Editorial Post By Mary Spears
When Mary Grace was about 3 months old, there was an evening after work when Bret called out to me in a hurried voice to come to the bedroom where he was with Mary Grace – her playing on her tummy on the bed, with him standing guard. She had rolled up onto one side of herself and was just about to flip over to her back in a glorious triumph. I came in the room just in time to witness the miracle. It was a first. However, in the moments that followed, I could tell something was off – I think it was the way Bret over-emphasized that it was her first time.
Me: “Did she do this earlier today and you’re trying to recreate it so I think it’s her first?”
Bret: (hanging his head) “Yes.”
Missing firsts. As a working parent, it’s inevitable. The day I put my heels on, handed the baby to Bret and strode out the door, I was carving it in stone: I will miss some milestones. A LOT of working moms seem to have a good amount of guilt wrapped up in missing these moments. I have read that some even go so far as to instruct their child-care provider NOT to report it to them if the child has a first—that way, mom can be blissfully unaware of any hallmarks they might have missed. Yes, these instances are big and, to be sure, they are in many ways miraculous. Witnessing our child, who just months ago was little more than a (cute) blob on the floor, now willing one foot in front of the other in such a human enterprise as WALKING can jolt us into immediate awareness of the miracle of life and gratitude for it. We need this refreshment in the midst of the thousands of diaper changes and feedings that make up the brunt of a child’s first year. I’m not arguing that these firsts aren’t amazing, life-breathing forces. But, the miraculous can also be found in the mundane—in the space beyond the novel, where the bulk of life is lived. If I’m too focused on these precious “firsts” as my source for the awe-inspiring and life-affirming, I might miss the gummy smile from my precious baby boy on diaper change #2,835 that somehow brings actual tears of thankfulness to my eyes.
Four years and three kids later, I know I’ve missed a handful of firsts and I’ve been there for probably just as many. I have only one distinct memory of any one – the first time Mary Grace laughed. Most of the others – first rolls, first steps, first crawls, first words, I can’t really remember in any concrete way. And while I can’t remember the first time Mary Grace walked (I’m not even sure if I was there), I have burned into my memory so many “walks” of hers since – the way she used to squeal and amble down the hall at bedtime when she was 18 months – the same walk that caused me one night to squint my eyes in concentration and beg God to let me remember forever. I remember her walk into my hospital room to meet her brother Rocky for the first time. I remember and am so grateful for many of our walks through farmers markets, grocery stores, trips to the mailbox, and preschool hallways – and our little conversations along the way.
So, let’s drop the guilt and allow space for true gratitude. Firsts are almost impossible to take for granted. Deep thankfulness is not born out of being in attendance for an ever-lengthening laundry list of “firsts”. Nor is it merely an act of remembrance. Rather, it requires an absolute refusal to be lulled into apathy by what is common and a suspicion that the sublime waits not on the other side of the task at hand, but in the midst of it.