Thursday, 8 September 2011

Letter to my firstborn

The evening that you were born was strange to me.  They took you from my body and told that it was because of my failure.  My body had failed to progress beyond 4cm and your heart rate was falling.  No one told me that that was a risk I had taken when I accepted the epidural the insistence of the Midwife.  I hadn't prepared myself for your arrival.  I was pretty clueless.  I told myself that I would be a good enough mother.  Not for me the dizzying heights of perfection.  

Looking back, I think I did okay.  That first failure wasn't my last.  I failed to see that my instincts steered me right when it came to you, the baby.  I put you to my breast and pulled you into my bed.  It was a happy relationship that everyone told me was wrong.  They laughed at me when you cried and wouldn't settle in a cot.  They made me question my ability when they saw that you preferred my arms to prams and when I wore you round the house instead of letting you cry on the floor.  I was pushed into weaning you from my breast and filled you with artificial milk so that I could be like everyone else.  It wasn't their fault.  They knew no better than me when it came to babies and how to nurture them.

Some of my failures held you and I in great stead.  I failed to keep you within the pre-school that people said was good enough for you.  I wanted better and best.  I failed to get you into the school I felt was best, but the school you went to was good and I met lifelong friends.  I moved you the next year when a place opened up in the preferred school.  I failed to remain within the low expectations people had of me when I grasped this new school by the horns and took on the PTA by throwing my 'I know nobody' self into the heart of school life.  I failed to accept that boys like you weren't supposed to achieve when you sat the entrance tests a two schools.  The first rejected you by a matter of a few marks, but the second welcomed you in.  I failed to hear the criticisms of the choices I made that took you through that school.  I failed to agree with the statistics that said parenting you alone would cause you to fail and push you into a broken life.

And what did you do in return for those failures?  You grew tall.  You grew kind.  You grew and continue to grow as the best big brother ever.  You surpassed expectations and took hold of your life and began to make choices as a man.  You rejected my dream of an Oxbridge son because it wasn't the path you wanted to take.  In doing so you made me proud because you stood for what you wanted and began carving your OWN dream.

I look back over those almost 19 years of your life and I'm proud of my failures.  I'm so proud of you.  The first in the family to go to University.  The loving son and brother, who cares so deeply for his family.  I'm proud of your loyalty to your friends and your going for your dreams.

A self-indulgent letter no doubt, but when I see you… I see my firstborn baby in my arms and at my breast.  I know that I did something right.  My failure is my success.


  1. Oh God Mars - this has made me very teary, thinking about my own beautiful boy, now 21 and at uni. It's a beautiful letter and one that I think he will look back on and treasure

    When David went travelling my lovely friend sent me this and it seems fitting to add it here to your very beautiful words.

    On Children
    Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them,
    but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children
    as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might
    that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

  2. This is beautiful, Mars. Thank you for sharing it. Ya done good, mammy doula, ya done good.

    On an unrelated note, I've still got your graham crackers. Don't wait too long to stop by, though. They look more and more tempting by the day ;-)!

  3. that's a lovely post mars. x

  4. A wonderful blog. No fluke. He's a great kid because you're an exceptional mother.