First Born of My Heart

Big Son turned eighteen the other day. I cried. (Of course.) He rejoiced. Of course. As we helped him celebrate the occasion with a social gathering of his friends (aka a party), I reflected on the journey I’ve taken with this first born child of my heart. There are pro’s and con’s about being the first. You get your parent’s undivided attention and all their enthusiastic energy as they discover the joys of caring for a puke-poop-tears machine. But you also are the guinea pig for their mistakes, their earnest yet misguided devotion and the full suffocation of alllllll the advice of those fifty-something birthing and parenting handbooks your mother ruthlessly ingested while growing you.

I was twenty one when I got pregnant and I had no experience with little people whatsoever. (My mother had three housekeepers and a revolving team of caregivers to help look after my three little siblings so I never had to pay attention to them at all. Not until they were old enough to be useful – do chores and play Little House on the Prairie with me.) I thought the baby would pop out and I would take him to lectures with me in a fashionably accessorized backpack. No problem. (true story) The Hot Man and I were students in Wellington at the time, so every day in between lectures, I would sit in the library and read every single book on pregnancy, infants, nutrition, breastfeeding, immunizations and more. I knew every single thing that could possibly go wrong with my unborn baby. Every single neural defect he could possibly be born with. Every single infection he could possibly get. All before he was even an emergency C-section delivery at 30 weeks. I was so busy with research and mental preparation that all we had ready for that premature mewling baby, was a bottle of Napisan for soaking nappies.

It took awhile for my heart to catch up with my research. I fell in love with my first born slowly, over many nights painfully shuffling to stand over his glass box incubator and watch him sleep. Watching nurses feed him through a tube in his nose. Watching them cut his tiny foot every day and squeeze out tiny droplets of blood while he screamed, so they could check his jaundice levels. The feel of his precious paper-thin skin against mine as they let me hold him. They said, ‘Lay him on your chest so he can hear your heart beat, feel you breathing. That will help him breathe on his own.’

Are you sure? I’m so big compared to him. My heart beats too loud. My breathing’s too panicked. I held him close, terrified I would hurt him. But slowly, slowly that tiny child felt right. Slowly slowly, our hearts beat in time and we breathed in unison. And slowly, slowly, a spoilt self-obsessed clueless 21 yr old found inside herself – a mother’s heart. By the time he grew big enough and healthy enough for us to take him home, I was fierce formidable Mother-Extraordinaire. (And Fiapoko Supermother as well.) Ready to take on the universe to protect, teach and nurture my son.

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Big Son has endured much as our firstborn. Here’s only a few of the “Things I know Now which Big Son wishes I Knew THEN…”

1. Don’t spend many hundreds of dollars trying to organize a momentous 1st birthday party for your kid that is so stressful you and your poor husband almost get divorced. Because your kid wont remember any of it and he will go to sleep twenty minutes into the massive party anyway. (Hugging his new teddy bear from Uncle Cam.) And its a good thing he wont remember because you will be so stressed and on the edge that you’re mean, nasty and awful anyway.

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2. When your 5 yr old kid gets invited to a fancy dress party, don’t slave over a historically accurate, authentic Hercules costume complete with battle regalia and then force him to wear it even when he cries. Because you’ll get to the party and discover all the other kids are just wearing raggedy old Superman t.shirts. Or a pair of fairy wings. And your poor kid will be miserable and feel totally out of place and cry harder.jade2

3. Yes you should teach your kid all about the sanctity of their physical bodies and even use all the correct terminology for their bits’n’pieces, very important with helping them to stay safe and confident. But you shouldn’t forget to also tell them there are appropriate times and places for shouting out such information. Otherwise, your 4yr old will be at the extended family gathering after your grandfather’s funeral and inform his cousin in a very loud voice, during the quiet of a prayer to bless the food – “See that? Its the pig’s penis. Wow, thats a really big penis!”

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4. When your 11yr old son has a Christmas present exchange in his class at school and you are to busy to take him to buy a gift for his classmate…don’t assure him, ‘don’t worry, I’ll bring the present to the class party already wrapped for you. Trust me!’ And then you buy a lovely sparkly ring and matching bracelet and gift purse from your mother’s shop Plantation House (because you don’t want to drive all the way into town) and your mother giftwraps it in organza bows and ribbons. And you both sigh over the perfect loveliness of such a gift. DON’T DO THAT. Because your unsuspecting son will give his classmate the aforementioned gift and she will unwrap it IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS and everyone will start teasing him about giving her an engagement ring. ‘ooooh, he loooooves you!’ And the girl will try not to cry. And your kid will try to macho through it while dying inside. And be very mad at you for a long time after.

jade6Yes, these are only a few of the horrors my son has endured with me as his mother. To protect the guilty, I wont share any others… Let me just say, Big Son announced the night before his birthday, “Mum, this is the last day I’ll be a child. Tomorrow I will be a man!” And I said, “Oh yeah? You planning on moving out tomorrow and getting a job?”

I tease him but I know all too well the clock is ticking. My days with this child are numbered. Next year, he will be at University and we will be many miles away living in Samoa. He will do all those things young people do when they first leave home. Rejoice. Eat a lot of junk. Stay up late. Skip class. Party a little. Experience what being ‘broke’ really feels like.

And I will be far away,  doing what most parents do when their kid first leaves home.

Missing him. Wondering if he’s getting enough to eat. Worrying if he’s warm enough. Chastising myself for not preparing him better to be on his own. Praying for his safety. Sending him money when I already agreed with the Hot Man that we shouldn’t spoil him, ‘You need to learn how to budget son…’ Ha. Calling him every so often and striving to sound casual and happy, ‘Just wondering how you’re doing son?’ (Instead of bawling my eyes and heart out on the phone and begging him to please come home.)

So each day I have left with him in my control care, I will celebrate all that this First Born of my Heart is to me. The baby that he was, the child that he sometimes still is, and the young man he has become.

Yes you’re ‘a man’, Big Son. I’m proud of you. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mother.

But it doesn’t matter how old you get – to me – you’ll always be that little boy who needs the beating of my heart to help you find your way, to help you breathe on your own, to help you stand alone.

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19 comments

  1. “you’ll always be that little boy who needs the beating of my heart to help you find your way, to help you breathe on your own, to help you stand alone”.

    Beautiful piece today Lani and a timely reminder 🙂

  2. What a beautiful and touching story of your first born. I have four sons, but it was not my first born who moved away. It was my second born son, who left home at the age of 18. He had learned a trade in the granite and marble business, at the age of 17, from a friend of the family. He moved away to Washington State with a friend. I didn’t try to talk him out of it, although i wanted to, but i did ask him if he was sure this is what he wanted. As i saw him off at the airport and wished him luck on his new journey, i watched the plane leave until i couldn’t see it in the sky anymore, as tears rolled down my face. For weeks, i cried every night as i looked at his picture, It’s hard for a mother to let go of any of her children, especially her son(s), because boys tend to be closer to their mom’s than their daughters. I have raised 6 children (4 sons and 2 daughters). The first couple of weeks, my son and i called each other quite often. At one point, he had called and cried like a baby and wanted to come home because he had missed me and home(we live in Hawaii) I was born on Oahu, but left at the age of 3 and was raised in California. My first 3 children were born in California and after i got divorced from my first husband, i moved to the islands to start a new life for my children and i and wanted to know and learn my Hawaiian side of my ethnic background. Of course, my 2 sons, ages 10 and 9 at the time, was angry with me for taking them away from their friends and moving to the islands kind of put them into culture shock, but it was the best move and decision i had made. Today, my second son, who is now 41, still lives in Washington and still does what he loves, granite and marble and does come home from time to time with his own family and each time he leaves, i still cry. I am remarried now and have since added 3 more children to my Ohana and as for my first born and my third born sons, they live on Oahu with families of their own, but only, mom here, is the one who moved away..lol…i now live on Maui. Our baby, son number 4, graduated from high school 8 years ago, but after graduation, he had moved back to Oahu for awhile and again, mom here, cried every night. Fortunately, son #4 came back home after being away for a few months…he missed us. He has a family of his own now and he still lives with us…lol. My point is, a son, no matter how old or how far away he may live, will always need his mom for advice, nurturing, guidance, asking for a recipe that he wants to try, an approval on something and most of all knowing that you will always be there for him.

    1. Love reading this – thank you. It gives me strength to know that “a son, no matter how old or how far away he may live, will always need his mom for advice, nurturing, guidance, asking for a recipe that he wants to try, an approval on something and most of all knowing that you will always be there for him”. I worry so much and know we all do need to step back and ‘let go’…but its difficult!

  3. I hate goodbyes. I will especially hate them when I have to farewell my children someday. I’ll just be broken hearted.
    Your writing captured the unmistakable, remarkable bond of nurturing in a way i have not seen before. Thank you for sharing your tribute. Good luck to Big Son.

      1. Wonderlike dag met wonderlike mense! Dit was ongelooflik lekker en ‘n voorreg om julle onlgkeeetvire dag met julle te deel. Die foto’s is pragtig. Ons kan nie wag vir julle kuier nie!

  4. My own “Big Son” is now 30 with two boys of his own. Your story had me in tears (hey, I haven’t gotten my meds refilled, so… yeah). of empathy remembering how it felt to “let him go” as he shifted from boy to man. Our role in their lives may change a bit, but we remain Momma just as surely as they remain Baby. Heck, my “Big Son” is still complaining about sleeping in a dresser drawer when he came home (ahead of schedule) because we hadn’t gotten his crib yet. I think it’s his way of reminding us that he is still that baby. Well, that, and to soften me up before asking me to do something for him. Maybe things don’t change after all! Lol

    1. I laughed to read that ‘sleeping in a dresser drawer’! Sounds very familiar. Big Son slept in a drawer for a while. And we bathed him in a mixing bowl and then the kitchen sink. Treasured memories for sure

  5. My own “Big Son” is now 30 with two boys of his own. Your story, and a lapse in my meds, had me gushing tears as I thought back to those transitional years. He was always the macho one, too tough to even have Momma walk him inside on his first day of kindergarten, but that didn’t keep ME from seeing that tiny little person that slept in a dresser drawer when he arrived a bit too early for us. There were also those times when he needed his Momma’s advice or encouragement, a special meal to comfort him, or someone to sit with him in hospital after his surgeries. Now and then, he brings up the dresser drawer “crib” he slept in telling everyone it was because “the parents didn’t ‘bother’ to prepare for his (untimely, remember) arrival”. It looks like teasing when he tells the story, but I think he’s really reminding us that he knows he is still that little baby boy we brought home so many years ago, no matter how manly he is now.

    ~ Karli

    1. So Im not alone in these feelings! I love that – your son bringing up that dresser drawer crib story – that you are able to see it for what it really is…a reminder he still knows he’s that little boy you brought home so many years ago. Sometimes, my Big Son likes to remind me of the same thing, and then other times, he battles to tell me he’s OLD now and not a baby, LOL

  6. SNIFF, SNIFF….scuse me while I get my tissue. My mother’s hears is sharing tears of equal parts sadness and joy with you, Lani! Mine is fast approaching 22… still growing, still trying to figure it out…still driving me a little nuts..but what will life be like when he leaves? A mixed bag of freedom and memories! Life stands still for now one. But at least, Lani, you have more moments to count… I can only look forward to the grands..one day..FAR FAR FAR into the future!!!!

    1. That is so true Windsinger – theyre still growing, still trying to figure it all out…and I find I am too. As a mum, I’m growing and changing and learning as I go. Im certainly not the same person I was when he was little, or even the same person as I was five years ago. Our children have to adjust to US as changing, learning, growing people as well, LOL

  7. Hi lani i thought I paid for your new book or maybe it was for it to go on your tablet through amazon I am not sure what I did exactly if being sent to me or what….would you know it only cost me 5.00 or 7.00 US abit confused and it wasnt until after I had paid they did come back to me for confirmation of my address.btw love reading your happenings with your family can totally relate to that.

  8. Hi Lani.

    I notice that most of the previous comments are from parents so i would just like to share this from my perspective as i was once at this stage of not being the parent but being the child not long ago. I come from a family where me, my 8 siblings and parents have this close relationships. I’am the 3rd youngest and like your son was also incubated due to a high fever, actually it was yellow fever (my siblings love teasing me with that..saying that i was born yellow, so i like to just call it “high fever” LOL). My older 4 siblings are all married and have kids of their own. So my parents have had their many moments of crying for each and everyone of us :). My dad has this “macho macho” man personality in him that “man do not cry”… and “its never okay to be sick” or “we’re not supposed to say that we are sick”. In 2008, i was awarded a scholarship to study at USP, Samoa. I was 19 then. My parents drove me to the airport even though i had told them that i didn’t want them to drop me off, as i know it would be a sad farewell but they insisted anyways, after all they are the boss LOL (parents!!). My dad was no where to be found after i checked in. I was sitting there the whole time chatting with my families who had come to see me off and the whole while wondering where my dad had gone off too. After the final call i quickly said my goodbye’s to everyone and my mom who was in tears then i waited for a lil while for my dad who still didn’t turn up. I later saw him standing outside by himself and just waving from a distance. A goodbye wave?! I ran out and gave him a big bear hug to which he just broke down in tears (no longer the macho man, aye). I felt my parents love for me every single day. They called almost everyday, no matter what time it was, even when i was in class or out in the pub, but it always made me smile and made my day to read emails, txt msgs or get phone calls from them or receive packages from home. I remember crying my eyes out as i was missing them so much on my first year at uni and i remember this one particular night when i called home as i was feeling so homesick and just broke down in tears over the phone lol (i usually don’t show my weak side to my parents but i did that night). I’m back home now and i have chosen to stay with my parents as i have been away for 4 freaking long but awesome years (wont deny this but i was always forever missing my moms cuddles and yummy food and dad’s never ending macho man personality LOL)! And yes, REJOICE i did also, “Eat a lot of junk. Stay up late. Skip class. Party a little. Experience what being ‘broke’ really feels like (this one just tops them all)” haha.. That was all an experience that has made us who we are now. Strong and better children 🙂

    Please parents, keep in mind that we do not get bothered by your never ending phone calls, txt msgs or emails. We LOVE it!!! We appreciate your never ending love and support especially in the uni days as temptations are everywhere. Parents reminds us of who we are, push us forward to success and we need that to keep us in our place. We make mistakes but we know that our parents are always there to help us through… Even though we go off for studies or work, rest assured parents that you are always in our thoughts, hearts and prayers every single day! No matter where we go, what we achieve in life etc… our parents will always be forever in our hearts.

    Anyways, this is my experience and i hope this helps the many parents out there who are missing their children :).

    Cheers.
    Elenoa

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