we all hold so much as moms and as this week leading to Mother’s Day approaches I hope we all take a collective sigh and pat ourselves on the back and say…”it’s going to be okay”. I am in the throws of discord with my two teenage daughters ages 14 and 15. There is nearly not a day when I am not ruining their lives and there is not a week that my feelings are not hurt and not a moment when I question what I am doing and if I am doing it right. That goes back to the day my sweet first born came to this world. Really…even when I found out I was pregnant and I craved salt and vinegar chips while my best friend craved salad. I judged myself even then. I have continued to compare and judge. It’s such a cycle with women. But owning the things that you owned in this blog and sharing those with your children is so vulnerable and so freeing. I often say, “this is the first time I have ever done this. We are learning together.” I have made so so so many mistakes as i too have come off sugar 🙂 and coffee and have just been to blame tired to care some nights. It’s not her, it’s me. The greatest gift I think God gave children is the ability to forgive so quickly. They have such a place for us and if we go to them, they run to us. I see it even now in my surly teenagers (only in glimpses).

    So much power in your words. Thank you and thank you for your timing of Mother’s Day. What a community you have struck.

  5. Mamad, this is so beautiful! You made me tear up a bit. I love this, “The greatest gift I think God gave children is the ability to forgive so quickly.” That is so true. I want to be like them – even towards myself. Thank you!

  6. As I get ready for my oldest to turn 10 (on Mother’s Day), this post leaves me with a lot to think about. I feel like his childhood is slipping away and I’m so caught up in the small things that I don’t enjoy our time together as much as I should. Thank you for this reminder that our love for each other is unconditional. And although he lied to me this morning about something trivial…and he got scolded on the bus yesterday, it does not mean I love him any less. It simply means we’re going to grow through these issues together, and we’re going to accept each other for who we are. We’re both learning…and I can’t wait to see what I learn from him next. Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas! Thank you again for your amazing words.

  7. Happy Mother’s day to you too!! Thank you 🙂

  8. I love this more than I can express. Thank you.

  9. Getting ready to celebrate my very first Mother’s Day this weekend! My little guy will turn one in another month. After almost a whole year (and the best year of my life so far!) of being the best mom I can possibly be, this article makes me realize, I already am! I have started to conquer the good and the bad and am already learning from mistakes that have been made and things that are working for me and my new family. As moms, we set our bar so high for ourselves and it’s nice and humbling to read my own thoughts from another mom. If we could slow down time just slightly though and enjoy the little moments a little longer, that would be wonderful!

  10. […] It’s rare that an article is so relatable… but this one hit a little too close to home.  […]

  11. I don’t even know where to begin. You have captured my feelings and deepest thoughts… and put them down on paper in such a succinct way that I had to sit down while reading it. My son is also 9 years old. He’s my first born. He’s amazing.
    I cried on Mother’s Day struggling with what you describe. And, I don’t cry easily. But, this is hard and the guilt is overwhelming. To know there is just one other person experiencing this makes me feel a little less alone in this struggle. Thank you.
    I wish you well on this journey with your son. Let us hope that by recognizing the problem we are close to fixing it (ourselves).

  12. I never comment on articles, however yours has spoken to me through and through. I could have actually written it. I cried the entire way through for so many reasons, relief, guilt, joy…just to name a few. Thank you. We are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are trying every day!

  13. My oldest is 27 I was a teen mom 17 talk about having to say its not you its me, we have these conversations on the regular. Which is what I would like you all to know my oldest 2 are now daddy’s to 1 each, themselves and and although I felt just like many things you stated here and I was open, but be careful in their teens its like telling a X a secret they well use it to hit your buttons, but when they become adults and parents and the thank you’s and the how did you ever raise 4 boys come in. The closeness we have now is a relationship we have built through that trust and bond of mistakes and forgiveness. My oldest like this article is about had to deal with many of the same struggles I had to because of our circumstances and sometimes when he was little it killed me, because having him I thought I would get away from them, but the fact that I had a baby so young kept me in them longer so he in turn had to be around them. (My father was a alcoholic) but I will tell you my son will Most likley never become a drinker he’s 27 he’s tried it don’t get me wrong but knows what it can do to a family. So although I beat myself up that I brought him into that, I know there is a positive out of it and that’s what you have to look at. So if your a perfections like us first borns are I am very OCD that I use to before I became disabled make my kids dump their toys and organize their cars, n Lego’s n other toys in their toy box every week. I beat myself over that now to because I wasted so much of their childhood n my healthy life cleaning even though I was always a very fun active playful mom, I still fill I put to much emphasis on the cleaning. But each of them got different skills out of it.
    Point to all this is as adults which is where your baby’s will be one day, sadly when you blink your eyes they and you will see that what you thought were mistakes were not mistakes at all they were lessons in life for both of you to have a bond and how you respond now is how they will respond when they are 25, and 35 as parents and maybe come to you for advice because I went to my mom when she was still with us she’s been gone 9yrs, But my boys all come to me for advice on parenting, dating, college, work, you name it and they tell me their secrets, some I wish I really didn’t know sometimes. But if they trust me I can pray for them and what a blessing so your doing a great job never doubt you and tell your baby’s if you messed up, we are human its important.

  14. I just have to say thank you! I never comment on articles but this spoke right to my soul! I was crying and bawling all the way through. My oldest happens to be 9 right now as well and everything you said was just spot on. I really really needed to read this today! Thank you!

  15. Thank you so much for this article. This has been everything I’ve been wanting to say to my 9 year-old daughter. As a parenting social worker, I feel as though I tend to be harder on myself because I “should” know better. But like many moms, there are days where knowledge and practice are two different things because….life! I fear I am destroying my relationship with her but honestly, even though I fail, I try every single day…and you know what? I might actually succeed one day because my love for her runs that deep.
    Thank you for being honest and allowing all of us to feel less alone. I’ve been itching to start a podcast soon called “Among all of this” where I interview parents who are wanting to provide a better life for their kids than the one they had for themselves and would love to have you as a guest!

  16. That sounds awesome!

  17. This is such an amazing posts and so accurate for me and my older son! This is so beautifully written! As a new blogger I love following your posts!

  18. I love your post. At the moment I am dealing with sad and dark health issues with my first born son who is 26. I would love your feedback on my blog (I have started to write – purely to deal with the immense grief in which I am experiencing.

  19. […] Este post foi publicado originalmente no Wonderoak. […]

  20. Thank you. You found and applied the right words on the aches, guilt and worries I sometimes feel when I know I am not a ‘perfect’ mum.
    I will keep your text in mind next time my 3 year old son is going to ask me not to push him too high on the swing. Bless you!

  21. Carrie Hadley Avatar
    Carrie Hadley

    I have daughters but take out the word son and this still fits everything I could never put into words. So eloquent and beautifully written! Had me in tears in moments. May I share? Or do you have a daughters version?

  22. Yes definitely share! Feel free to edit it for your daughters to share with them!

  23. It’s amazing how your blog spoke to the experiences of many first time mums.
    The experience of imagining this first born child into your life from school years, that fantasy of what the experience will entail when it finally happens and how when it does no matter how much you plan or feel ready nothing can quite compare you for the journey into motherhood. From the very first moments you feel when you find out your expecting to the miraculous moment they are finally born. Nothing can prepare you for what it is to be a mother and how to navigate your life to be what your beautiful blessing of a child needs because even though we are now mothers nothing drastically changes about our nature, of course we try to be more selfless to accommodate the every needs of our child but we are still only human and limited in our capability to achieve perfection. Your blog was encouraging and a great read. Thank you for sharing!!!!

  24. […] Source: Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me. […]

  25. Bonjour, how I wondered to write this to my born son , before. Thoses words are in each mother, in each one of us. I juste love it, I’m steel here thinking about all these thoughts about been a mother, even if my born son is 18 years old , he is gonna be forever my lovely first born and my proud of him!! Merci beaucoup!!

  26. Thank you so much Vivian !

  27. This is so beautiful. <3 <3 <3 This is everything I would say tomine.

  28. Sometimes I judge myself for not having enough energy to give my daughter and have often wondered if she forgives me.I think it is true that kids have a great capacity to forgive because they have a great capacity to love and their hearts are so pure. Your writing is so touching. Thank you for sharing

  29. I love your honesty – especially in this post. It’s me and my eight-year-old daughter, every day. And it’s comforting to know other mom’s struggle the same way I do, and that even though we may know the root of our mistakes, it doesn’t make it easy to fix them or change. Thankfully we’re all covered in God’s grace and up to this point, I’ve been covered by my daughter’s. I too fear that I won’t “get it together” before her ability to forgive and extend that grace runs out. We’re all a work in progress, no matter how old we are.

  30. A friend of mine recently shared your blog with me. Specifically your post “Dear Kids, When I Fail…” because my oldest son will be 17 this year and our college/career discussions are becoming more real each day, and so many emotions and thoughts are coming to the forefront. I wonder if I’ve done everything I set out to do when he was little, and if I’ve taught him all he needs to know to make it in the real world. Your post really hit home for me and I’ve enjoyed listening to your heart-felt sentiments because they so closely relate to mine… thank you!!! God bless you every day!

  31. Thanks so much

  32. […] ser hijo, hermano, nieto, etcétera. Eso lo tiene muy en claro Jessica Johnston, bloggera de Wonderoak, quien escribió una carta a su hijo primogénito para sincerarse de cómo ha […]

  33. Renita Demarest Avatar
    Renita Demarest

    I love this. So true. Amanda, you have no worries. You are one of the best mothers I know.

  34. My oldest will be 31 on the 21st. I made my mistakes on my first one. Ya know he turned out wonderful. He is married two children a bachelors and Master’s. I’m so proud of the man he has become. Don’t worry ladies.. The mistakes you make, They truly make it, any mess ups you d9

  35. I’m usually more of a lurker, than a commenter, but I just had to let you know, how much I love your blog! You have an amazing gift, and so eloquently put into words, what so many moms are feeling!!
    I am positive, there are thousands more, (than have commented here), who are nodding their heads, with tears rolling down their faces, agreeing whole heartedly with you! Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable… it is a blessing to know, we moms, are not alone in our fears and our struggles.

    It is sad to me, how hard it is for most women, to give ourselves permission to make mistakes and to not be perfect… to not beat ourselves up, when we fail to be everything for everyone. Thankfully, we love our “perfectly imperfect” children unconditionally, and as Mamad (and you) have said, thankfully they forgive us quickly, as we need to be able to do for ourselves.
    My sons are now, 17, & 15 and I still second guess myself and my parenting skills, daily… but then I look at the relationship I have with them, and the wonderful young adults they are becoming… and I realize that, I have done some things right!
    I love the quote ” I may not be perfect, but when I look at my children, I know I got something perfectly right”…which is something I am sure, eventually, many moms, say to themselves… so don’t worry… you are a great mama, and your kids will be fine… you got this!!

  36. Thanks so much for sharing this 💕

  37. Um. Yes to all of this. Going through some rocky roads with my firstborn. He is pulling away and pushing – hard. Struggling to show the unconditional love in a way that will break some of those barriers. This is new territory as we have always been quite close. Wondering (as all Moms do) how much of this comes from expecting too much from my firstborn. Trying not to wonder and simply put one foot in front of the other. 15 is hard. Thank you for these words.

  38. you are beautiful in what you say, how you live and love. keep writing, keep pouring yourself out even when your heart is torn wide open. thank you. i relate

  39. […] This post originally appeared on The Wonderoak Blog […]

  40. I read this few years ago when you first posted. I had my son when I was 19 failing after 26 hours to give natural birth. His 13 now and I remember this at times. I have read this blog (maybe the only one ever) about 5 times in these last few years. Its so true, so hard but thank you for growing up with me is the best punchline for anything ever. I cry uncontrollably in last 15 seconds of reading, everytime with the feeling of understanding (always changing), wisdom (ever changing) and of course love (never changing).. Thank you.

  41. Awe wow, thank you so much for sharing that with me

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