Call me crazy, put me in the category of cold-hearted mothers and judge me all you want. I have relieved myself of one of the biggest pressures of modern motherhood, and I am here to invite you to do the same.
When our eldest was born three years ago, I talked to countless moms about what they looked for and liked about their childcare. As I toured a few sites and talked to program directors, I came upon a particularly interesting characteristic. It wasn’t related to safety practices, pick-up times or extra amenities like apps that allow parents to watch their child’s classroom during the day.
What made me sit back and wonder was a little piece of paper that asked parents whether they would like to know if their baby crawled for the first time or took those first momentous steps while at daycare — or would they prefer the provider say nothing about it?
On its face, this is a generous option to include in a list of intentional questions about a child’s care. It’s thoughtful, considerate and kind. It made me wonder if the question was triggered by a particular incident with a distraught parent or a response to a more habitual complaint from working parents upset over missing their kids’ first milestones.
I think there is a strong desire in the hearts of all parents to be present for every “first” in their children’s lives. Who doesn’t want to see her offspring wobble on chubby legs and take his or her first steps? It’s a miraculous thing to behold — but in my case, not something I’ve witnessed with my own eyes for all three of my kids.
I think this desire can reach beyond the origins of love and become an issue of control. The older they get, children will experience more and more firsts without our shadows in the background, and that is appropriate if they are to grow and thrive as individuals.
I do not have the capacity to control every aspect of my children’s lives. Whether I work out of the home, stay at home with my kids, have more kids, or stop growing our family, it is a simple, hard truth. I cannot, in any way, be present for everything they do that is new to them. It. Is. Impossible. And that is OK. What I can do is relish the moments I do get to enjoy and soak them up.
I can create memories and give them new experiences — no matter how small. It could be as simple as seeing their joy while baking cookies after dinner, letting them catch marshmallows in their mouths in the backyard, discovering a new park on a Saturday morning or tasting drops of rain on a stormy night.
I don’t want to waste time or energy being anxious about missing my children’s first steps or words. I prefer to enjoy and experience fully any moment I can get watching them do something new. I am OK missing out on the firsts, because I’ve learned to find joy whenever possible.
Maggie Zehring of Scottsdale juggles her writing and social media skills with being a mom to three young children.
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