A Letter to My Firstborn – I’m Sorry, Thank You, and I Promise

The oldest and the youngest <3

My dear sweet first baby,

It seems like just yesterday it was just you and me. In less than two years you’ve gained not one but two little sisters. Needless to say, they’ve brought a lot of change with them.

I know it hasn’t been easy for you. At almost seven years old, you’re still on the cusp of the “little” stage yourself. Yet suddenly, your needs seem to have fallen further down the priority list. Just this weekend on our family trip to the park you announced that you needed to use the restroom. But we were in the midst of juggling a baby diaper change and a toddler flinging herself down the playground equipment, and implementing the parenting teamwork strategy that would allow one of us to trek with you to the bathroom took some time. I could tell you were aware of the fact that your sisters’ needs were taking priority over your own. But still, you waited patiently.

As I watched your brave patience with us, my heart swelled and there was so much I wanted to tell you.

First, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry your needs have come in last so often lately. I’m sorry that your little sisters’ needs are often so much louder and more urgent than yours so they seem to take priority more often than not.

I’m sorry that I rely on you so much for help. It seems like I’m asking you for something a lot lately–to keep an eye on the toddler or entertain the baby or hand over the iPad or bring a cup of milk or hold a door. So often you cheerfully help without complaint.

I’m sorry that my expectation for you to be an example to your sisters has led me to be more critical of your behavior. I know that it doesn’t always seem fair, that there are things they get away with that you get in trouble for. I worry that my critical voice is staying with you and making you more critical of yourself and others.

I’m sorry that, as you grow into this beautiful young woman, my parenting role is supposed to shift from managing you to trusting you and I don’t always get it right.

I’m sorry that I don’t tell you these things often enough.

Thank you for being kind and patient and big-hearted anyway.

Thank you for being sweet and understanding with your tired mama.

Thank you for everything you do to help, and for thinking of ways to help even without me asking. Thank you for your sweet notes and drawings that lift my spirits. Thank you for putting on a brave face even when you don’t feel like it.

Three Sisters <3

Most of all, thank you for adoring your baby sisters even though it would be easy to resent them for turning our little world upside down. I hope you see the way they look at you, like you are the most amazing and magical creature they’ve ever seen. Because you are.

I promise that it won’t always be this hard. They will grow and their needs won’t be quite so desperate all the time and a new kind of balance will calm the waves.

I promise that I will do my best to listen when you need something and not put too much on your shoulders just because you are the oldest.

I promise your sisters will become your best lifelong friends and that this tough stage will seem small in comparison to the years of friendship you have ahead of you.

I promise to do my best to see and honor your littleness. I promise not to make you grow up faster than you have to just because you are the oldest. I promise to carve out time for us to cuddle and for you to need me.

And last but not least, I promise you will be better for this. Growing up isn’t easy. Being the oldest isn’t easy. Sharing mom isn’t easy. But I promise that the lessons you are learning in patience and bravery and empathy and kindness and generosity and love and family will make it all worth it.

Always know how proud I am of you, and that the greatest gift in my life is being your mother.




My Toddler is Stealing Mommy Time From Her Sister


Siblings have to share attention. It’s just how it is. Most likely it is good for them and they end up better for it.

But that doesn’t mean it is easy.

My oldest was four and a half when her little sister arrived, so she was pretty used to undivided attention. However, she had also had enough time to consider the benefits of having a sister. And it helped that she was mostly to an age where you could reason with her enough to explain that the initial “share shock” of sharing mommy with a newborn baby wouldn’t last forever, and eventually she would grow into an awesome play buddy.

And my oldest has been an amazing sister. She is helpful when I need her, she is patient when I am not available at the exact moment she want me–she’s a blessing.

To be totally honest, she isn’t complaining about sharing my time. I am.

You see, we’ve hit the full-blown toddler transition this week. Perhaps it is because we are battling teething and a cold, which have affected our sleep. Or perhaps it’s just that magical hour of childhood where children figure out what they want but they don’t have the language to ask for it, which I’m sure is frustrating to say the least. Either way, we are experiencing all the reasons why people dread the toddler years.

Today alone I had to deal with a temper tantrum before breakfast, then breakfast, and then dressing the toddler to leave for the oldest’s eye appointment. The oldest got herself dressed, her teeth brushed, and helped hang out with the toddler while I got ready. We walked to the appointment, which was a nice time for conversation with the oldest. But as soon as we arrived at the eye doctor, all the toddler alarm bells went off. Strange place with strange people means crying, even if mommy is holding us. And you guys, this is not a quiet cry. It’s a “Sorry ma’am at the front desk, I can’t hear what you are telling me to fill out on the paperwork” kind of cry. So I’m juggling a hysterical toddler, trying to fill out paperwork when they come to take the oldest back to the room.

I already know from past experience that this isn’t going to work well. The toddler will cry the whole time and the doctor won’t be able to hear anything else or concentrate on my oldest. So rather than accompanying her to her first eye doctor visit, she went with the nurse while we waited in the waiting room. She didn’t seem to mind and was a total rockstar. (Although she did tell me on the walk home that she wished I had been able to come with her. Insert mini heartbreak here.) I told her I wished I had too, but that she had done such a good job and that it was great that she was old enough to do stuff like that.

When we got home we all played in the basement. I got out one of my old dolls for the oldest and we went through the tub of accessories, talking and having fun. But soon the toddler was trying to climb the dollhouse and wouldn’t listen when I told her to stop so I had to get up to get her, which meant a defiant temper tantrum which meant I had to take her up to time out. And then it was lunch time so I had to feed her. And once again the oldest was left to entertain herself, which she happily did.

She doesn’t complain, but in my head, I do.

In my head, I throw a little fit that I can’t sit down and concentrate on her without having to attend to a temper tantrum or a danger or a diaper. In my head I throw a little fit that I can’t be with her in the doctor’s office because her sister is afraid of everything outside of our living room. In my head I throw a fit that I can’t play dolls for a few minutes without having to always keep an eye on a mischievous toddler. In my head I throw a fit that even her doctor’s appointments can’t be “her” time. And it isn’t fair. But there’s nothing I can do about it.

Perhaps it is because I’m acutely aware of the fast-approaching school year and I’m dreading having even less time with her. Perhaps it’s because the new baby will arrive in September, meaning my time and attention will be even further divided.

Either way, I feel like she is in this perfect stage of being independent, yet still wanting to spend time with me. She is funny and creative and articulate and makes me laugh and think. And I don’t want to miss it. I want to be able to fully appreciate who she is at this moment in her life.

But it isn’t always that easy.

So we schedule mommy-daughter dates. We make the best of toddler nap times. We share subtle laughing eye rolls when her sister is being especially toddler-y. I take advantage of the little chances to hug her and thank her for being my helper. I remind her that this stage can feel hard for both of us and that some days it feels harder than others, but it won’t always be difficult.

And we get through it together. Because that’s what families do. If this beautiful family of mine has taught me anything, it’s how to be flexible. This week it will be the toddler who needs me, next week the oldest, next week the baby. There will probably be weeks where I have to steal time from all of them to take care of myself.

That’s what families do. We all give and take from each other.

And in the end, we all end up with more love because of it.

Special Moments. Or Boogers. 

When we hang out and snuggle, she likes to rub my belly. Today she was doing it and I let myself entertain a little fantasy that maybe on some level she is already bonding with her baby sister. And how they’re going to be best buds and we won’t be able to imagine our lives without this new baby as soon as she is here. And how magical children are that they just “know” things even before they can really know them, you know?

And then I realized that, with her other hand, she is picking her nose. 

So there’s that. 

Showing Her My Awesome 

The toddler was contently eating her breakfast, minding her own business

The six year old was on the bench beside her highchair jockeying for her attention by flinging her legs into the air, singing in a high pitched voice at the top of her lungs, and generally doing everything that makes her mama crazy at a normal hour of the day, let alone at breakfast. 

I took my deep breaths and drank my coffee and finally I reached the point where I just couldn’t.

“Child,” I said to aforementioned six year old. “What is it you want from her?”

The response?

“I’m just showing her my awesome.”

Well. Who am I to get in the way of that?

In Yo Face

Teaching a six year old and a one year old how to play appropriately together. The six year old’s version of playing with her sister involves chasing, spreading out in the middle of the room so that there is nowhere to walk and grabbing at her, putting toys in her face, overwhelming tickling which usually just means tripping her, and constant high pitched squealing and giggling. So far my teaching strategy has been to intervene every time she is doing something to the toddler that I would find irritating if someone was doing it to me. 

I think I’m going to have to lower my standards.