Dear First Born,
I know you often feel like things are unfair, or that you’re getting nagged all the time to do chores or homework or get ready for practice or help your sister. And the truth is, you are. You’re right. Sometimes, it really is unfair.
I could spend time explaining why you really do get less attention than your toddler sister, but in the end, all that matters is that you do. You’re getting older and I need to trust you can take care of yourself more because your sister still can’t and there’s only so much of me to go around. But I want you to know I miss us.
Clearly, we both love having your sister here and part of our lives. We both talk about how it feels like she’s always been here. Most of the moments that bring me the greatest joy are the ones spent watching the two of you together, when she looks at you with such unadorned love and awe, and when you are so gentle and patient and encouraging to her. It makes my heart squeeze in the best kind of way.
But I miss us. Being my first born, you made me a mother. You opened my world up to this parenthood journey. And because of that, you felt like my comrade. We were warriors together, making our way through the stresses and scary things side by side. You’d always snuggle up on my lap, or pull me into backyard cartwheels, or request a dance party at the moments I needed them most, and I’d lose that rushing sense of time piling up on me. I’d step outside of time with you.
Now, so much of our time is purely functional. Rushing to finish homework, grab dinner, dash out the door to practice, all the while managing to change diapers and throw toys in a travel bag and fill sippy cups. Our time is no longer just our time. I know we don’t think twice of sharing it–most of the time. But as I find myself sighing in annoyance at something I’ve forgotten and asking you to go get it, now please let’s pick up the pace, I miss who we got to be for those six years before your sister came along, and before you grew up on me.
The funny thing about motherhood is no one warns you that having another child, no matter how fully and completely you want that next one, will give rise to a unique grief in you. I remember sitting in the bedroom when your sister was only a few days old, nightstand light dimmed, breastfeeding her, while your father put you to bed, and I cried. Because I missed lying beside you and reading you a story and singing you the song only I could, because I made it up just for you. Because I felt so separate from you in that moment, okay without me, when I didn’t want to be without you. Because it had always been you and me, and now, it never would be again.
So when I’m frustrated and angry and irritated, and when it seems like all I do is yell or sigh heavily, hug me. Remind me. Come be on my side again, because it’s really all I’ve ever wanted. It’s you and me and sissy now, and thank God for it. But it will always be you who taught me just how much my heart can handle, and how much better the world is with someone to discover it through. It will always be you.