When my oldest was born, I couldn’t wait for all the “firsts.” First smile, first laugh, first time she rolled over… I was there for all of it, most of the time with my phone camera perched, ready to experience these firsts right there along with her. It felt like a mom right of passage and was also a frequent topic of conversation. From mom groups to pediatricians, everyone asked about milestones. We were incredibly fortunate and my daughter was happy and healthy, and knowing what milestones were coming helped make my journey in first-time parenthood a little smoother because, generally, I knew what to expect.
Imagine my surprise now, seven years later, hitting a whole new set of “firsts” and milestones, and I now have no idea what I’m doing — and the path of how each kid handles these new milestones is much less clear. I’ll never forget the day a little over a year and a half ago, there was an unexpected knock at our door one Saturday afternoon. I shuffled to the door and opened it to find a little red-haired boy. “Hi, can Georgia come out and play?” Uh, excuse me? Like, outside of the house, without me? I DON’T KNOW, CAN SHE?! I like to think I maintained a general adult attitude as I said, “Um, let me check, hang on just a second.”
He didn’t need to know that I was checking with myself to see if this was something I was okay with. I talked to her and she was super excited, so I sent her off with instructions and a note in her pocket with my cell phone number to have the other child’s mom text me if they left our yard and went to hers. After about an hour, I got a text from the other mom introducing herself and letting me know my kid was headed home, right about the time my daughter walked in the door. She did it. She played outside alone. It sounds so silly now, but at the time, she had never been outside without an adult right there making sure she was okay. While I was fairly certain she was ready for more freedom, I wasn’t sure I was ready to give it to her yet.
Since then there have been many other “big-kid firsts”— first time carpooling to an activity riding in another parent’s car, first time spending the night away from the house without us, first school field trip where one of us didn’t chaperone… these new “firsts” are steps toward her being more independent, confident and self-assured, and they serve as reminders that she needs me in a different way than she did when it was as simple as smiles and rolling over.
My job now is not to be immediately at her side, camera ready. As her world has gotten bigger, I’ve needed to let her go while still keeping her safe. I need to know how other parents handle car seats, if they have guns in their home and how they are stored, who will be at their house when she goes play. I might not be immediately at her side, but I will always help keep her safe as we work through these new firsts together. And I still try and grab a picture here and there, but now its mostly as she’s headed out the door on her next adventure.