The tyranny of firsts

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

It’s Fri­day, friends — and I’m still re­cov­er­ing from Hal­loween. Not be­cause we did any­thing wild or over-the-top. But hav­ing a pop­u­lar hol­i­day fall on a Mon­day? Who thought that was a solid idea?

Since be­com­ing a par­ent, I’ve put an ex­treme level of pres­sure on my­self to make hol­i­days “spe­cial.” I shop for spe­cial out­fits, plan spe­cial ac­tiv­i­ties and bend over back­wards tak­ing pic­tures of Oliver in his Easter finest or Santa Claus-in­spired wear, al­ways wor­ried I’m not “do­ing enough” or “cel­e­brat­ing enough.”

Not enough, ba­si­cally. Never mind that, at 18 months old, Ol- lie will re­mem­ber ex­actly none of this.

It’s silly to ob­sess over too many de­tails, I know, but that doesn’t help me stop. I call it the Tyranny of Firsts. Ol­lie’s first ev­ery­thing — first tooth; first word; first time walk- ing — must be doc­u­mented. If I some­how miss record­ing an up­date from his doc­tor’s check-up in the Baby Book, my source of un­end­ing guilt, then I feel aw­ful.

Some of this pres­sure stems from what “oth­ers” are do­ing. De­spite be­ing 31 and to­tally away from the cool crowd, I still find my­self com­par­ing my re­al­ity to friends’ so­cial me­dia posts: those highly edited, fil- tered pho­tos and anec­dotes that can make us feel like we’re fail­ing or fall­ing be­hind.

It’s not all the fault of Face­book, though. As Oliver gets older, I re­al­ize how short the “baby” phase truly was — and I feel like I need to cap­ture these tod­dler days so I can later re­call this unique pe­riod of his life. Even when, you know, this spe­cial time has of­ten re­duced me to a zom­bie look­ing for her car keys in the fridge.

Be­fore we learned we’re ex- pect­ing Baby No. 2, the Tyr- anny of Firsts had an even stronger hold on me. What if we never again felt the sweet weight of a sleep­ing in­fant on our shoul­der? What if the last time has come and gone without us ac­tu­ally ap­pre­ci­at­ing it?

As a new mom, es­pe­cially of a pre­ma­ture in­fant, sur­vival was my main goal. There was no “soak­ing it all in.” When wist­ful older par­ents of sullen teens would ad­vise us to just “en­joy it while it lasts,” I had to re­sist the urge to ask them what, ex­actly, we should be “en­joy­ing.”

Wak­ing up ev­ery hour to a scream­ing, in­con­solable new- born? Di­a­pers that are dirt­ied as soon as a fresh one is put on? End­less piles of laun­dry? Ster­il­iz­ing and scrub­bing bot­tles un­til your hands are raw? Feel­ing as though the sleep de­pri­va­tion may ac­tu­ally kill you?

With time, of course, I’ve calmed down. Gained per­spec­tive. I’m dis­tant enough from the ex­haus­tion to get a lit­tle wist­ful — teary-eyed, even — re­mem­ber­ing those first in­no­cent days at home with my son be­fore re­al­ity set­tled in.

Af­ter Oliver came home from the NICU, our ad­just­ment pe­riod was tough. There were times — many times, re­ally — that, as a par­ent, I felt a lit­tle bro­ken. Wasn’t I sup­posed to be bliss­fully gaz­ing at my child, filled with over­whelm­ing love and hap­pi­ness? Wasn’t it sup­posed to be . . . easy?

It wasn’t. It was over­whelm- ing. Hard. Feel­ings I was ashamed to ad­mit at the time, but facts I will­ingly dis­cuss now in an ef­fort to hope­fully make oth­ers feel less alone.

It does get eas­ier, yes. As par- ents, we fig­ure out our child’s lit­tle habits and find ways to pre­vent that red-faced cry be­fore it erupts (some­times). We get on sleep “sched­ules,” even if the sched­ule is just tak­ing shifts with a part­ner so you don’t go com­pletely in­sane.

We start to worry less and trust our­selves more. The baby gets big­ger, changes, maybe needs us just a lit­tle less. It gets bet­ter. I’m bet­ter. Un­til a hol­i­day rolls around. Given Oliver is now a tod­dler and all the “first” hol­i­days and many mile­stones are be­hind us, I thought the Tyranny of Firsts had re­leased its hold on me. But then Mon­day hap­pened and, like usual, I be­gan ob­sess­ing over whether I’d made enough ef­fort with his Hal­loween cos­tume or taken enough pho­tos or we’d made a mis­take by not carv­ing pump­kins. These are tra­di­tions in the mak­ing!

I fret­ted all day, drown­ing my wor­ries in co­worker-sup­plied cho­co­late. But when Hal­loween night ar­rived, we walked Ol­lie around to visit neigh­bors and en­joyed din­ner with fam­ily. Oliver had so much fun, hootin’ and hol­lerin’ and tod­dling around with his $1 pump­kin bucket . . . ob­vi­ously happy and con­tent. That made me feel bet­ter.

Con­fess­ing these scat­tered thoughts to my hus­band made me feel bet­ter, too. “Think about the hol­i­days you re­mem­ber as a kid,” Spencer said. “I bet they weren’t all about stuff. They were about be­ing to­gether.”

I worked my­self into a frenzy try­ing to make a “per­fect” hol­i­day when, in the end, the adults are the only ones who will re­mem­ber Oliver’s se­cond Hal­loween. Maybe that’s for the best. Kid has no idea how many Kit Kits I pil­fered, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.