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A Letter to My Son During His Last Days as an Only Child

Dear Firstborn Son:

In about two months, if everything goes smoothly, you will no longer be the only child living in our house. You will no longer have your dad's and my (mostly) undivided attention. You will get a crash course in patience and sharing and learning to put up with someone, someone who is littler and more helpless than you are, someone who will sometimes be stealing your role as No. 1 priority. And then after that, you will have to learn to be the bigger person, not to give in to goading or taunting or tattling or general annoying behavior—just the way I did when I started sharing my parents with a new little brother.

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I decided I wanted to give you a little sibling more for you than for us, although you probably will say "Wow, thanks a lot." The reasons are this: When you're bigger, you'll be able to play on your own, without us, and I wanted you to have someone to be there to play with. When we go on family vacations, I want someone to be there with you to splash with you in the pool. And when you're even bigger, I want you to have someone who understands just what it's like to have your dad and me as your parents, so you can commiserate on what it was like to grow up with our particular brand of crazy.

But mostly, it was your personality. You, to me, have always been a big brother, even before you actually become one. You're brave and inquisitive and smart and, just like me, a little bit bossy and a little bit sensitive. I think you can be a leader. I believe you're up for the challenge of sharing your life with someone: You might not like it but I think you can be great at it. It brings us so much joy to give you challenges and see you rise to the occasion and this is no different.

You were the one who taught me I can be a mom—not always the best mom, but a mom nonetheless.

I'm not sure how you'll take this change in our life. I can imagine you'll be a little bit jealous and that will make sense, especially right now as you've gotten to this stage where you want to do things on your own but still need lots of "big hugs" when things don't go right. I can also imagine you being so sweet and helpful with the baby the way you are now, whenever we give you a job to do. If you can tell your hormonally tormented pregnant mom, "Don't cry Mommy, I'll give you a hug," then you're going to be great at this.

I am trying to have reasonable expectations. While I hope you and your brother are good friends and partners, I also know that with some siblings, the only thing that binds them is blood, and if it turns out that you and your brother aren't super-tight, that's OK. I want you to be good and respectful but I'll try not to ask more of you than is fair. It will seem like a lot of things are unfair for a long time, but please know we will have tried to do the best we can.

In the end, I think your time soaking up the attention as an only child is balanced by how much of an experiment you were. I never had a child until I had you and never knew what it was like to love someone—to be so weak and strong and exhausted and capable, until you came along. Thanks to you, I vaguely know what to expect when this "new guy" joins our family company, which was just a startup when you were born. I know now, thanks to you, that I can take care of a newborn, and that eventually the baby will sleep and smile, and add both difficulty and dimension to my life I could have never imagined before. You were the one who taught me I can be a mom—not always the best mom, but a mom nonetheless.

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Basically, if you think about it, it's your own fault that we're doing this again, because if you weren't so great, we would never have decided to go through it a second time.

Anyway. Thank you for putting up with two fumbling newbies as parents for these two-plus years. You are, far and away, my favorite firstborn son and I'm so happy for the time we had alone together. I hope that you will enjoy what's to come. I hope this new kid appreciates the training you gave us: I know I always will.

Love always,

Your Mother

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