I can only assume that most parents have a conscious or subconscious idea about each new experience their child will inevitably discover as days, months and years unwind. I may be alone here, but what completely caught me off guard were the array of and often surprising feelings visiting me as my child experienced her new world. I might have been a bit at a disadvantage, as growing up feelings in my house were 99.9% taboo. In the last six and half years I have been transformed, or maybe re-born.
Alongside my daughter’s “firsts” I have opened a world of my own “firsts”. Seeing the world through my child’s eyes has brought me much joy, such as the cold sweet taste of ice cream spread around a smile or feeling the soft white sand tickling our feet. I have empathized with her frustration as a special toy has had a “time-out” do to the consequences of breaking rules.
What I DID NOT expect were the “firsts” that would fly by at jet speed and knock me right side up. “Firsts” with my name engraved wickedly large enough so there was zero confusion to whom they belong. The first time my bright-eyed and chubby munchkin pushed me away from a hug “no, mama… no” and quickly wiggled off the couch to sprint toward the toy bin. I felt jealousy. Jealousy? But, I don’t DO jealousy, especially not of a toy bin. Then there was the time she lied to me about brushing her teeth. She LIED to ME… Ouch. It hurt, but why? I’m supposed to be the grownup. It was suppose to be a simple, “Honey, we don’t lie and always tell the truth. Mommy will always love you no matter what. If you did not brush your teeth and need help I will help you. Telling a lie hurts your heart”. Simple, done, lesson learned moving on. I did not expect her to walk behind me and ask if it’s hard to have more than one kid. “Mama, you should be really thankful, because you just have one”. Double ouch! She’s 4! I felt bruised. Had I been too hard on her? Then there was the first time dropping her off at the babysitters = guilt, sadness, anxiety, doubt.
Not all “firsts” were difficult. Many were amazing and gave me strength as a mom and as an individual. The first time she made her bed and wore a smile of pride across her enchanting face. I felt satisfaction, pride and independence. The first time she introduced herself to a new friend without prompting. I felt more pride, security and joy. The first time she told me she loved her school’s cook’s homemade soup. I felt grateful, curious and comfort knowing she was loved and nourished at the place my husband and I chose to add to our village.
What I have learned through this journey as a mom is that I have feelings, and my feelings matter just as much as anyone else’s. I get to be angry, hurt, happy, joyful, proud, stressed, worried, sad, ecstatic, silly, independent, thoughtful, grateful. The key is to not enmesh my feelings with my child or her experience. My responsibility is to respect her experience separate from my own, but bask in the gift that I also get an experience, and many more “Firsts”.