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


Hey Mamas and Dads, What do you want your firstborn to know most?

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94 thoughts on “Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me.

  1. Kesha

    Oh Jess. I love it! Exactly what I want to say to Sav sometimes! Thank you for writing the beautiful words! They always fill me; sometimes with laughter, sometimes with tears, but always full! Blessings upon blessings over your precious little family! Xo

  2. lauraanneparsons

    Jess, knowing you, as a child…and then a teenager… and now a mother, I completely adore you! Your heart was bubbling up and out of your words. As if you loved him so much that words could not express it or you were hugging and just wanted to squeeze harder because you just completely and utterly loved this person. Being a mama is terrifying, and never done well in our eyes…but, we just continue to grow and love and make mistakes along the way but…this journey as parents grows us up.
    You are an amazing writer! I love your honesty! I always thought you were fun but…never knew you were so funny! Hugs and Love! L

  3. cindy

    I am so scared sometimes too! Always wanting to do my best and I miss the moment and I don’t want to miss anything. So proud of my 1st born! God truly sent me gift. I love him more than anything!

  4. songbyrd66

    I couldn’t love this article more. As I said to a friend on Facebook, it’s like you reached into my heart and pulled out the words. Thank you for sharing this uplifting and affirming blog post.

  5. Rae

    Absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t have said it better. I relate to this so much. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Amanda

    Yes. ..a million times yes! I could change son to daughter and give this to my first born. Tears are streaming down my face. Thank you for putting words to how my heart feels.

  7. Sarah C

    My first born son and I had a rough night last night,all was made well before bedtime but God, I needed to read this! I know that the things I get the most frustrated about with my 10 year old, are the things that most remind me of myself and all my faults. It’s definitely not him, it’s so me!

  8. odile wolf

    I told my daughter I missed her. She is now 10 years old. I miss her as an infant, as a baby, as a toddler, as a 4, 5,6,7… and I know I will miss her being 10.
    It goes so fast.

  9. Jeanne

    So nice. Read through watery eyes. My son is 34. I may have to use yours, and continue it on for my years. My son is expecting his first. He should read this. Thank you

  10. Cali

    I shouldn’t have read this at work!!! I’m bawling. You nailed it. My son is 5, and I struggle every single day with so many of the things you wrote about. Thank you for this- you made this momma feel so much better just knowing that I’m not alone.

  11. Ladonna

    Thank you for this post. With your permission I would like to print it out change your son’s name & age to my son & give it to him on for his 8th grade graduation here in a couple weeks. He is 14 years old & the oldest of 3 boys. My youngest was a surprise & is only 3. Life has changed tremendously for us & Fischer has taken on so many responsibilities. Everything you wrote was in my heart, words I just need for him to hear. This was the most beautiful thing ever written about mothers & sons period. He is growing into a young man faster than my heart is beating watching him grow. Again, thank you for pouring out your heart here. Absolutely beautiful!

  12. wonderoak

    Thank you skinnyandsingle :), yes he has! I wasn’t sure at first if I should wait – but I will probably give it to him multiple times as a reminder.

  13. Betty

    This pretty much says what a first time Mom feels like, worries about and wants their son to know as he grows up.😘❤️

  14. Marcus

    Hi I would like to say this really touching. I’m 13 and my mom sent this to me and I shed one lonely tear😪.

  15. Sanyell

    This so perfectly fit the words that I needed to share (and now have shared) with me 13 year old son. Thank you!

  16. Mel

    I’m a goner. Straight up tears rolling and I have to drop kids at school in 10 minutes!!! Stop it!

  17. Sheyann

    OMG! Thank you!! My first born son is getting ready to graduate from high school in about 4 weeks and as I sit here reading this, tears running down my cheeks, I think back to when he was a newborn and you hit the nail on the head when you wrote this! Except in my case, I called my grandma when he would cry non-stop and not the doctor. Lol. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing what most moms are thinking and just can’t seem to put into words. If it is ok with you, I would like to print this off and give it to my son on his graduation day, with just a couple of changes of course. 😉

  18. Jason Teitelman

    I recently read this post and shared it with some friends. I can say that you have captured in this post something that seems to universally resonate and touch all parents. It’s like reading a post I wrote, but I didn’t write it. I wanted to say thank you for this post. I just finished writing a letter to my own 8 year old boy, and am going to give it to him during a special father/son day this weekend. Writing it was like therapy and brought me to tears more than a few times. Thank you for the inspiration and the motivation to go through the writing process.

  19. Monica

    I just sent this to my 13 year old. My firstborn. Thank you for putting into words what I cannot

  20. wonderoak

    Wow, that is so cool to hear. My process with this letter was very similar to that, it was therapeutic to realize the struggle going on inside and to put into words. Thanks so much for your feedback!

  21. ASW

    My firstborn 22 year old man-child will graduate from college in 2 weeks. I too was a firstborn. This so wonderfully captured what it’s like. Thanks for your words. I’d like to repost with attribution on my blog please?

  22. Pingback: Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me. | A Submitted Wife

  23. Mina Palencia (@minapalencia)

    Oh my God! When I opened this page I wasn’t expecting to cry like this. I am second born but everything else on here is on point with what me and my son have gone through and I’m sure will be going through in the coming years. Thank you so much for writing this. It’s very inspiring.

  24. Ron Mangels

    I saw this story linked on my daughters FB and really appreciated it. My Mom used to tell me about her feelings of love for me. Unfortunately I can’t have those talks anymore but I still have the memories. I have to ask a question. Is that picture of the mother and son on the dock with a lake in the background and the mountains on the horizon taken on Flathead lake Mt? I grew up there and it looks just too familiar.

  25. Jamie

    Tears. Just tonight as I heard my nine year old say a loud “ughhhhhhhhh” as I walked away over the fact I wouldn’t let him watch a PG-13 movie I realized how much he is like me. I get frustrated so easily over small stuff, yet I can be the voice of reason during big problems. That is so my son, my first vein. He is so me and that is often so frustrating, yet also so endearing.

  26. Pingback: Dear First Born, It’s not you, it’s me. – Parental Alienation's Dirty Secrets , Akin to Domestic Violence 40 yrs ago

  27. Gina DeNicola

    Thank you so much for this lovely piece! I’m on my way to my brother’s house today because he called me crying. They have a 4 week old and they both are struggling with the “what if I’m doing it wrong”. It’s their first child and those of us know that first child is always the hardest. My kids are 24 & 25 and I still think I’m doing things wrong, even though one is married and one is graduating with her Masters in a few weeks. When my son got married I wrote “She said yes” which echoed this very same theme. I’m sharing your lovely words with my sister-in-law as soon as I hit send.

  28. John

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is for dads too! And this is exactly where I am with my 9-year-old son this very moment. I feel like I’m ruining him sometimes; like he’s the victim of all my parenting mistakes. I never would have imagined that at 40, I would spend so much time apologizing to a child. So thank you for putting in words everything I’m thinking. I’m going to print this out and stick it in his bookbag Monday morning.

  29. Samaria Howle

    I just read this at work and am trying to hide my tears! I am a firstborn and I have a 24 and a 9 year old son. This can so apply to both of them. You must have seen into my heart! I’m going to share it with both of them. Thank you so much for this!

  30. Rochelle Dunsbergen

    I don’t know where to begin. I am so glad you shared this. I am so glad I found it.
    I too am a firstborn.
    My firstborn son just turned 9 this week.
    You wrote the fears in my head and heart. It encourages me to know that I’m not the only feeling the way I do. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  31. Lacey

    Beautifully written and amazingly true. I also have a nine-year old first born boy and I think you took the words right out of mouth.

  32. Bilan

    This is so beautiful! My exact thoughts and feeling…I can’t wait to share this with my son. Thank you for this <3

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