On her brother’s first birthday, an older sister excitedly told me: “He has a number now!”
Well, your baby has a number now. Can you even believe that a year has gone by? When you look over there and see that sturdy, communicating, emotionally complicated human, can you yet dimly recall the quivering helpless mass of undifferentiated need she once was?
From the outset, she was person unto herself -- with specific ways of interacting with the world. But now that character is coming into even bolder relief and the little person is more sharply etched.
Top 10 Things About the First Year
Warning: Dr. P tends to get all sentimental and gooey at anniversaries like this. My defense then is to intellectualize the whole thing and take stock about what I hope you as a parent have learned over the past year. Here are my Top 10 Things You May Have Learned About Parenting in the First Year:
- Your child is sturdy and very resilient. You don’t need to be even close to perfect for things to go OK. After all, there never has been a perfect parent in the history of the world and most kids grow up just fine.
- The process of watching his/her development is thrilling to behold. I hope you just can’t wait to see how it goes from here!
- Being a parent is a true joy. One of the greatest things you have ever done.
- Being a parent is sometimes a complete drag, draining you of your life’s energy and complicating your emotions. It’s by no means been all sweetness and light. Sometimes it’s been filled with despair and worry and anger. What I hope you have learned is that all parents feel it to a greater or lesser degree. Such ambivalence is OK. It simply means you are human, not a bad parent.
- You have been surprised at how much power you have over your child to comfort, to support, to create a close emotional bond, to structure his/her day. to provide the experiences that help him/her thrive physically, developmentally, and emotionally.
- You have been surprised at how little effect your parenting has had on some aspects of his personality and behavior. A blank slate he was (and is ) not. You have to go with the flow and not try to dam it up and divert it.
- You found numerous sources of emotional support -- from friends, pediatricians, family, maybe even Dr. P, and you make liberal use of such support for what has turned out tom be an amazingly demanding job..
- You learned that parenting is about choices -- breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable diaper? Ferberize or cry it out?
- You learned how to seek good advice, hopefully based on the best evidence of the day. But in the end, you have learned to trust yourself to come up with what is best for your little one.
- You have come to appreciate and cherish not only your own kids, but those all over the world who, through no fault of their own, have disadvantaged and impossible circumstances and need our global village to help them out.
Enjoy the Moment
Finally, here’s the hardest lesson of all, which I’m guessing you haven’t learned: How to be in and enjoy the moment.
Parenting is so hard and so worrisome. It’s impossible not to get caught up in what to do next and next and next, how to get through the day, really. But, trust me on this, one day it will all have gone by so fast and you’ll regret how rarely you kept your perspective and took the time to step back and survey the scene and enjoy and appreciate what was going on while it was happening. No one really knows where this all going and so I’ve learned it’s important to learn to enjoy the ride as much as you can, no matter where the final destination ends up.
So, as you embark on the second year of discovering just who this little person might be, here’s my advice: Step back and enjoy the ride!