With bébé’s first birthday behind us and his first steps coming soon, I’ve been thinking a lot about firsts. As a mother who works outside of the home, it’s inevitable that I miss a fair number of firsts. Almost without fail, when I see him doing something new, I yell for my husband, “Look! See what he’s doing!” and, much to my chagrin, he almost always answers “Yeah, he’s been doing that for awhile”. I usually try to hide my disappointment, though I definitely got visibly cranky when my mother-in-law gave him his first baby teething cookie the other week, because I wanted to be there to see how he reacted the first time.
Lately I’ve been trying to reign in these feelings, and to put things into perspective. I’m still trying to keep a positive outlook and not react so negatively to what is a very common situation for many people (being away from home and bébé for most of the day).
First of all, besides things you control, like first visits somewhere or first foods, it can be very hard to determine when the exact “first” time something happens. Was that a smile, or gas? Do we count rolling over by accident, or just when he meant to do it? Did he put the banana in his mouth on purpose, or just because he puts everything in there?
While it is very exciting to see him do something for the “first” time, unless it’s a truly unique face or word, it’s never going to be the last time, so I’ll always have another chance. Sometimes it can take a few days, but it’ll happen. When he first started eating bits of banana, he did it once, then seemed to forget how for a few weeks. Babies don’t work on the same skills all the time, and tend to do one thing a lot for a bit, then stop and do something else. This also makes the true “first” time difficult to pinpoint, because is he really doing something if he only does it once or twice, and then doesn’t do it again for awhile?
Also, he obviously doesn’t do things particularly well at first, and while his attempts can be heartbreakingly cute, it can also be frustrating. I think it took about 30 minutes for him to gnaw his way through a cookie with me, meanwhile getting it all over his face, hair, and clothes. It’ll be nice when he can just take a few bites and be done with it!
Finally, there are some firsts that I’m not too fussed about because I know he won’t remember. I spent a fair amount of time planning his first birthday, but that was more for the adults (we called it our “one year anniversary of being parents”!) And his first Christmas and Easter were cute, but I know he didn’t really care one way or another, as long as there were people to pay attention to him.
This first year has also been full of last times, which are more bittersweet, but at least we have a little more control over them. My last day on leave before going back to work, the last night he slept in his bassinet before switching to the crib, the last time he was in his baby stroller.
I decided when to stop breastfeeding, and made sure to get a few pictures of those last few nights, and really be present in those moments with him.
There will be more things like this in the future that we can predict, like his last night his crib before a big bed. But there are others that will be more fleeting. I don’t remember the exact last time he fell asleep nursing, or the last time he took a nap in our arms. So when I read that you have to cherish every moment (seriously, every single thing you’ll ever read about being a parent includes these words, it must be a law or something), I really try to, since for every first, there’s also a last. The first time is the first of many, and it will happen again and again. But the last time means it won’t happen ever again, and that part of “growing up” is over.
There are important milestones coming, and I’m not going to purposely be absent for them, but he’ll always be learning and doing new things (he already does certain things only for me, and other things only for my husband). I’m looking forward to his first steps, but I’m also trying hard to get these last few weeks of crawling and wobbly standing on film, knowing that the last time he crawls instead of walks to greet me at the door is right around the corner. And while we’re super excited for his growing language skills (he could just be playing with noises, but it really sounds like he can say both “cat” and the equivalent French word “chat”), his baby babbles are so funny and fleeting, I want to follow him around with a tape recorder all day.
I’d rather save my energy for trying to remember and capture those unexpected lasts, rather than stress about missing a few firsts.