The Extraordinary Importance of “Firsts”
As a new parent, you find yourself celebrating a lot of “firsts.” The first time your baby eats without spitting up. The first time your baby smiles. The first time your baby recognizes you. You celebrate each of these things as if you’ve really accomplished something. You know it’s not worthy of a parade, but you wouldn’t be surprised if some confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling. Of course, on their own, none of these “firsts” are really anything. Your baby eating without spitting up is a lucky coincidence, your baby recognizing you is just her natural instincts taking over and that first smile is just the face your baby happened to make during a fart. However, you need these “firsts” to be something, so you convince yourself that they are. Without these “firsts” to celebrate, you’re at risk of being dragged down by the monotony of the daily grind, so you convince yourself that each of them are amazing accomplishments– and most importantly – validation of the excellent parenting job you are doing (“She’s not spitting up! We must have fed her perfectly. Seriously, that was the perfect feeding. We should probably do everyone else a favor and write a book about parenting. I’ll get the computer. You get the wine.”)
Justified or not, you need these celebrations of “firsts.” Well, maybe not all of them. A couple of days ago I got a text from Becky that said, “Another first! Rosalie just pooped in the bathtub.” This is the kind of “first” that you don’t celebrate. In fact, this is the kind of “first” that you don’t even know how to handle. Rosalie bathes in a small baby bathtub that we place inside of our regular bathtub, so logistically, pooping in the tub is a bit of nightmare (I won’t go into the details).
Becky got to experience this “first” on her own and I have to admit, I was not the least bit jealous. Yesterday though, it was my turn. The problem was, this was a real first. While Becky was in the other room, Rosalie rolled over on her own for the first time. Luckily, my excitement caused Becky to come running and Rosalie quickly duplicated the act. Becky was bummed she missed the first rollover, but ultimately, it wasn’t that big of deal.
The problem is, today it happened again, only this time, it was Rosalie’s first laugh. Rosalie has made sounds while smiling before, but nothing like this. This was her first real laugh. Rosalie was sitting on my lap, and I was making faces at her. She smiled at me, and I immediately started laughing. Suddenly, Rosalie let out a laugh as well. It was the tiniest, most adorable laugh in the world, and it made me laugh even louder. That, in turn, made Rosalie laugh again, which of course, made me laugh even more. And so this was the way we spent the next fifteen seconds, smiling and laughing at each other like a real life, non-stoned version of Beavis and Butthead.
As soon as it was over, the guilt set it. How could I have let this “first” happen while Becky was at the dog park? Becky is with Rosalie about 90% of her waking hours, not only is she mathematically inclined to see all of Rosalie’s firsts, but she deserves it. It was okay that she missed the first rollover, but the first laugh too? Becky gets the first poop in the tub and I get the first laugh? This was more unfair than ordering a tool for opening plastic, clamshell packaging and having it show up at your house in a plastic, clamshell package.
And so, I decided to keep this “first” to myself, and I came up with a plan. As soon as Becky got home, I would make Rosalie laugh again and pretend like it was her first laugh ever. Within minutes of Becky arriving, I was acting like an idiot in front of Rosalie, pantomiming, dancing, doing anything I could to make her laugh. And wouldn’t you know it, that little traitor wouldn’t even muster a chuckle. The rest of the day continued this same way, with me over-acting and smiling at Rosalie to try and get her to laugh to no avail. Now, Rosalie is in bed, and she hasn’t laughed for Becky once and Becky thinks I’m some sort of crazed, baby-bothering lunatic. Sure, I’ve gotten the joy of experiencing her first laugh, but I haven’t been able to celebrate it. Why couldn’t she have just pooped in the bathtub again, instead?
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