I have a confession to make. It begins with the birth of our first child. One glance at his precious, wrinkled, newborn face and I knew Ben was destined to attain great things. I imagined him on stage, standing in front of thousands of people as he humbly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. Or, perhaps he would demonstrate such athletic skill that one day he would boast a cherished Olympic gold medal around his neck.
Impossible? No. Unlikely? Absolutely. I had succumbed to a common belief — The Myth of the First-Time Mother. Maybe you’ve never heard of this particular myth. But if you’re at all like me, you have probably been part of its storyline before. Let me explain.
Like most stories, this one introduces a few main characters who deal with a specific conflict. My particular version involved our little boy, my husband, and me. Our problem? I bought into the idea that fame, fortune, or feats would secure my baby’s position in life. As a result, other proud playgroup mommies (who also found purchase with this myth) and I compared developmental achievements as if the baby first to walk, talk, or crawl somehow ranked above the other children. One mother might brag, “My child is in the 95th percentile for height and weight. He slept through the night before he was even a month old.” And someone would respond, “Well, Jenna already started potty training. They say it’s a sign of intelligence.”
Inevitably, these conversations caused a lot of consternation and concern. Was I reading to my child often enough? Shouldn’t he know his sight words before kindergarten? If we forgot to register for peewee soccer had I eliminated Ben’s chance for sport stardom as a twenty-something?
Finally, around the time our third child joined the family, there was a twist in the plot. For almost two years, Seth endured the confinement of miniature casts and discomfort of daily stretches. Other mothers avoided making comparisons to their own babies and instead offered apologies for Seth’s condition. But, in my eyes, neither Seth’s imperfect feet nor his clunky shoes had an impact on who he was. The realization? I love and appreciate my children even more fiercely for their imperfections than for their accomplishments, resiliency, or intelligence.
Yes, I still have dreams for my children. On occasion, I imagine them performing at Carnegie Hall or serving as an instrumental diplomat in a far-off land. More often, though, I remove unnecessary expectations. It’s not what they do or how they look, but who they are that matters. Even God gently reminds us, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Freelance writer and speaker, Tammy Kennington, shares life’s adventures with husband David and their four children.