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Remembering the Firsts

We all want to be there for their firsts. The first time they smile, the first time they clap, the first time they stand, the first time they walk. That’s a lot of pressure to be with your child all the time. But I’d have to be with her all the time to fill out her blank “About Me” book. Every first needs an exact date, time, place and circumstance. Who was she with, what exactly did she do, how did she feel (can I ask her?), what was the longitude, latitude and barometric pressure.

For a long time, our book was very empty.

For me, with Penelope, it wasn’t all black and white. What was her first smile? The one she did reflexively in her sleep (a good dream?) when she was pre-three months old, or the one where her eyes were focused and she smiled at me, shaking her bottle of warm Nutramigin. Or was it when I thought her eyes were focused and I thought she was smiling at something I did for her.

And what if someone else tells me they kinda-sorta thought they saw her doing a first while I ran out 5 minutes to the bathroom? Funny how then she never does it again, at least while I’m watching. Three weeks ago, my mom told me Penelope said her first two sentences “Baby Crying” and “Goodbye baby”. I’m still waiting to hear one. And I’ve been home two weeks and six days with her.

What about the second time, when they’re even better at it? That’s still a first.

And how far do you go with firsts? I admit as a sometimes-working-full-time mom I tend to go a bit overboard with cramming in “first things” with my daughter.

When we were living in New York her first 6 months I took her to the Central Park Zoo, on the Staten Island Ferry, out in the snow, to see the Empire State Building, the Stock Exchange, in taxis, on the subway, South Street Seaport, Bloomingdale’s, Chinatown, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMa, the Museum of Natural Science, Little Italy, Federal Hall, an Irish bar, SoHo, NoHo, on an airplane, the West Village, art gallery hopping, the NY Aquarium, Coney Island, to my therapist (a number of times) and the Wall Street and Rockefeller Center Christmas trees. I even had a drawing of us done by a sketch artist in Central Park.

But were they really important to her?

I’ll let you judge.

Except for one, in all our hundreds of outings, and I have souvenir photos to prove it, she’s sleeping. We were lucky with the Wall Street Christmas tree because I lived on Wall Street so we got to see it at 4am when she was up.

Perhaps one day I’ll have the photos photo-shopped.

But now that I’ve eased into momhood, I no longer let the book dictate our firsts. I go beyond the book in cultivating and writing down our firsts. I have matured enough to delight in the firsts that are important to her.

Like the first time she knew she could run away from mommy. Or pass beyond the point on the climbing frame I usually let her go so she could hurl down the big kids slide face first. Or, just this weekend at music class, she literally tackled a boy, bigger than herself, football style to get a drum she wanted. And this week too, first time she remembered (acknowledged) that we do not eat food that has fallen on the floor. There was definitely a look of pride on her face as she handed me the fallen food – after deeply contemplating whether she should put it in her mouth or not. (I swear you could see the angel and the devil on her shoulders) I greatly praised her for making the right decision and she was proud. Then she tried to eat a crayon, but that’s not a first.

So many firsts. Of course, I’m not fully reformed in my competition with myself. I confess, I took her to eat quail and to see the dolphins jumping just so she -- in actuality, just so I -- could say she did it. And, happy to say, the book is no longer empty, I’ve crammed every little space with what I want to write.