An Open Letter to My Teenage Son

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A Mother’s Love & Struggle with Her Firstborn

Being a mom is hard and the relationship with my firstborn is a continual dance of independence and control.

War and peace.
Wisdom and ignorance.
Fear and elation.
Struggle and hope.
And so much more.

I was blown away when I became a mom, but I had a feeling it was going to get easier as my oldest grew.

Some things got easier: buckling himself, dressing himself, feeding himself, and things that I thought took forever to get to, but now seems like the blink of an eye.

Those toddler days seem like the simpler days now, but it wasn’t easy then.

The teenage years are a challenge, but I have a feeling that some day I will look back on them with fondness, too.

So, with all the love in my heart, here is an open letter to my firstborn.

This is dedicated to him, and to all the other mamas out there trying to figure out how to mother their firstborn.

I hope it is an encouragement as we are all trying to figure out how to hold on tight to love…all while learning to let go.

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What I Want You to Know

Dear Firstborn,

I cannot believe that we just celebrated your 17th birthday. This is your last birthday before you are officially an adult.

With that in mind, here are some explanations, but mostly my hopes for you as you enjoy and struggle through these wonderful teenage years.

First of all, I love you.

You have an unapologetic zest for life that blows me away, and sometimes makes me a little crazy.

You have taught me so much! You have been such an agent of change in my life. You have been the iron that has sharpened me so much and I am forever grateful.

Second, I would like to say (for the millionth time), I’m sorry.

The pressure I’ve put on you and the pressure that I have put on myself has sometimes been too much. I really wanted to be perfect for you.

Over the years, I have learned that perfection wasn’t an option. But growth always was. So, thank you for helping me grow!

You’re my first chance to let other people see the heart that beats outside of my chest.

You made me a mom, and for that, I am beyond appreciative.

I literally have no idea what I would do without you. You are a gift that I never expected.

I never knew that parenting would be so hard, and that I would feel like such a failure.

I have apologized to you on more than one occasion, and I have thanked you as well.

Today I’ll say it again: Thank you for letting me learn how to be a mom on you. It wasn’t always pretty.

I have had times when I have been extremely hard on myself because I wanted to be everything for you. Over the years, you have taught me that you didn’t need me to be everything, you just needed space to learn right along with me.

Third, everyday is a new day to learn. I am thankful we get to learn these things together.

You are so many wonderful things, but it seems you’re also a big mirror that reflects me. And more than once, I haven’t enjoyed seeing myself looking back at me. I pray you get some of my good traits, but I usually assume the worst.

I promise that I just want the best for you.

I know that the world is a scary place, and there is a lot of bad stuff out there. I’d like to wrap you up in a bubble and protect you forever, but somehow I have to learn to let you learn on your own.

I’m not very good at this…but I’m trying.

You are your own person, who God created in His own image, and I’m trying to have joy in the journey.

It seems so much easier to try to control you. That has never worked well for either of us.

I made you wear a coat when you didn’t want to, and I forced you to eat all your vegetables (that isn’t really a bad thing, you know). However, your baby sister doesn’t have to do that, because I learned, on you, that control doesn’t change a heart. 

What Matters Most

Dear Firstborn, it’s your heart that I really care most about.

I hope and pray that in the midst of all the mistakes I’ve made and all that I haven’t done right, that you will see that love really does cover a multitude of sins.

I love you and want you to love Jesus. That’s really all that matters!

The “stuff” in life that gets in the way are just distractions to keep us from Jesus, and precious Firstborn, please don’t be distracted.

Stay on the straight and narrow. I promise that you will never regret it.

My Aha Moment

I remember when you were 3 and we were having a pretty rough day. You were crabby and I was tired. I looked outside and the sun was shining, so I thought I would take you for a walk.

You talked my ear off and told your brother all of the things that he needed to do (because you’ve always been a leader).

You were getting kind of mean and letting me know that you wanted nothing to do with my rules that day. And did I mention that I was really tired?

I took your attitude personally and felt hurt by it. I know I shouldn’t have. But I was weary and I am so very human.

But in a moment of total clarity, I felt God whisper to me that I was meant to be the mom for you. Even in the midst of the worst parts.

So, I bent down in front of you and reminded you that God made me the perfect mommy for you, and you the perfect child for me. 

God gave you to me, not because I was the perfect mom, but because I was the perfect mom for you. 

The circumstances are different these days but the worries and challenges are still there. Even more so, today I am reminded that we are gifts for each other, straight from God.

So, I’m promising you now that I’m striving for:

Less perfection and more love.
Less fear and more encouragement.
Less control and more peace.
Less frustration and more hugs.

You are iron that sharpens me daily, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything! (Well, maybe I would trade it for a little less sharpening.)

God knew what he was doing when he blessed me with you, Firstborn! I love you!

Love, 
Mom

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Teenage Son”

  1. Nicole, your words are so beautiful. They touch the deepest part of my heart and encourage me at the same time. Thank you for sharing this. I will hold it close.

  2. Beautiful words to your firstborn <3 I'm definitely hardest on my first as well. It's just a natural part of parenting. Thanks for the reminders to love more and worry less.

  3. Jenna Punke Bendt

    This post wrecked me! I believe every mom with more than one child can relate. Thank you for putting into words what my heart so deeply feels!

  4. Tears*
    “Control never changes a heart”…this is so good in so many areas.
    Hopefully you can help me when I have to walk-through the letting go of my children. Take notes now:)

  5. This is beautiful and hits me right where I am now…and where I have been with my older son. Even though I have seen the other side as we moved past the teenage years for one and I know how faithful God has been, it is so easy for me to fall back in to doubt. God gently reminds us that HE is their father and ours. We can rest in Him, finding the wisdom, grace and peace that we need to parent our children as He would have us to. Thank you for sharing this! When you walk in obedience to God and do as He asks, you just never know who He will use you to bless. 🙂

  6. This letter could be mine to my firstborn. Thank you for putting my feelings so perfectly down. Your love and humility are a gift.

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