To All The Moms Of Firstborn Daughters
There’s a few things you ought to know about us.
I never thought much about the impacts of gender and birth order until I had a family of my own. My firstborn, a son, is incredibly different than I was as a child, in both personality and disposition. I was a firstborn girl, with two brothers following a few years behind.
I was highly opinionated, regimented, and anxious. I was stubborn at home with my parents and unwilling to attend events or activities without my mom. I was headstrong but scared, organized but unable to self-soothe. I was overly attached to my mom — like, in a pry-me-off-her-leg-to-get-me-to-go-anywhere-at-8-years-old kind of way. Even going to college, I struggled deeply with being away from home. But I also overachieved enough to graduate law school and pass the bar.
So far, my firstborn son is a stark contrast to how I was at that age. He is confident, social, and totally unafraid and affected by new situations and environments. He is comically unorganized, a little aloof, and pretty effortlessly content.
A real wild (and often conflicting) mix of attributes I embody. And over the years I have listened to many friends of mine describe and discuss their own firstborn daughters with a list of adjectives and attributes that sound all too familiar. So without pretending to be a scientist, and with the caveat and understanding that birth order generalizations and stereotypes are not always accurate, I would like to offer you moms with firstborn daughters a little advice. Because there are a few things I wish my mom knew when I was young that may have made things a little easier for both of us.
First, we don’t need to be pushed. This is going to be a hard one to understand and it will likely take years for you, as a parent, to put this into practice. Because at times, it may feel like the necessary thing to nudge your first child forward as they express nervousness or apprehension. But the truth is that nudging only makes the anxiety worse. Us firstborn daughters, we have to do things on our own time. As we pave the way for our siblings, we may not be comfortable taking risks. Even ordinary things might make us nervous. And the only things that will help are patience and time. Show us that it’s OK to cling on your leg for an extra 10 minutes at the birthday party, or wait a year before joining the swim team. Because life is not a race, and if you let us move at our own pace, we will eventually gain all the confidence and independence you are hoping for.
And don’t bother telling us to relax. Throw me on a luxury yacht in the middle of the Caribbean and, I promise you, I will be making a mental list of all the following week’s to-do’s during my entire sundeck massage. Because we are naturally a little hyped up — overthinking and often a little anxious. So, a simple suggestion to “relax” is never going to actually calm us down, and will likely feel pretty condescending and frustrating. And I can promise you, we would love to relax! It’s actually our dream, but it’s just not that easy for us. So instead, try validating our feelings and giving us the support and space to work through whatever is amping us up. We’ve got this.
And we will always think we are in charge. Of our friend’s happiness, our sibling’s futures, our parents' health, our in-laws birthday presents, our holiday plans — everything. Even now, with my siblings, I take full control over my sister-in-law’s Christmas stocking, convinced it could not possibly get done without me. We carry the world on our shoulders in a semi-narcissistic way, feeling like things around us may crumble without our involvement. Teach us that we are not that important. That we can take a step back from responsibilities and they will still get done. Or they won’t, and it will still be OK.
Oh, and please do not mistake our nervousness or neurosis for weakness. We are loyal and capable, and we get sh*t done. And while we might not always seem as carefree or laid-back as you want us to be, our inner strength and fire make us unmatched. So tell us that you see us, and compliment our attention to detail and loyalty to our loved ones. Laugh with us about our weird obsessions and our inability to “chill,” and acknowledge our toughness. We really appreciate it.
So, if you are lucky enough to have a firstborn daughter of your own, I envy you. No one on earth will love you more fiercely. Don’t push her — allow her space, understanding, and a hand to hold when she needs it. And she will be so amazing. Because she is so much more capable than you know.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.