I feel like every month another open letter of apology makes the rounds on Facebook. The letter is written to the second or third child and is a tongue-in-cheek apology by an overwhelmed momma for all the things she DIDN'T do this time around.
There were no prenatal yoga classes or germaphobic protections taken. There are no baby books filled with mementos or perfectly planned outfits. Instead, the "poor" second or third child is subjected to boisterous siblings and lack of 100% supervision.
I hate these letters.
I hate the implication that the "good" moms are the first-time moms who can bend over backwards to meet every unrealistic expectation of motherhood we place on ourselves from the moment we pee on a stick.
I call shenanigans.
I will not apologize to my second (or soon-to-arrive third) child. They are not worse off because I don't obsess about their clothes or every germ they encounter. They are not worse off because I don't focus 100% of my attention on them. I am a better mother now then I was five years ago. Period.
However, I WILL unapologetically proclaim I am a MUCH better mom than I was the first time around - precisely because of the stuff I no longer do. I've let go of perfectionism (which is apparently the key to parental happiness). I'm more spontaneous and have more fun with my kids. I have learned more about child development and positive parenting. I've learned a lot in the past five years and it shows and I'm not embarrassed to say so.
If anyone deserves an apology, it's my firstborn who still suffers the steep learning curve his father and I encounter at every major milestone.
My dearest firstborn son,
Your babyhood is seared into my memory. It was transformative in a way I could never imagine. We spent so much time together you began to feel like an extension of my body and I can't imagine starting this journey with anyone but you. However, the journey wasn't always easy and I think I owe you an apology.
I'm sorry I focused so much on your stupid sleep schedule. Some of my worst moments as a mother were trying to get you to take a nap that first (and second... and third year). I yelled. I cursed. I cried. Or I left you crying. It seemed so important at the time. You NEEDED sleep. What you didn't need was a crazed lady screaming at you to sleep. I'm really, really sorry about that.
I'm sorry you spent so much time with adults. I'm an only child and daddy's family lived far away so there weren't a lot of cousins. Plus, I hadn't perfected the art of mommy friends yet so you spent a lot of time as the center of adult attention. I wonder now if that's why you're such a serious kid. I suppose the world needs all those responsible firstborns to keep things running smoothly but I worry sometimes I robbed you of some of the silliness of childhood.
I'm sorry I fed you all that bland baby food - even if it was homemade. Your little brother ate what we ate from the get-go and, as a result, he seems to have a much more adventurous palate. For months, you ate nothing but unseasoned sweet potatoes and carrots and peas and any other vegetable I could fit in my Beaba Cooker. I'm really sorry for that. I'm hoping one day you overcome your fear of spice and learn to embrace your culinary wild side.
I'm sorry for dragging you to every stupid baby activity I could find before you could even sit up. Truth be told, I was desperate for adult interaction and you were an easy excuse.
I'm sorry for all the over-zealous discipline. We spanked. We yelled. We doled out way more than our fair share of time outs. Daddy and I were rookies. That's the truth. We hadn't yet learned the subtle art of choosing our battles and adjusting our expectations. You took the brunt of that and I'm so so sorry.
I'm sorry that you still carry the burden of our learning curve. You'll be the one we figure out how to manage homework with ... and curfews.... and college applications. I have loosened my grip on being the "perfect" mother but I still feel the pressure of all those firsts with you.
You see I want to get it RIGHT precisely because I've messed up so much in the past with you. I feel like I owe it to you. You gave me the greatest gift possible. You made me a mom. In the most intense way possible, YOU are my baby.
That's a lot for one kid. I know that. I'm sorry.
Thank God for your siblings.