by Tammy Kennington

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.

The Myth of the First-Time Mother

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.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, Kendra.

    I’m glad to know you were encouraged by this post.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve discovered more about God’s heart for His children through parenting than I have from any other relationship. Joy, pride, sadness, and hope…and unconditional love–what a learning curve!

    God bless your family.

  2. Great post! I remember feeling bombarded with the myth of the first-time mother when my daughter was born six weeks early. She had to spend two weeks in the NICU, and was small and a bit “lagging” developmentally for the first months of her life. It hurt my heart to have other mothers brag to each other about how their babies were sitting up already, rolling over, trying to stand, etc. while my baby had to work really hard to do those things in the beginning. I think the worst part of the bragging was that they were insinuating that their child’s abilities were somehow the result of what a glorious, hard-working mother they were. All children (like adults!) are so different and go at different paces. “I love and appreciate my children even more fiercely for their imperfections than for their accomplishments, resiliency, or intelligence.” Love that. I am thankful that we serve a loving God who looks into the heart instead of physical appearances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *