Growth Spurts: Firsts
On a cold January afternoon back in 2001, at a hospital in Texas, my husband and I looked at each other with a mixture of fear and uncertainty in our eyes. Are they really going to let us take her home? Without supervision? Without any further instruction?
The answer was yes. After all, she was our baby—homegrown in my very own womb. Still, just because she belonged to us didn’t mean we knew what to do with her. We had already been trying to figure out how to feed her and keep her soothed during our stay in the hospital, but now we were supposed to put her in a car with us and drive on the interstate?? And take her to our house and begin teaching her everything in the world there is to know about, well, everything?? Whoa. Talk about a huge responsibility!
I’m pretty sure we drove about 35 mph with our precious cargo on the interstate that afternoon, but we made it home safely. We took our baby girl inside our little house and “showed her around” her first home. And then Kevin and I just kind-of looked at each other, wondering what to do next.
Thus began the life of our firstborn, Callie Elizabeth… a.k.a. the guinea pig.
Kevin and I had to figure out all the firsts with Callie: how to get her on a schedule and sleep through the night; how/when/what to feed her; how to teach her to talk, walk, feed herself, use the potty (ugh), and a host of other basics; how to discipline her; and how to teach her the more abstract ideas, like sharing. Speaking of sharing… Callie got to experience being a big sister for the first time at 22 months old, so then came the added firsts of learning to share mom and dad (and how to deal with jealousy); learning to be gentle with a baby; and learning that baby brother won’t always do what you want him to do.
We later moved on to things like the first pet, first loose tooth, first day of school, first sleepover, first piano lesson, first sports team, first time at camp, and first roller coaster ride. Then, what seemed like just five minutes later, we proceeded with things like staying at home alone for the first time, getting her first cell phone, and going to her first school dance. Soon it will be time for her first driving lesson, her first date, her first job, her first day at college…
We’ll stop right there. The fact is the firstborn child has no way to avoid being the guinea pig–the one we practice on and learn from. Granted, some firsts reserve themselves for the second or third child, but the eldest inevitably feels the brunt. But it shapes them and makes them who they are.
For all its trials and errors, however, I have to say that parenting the firstborn also comes with firsts that are filled with wonder and amazement. The first peek at those tiny fingers and toes. The first gummy smile…and it’s meant just for you. The first time she covers your face in slobbery kisses. The first time she calls you Mama!
As soon as I saw my Callie’s blue eyes and sweet baby face, I knew that she was mine and that I was forever in love. It was the first of many, many moments I will never forget.
Carrie Bevell Partridge would like to thank her older sister Julie for being the guinea pig of the Bevell family.