My dear boy,
I’m a firstborn child.
So is your father.
And, of course, so is your older brother.
Birth order experts say that firstborn children tend to fit a certain mold. Ambitious and often impatient, driven and more than just a little self-centered, oldest kids are natural leaders. Your dad, brother, and I are classic firstborns, cut from the same very tightly-wound cloth. Before you came along we were constantly jockeying to be in charge, locked in a simmering quest for family supremacy. (I admit your brother probably won more battles than he lost.)
But then you arrived on a warm summer night, your entrance into the world as smooth and uncomplicated as a birth can be. I cradled your warm, squishy body against my chest and it occurred to me that I knew almost nothing about second children. Even from the outset, you seemed very different to me than your brother. Maybe it was your innate personality, less headstrong and more content. Maybe even as an infant you sensed that our family needed an easygoing counterbalance to all that firstborn intensity.
Or maybe it was me. I’d been overwhelmed by the magnitude of motherhood the first time around. Was I doing it right? Was I doing it wrong? Was there even a right or a wrong? Why did my baby need me all the time? Where was my old body? Why was I so eager to get back to work even though I’d dreamed of becoming a mom my whole life? The adjustment period seemed endless and I felt alienated by my own struggles.
But over time, I did settle into motherhood. Things got easier as I became more accustomed to the wonder and weight of caring for this new life I had shepherded into the world. By the time you arrived, I felt grounded and confident, empowered by my own journey through the first-time mom woods. I knew what to expect, that I’d probably screw at least a few things up, and that everything would be okay. I also knew how truly fleeting this baby time would be. So I stopped worrying so much and let the world slow down while I held you close to revel in the sweet smell of your breath against my cheek.
The complex mix of emotions I felt the first time around distilled into something much more simple: joy. I savored watching you begin to discover the world, your blue eyes bright as you took in everything around you curiously. You were a cheerful baby from the very beginning, and your good-natured presence made the whole family feel more buoyant.
I also marveled at the heart-bursting sweetness of the way you gazed at your older brother, already his biggest fan. Your arrival made me see him in a new light too — he became the boy who rushed to help when you started to cry, the boy who did silly dances to make you laugh. You helped him start to expand his emotional world beyond himself, and it brings me infinite joy that the two of you will always have each other.
I can picture you reading this as a teenager and rolling your eyes, so I’ll wrap it up before my doting sappiness embarrasses us both. Here is what I truly wish to say to you on your first birthday: You may not have made me a mom, but you helped me feel like the mom I wanted to be. You helped our family evolve and soften. I didn’t know what to expect of a second child, but now I’m convinced that they possess a certain kind of magic. You, my love, are magic.
This first year with you was one of the best years of my life. Thank you.