My mom always says the first child is like the first pancake that you throw away…the one that tests the waters and paves the way for the rest of the batch. Gabriella, my first venture into motherhood, is my test child. The one who has taught me the ins and outs of what it means to take care for a baby, toddler and now preschooler. She wears me out, tears me down and then builds my confidence back up for the next child, just the way it was meant to be.
Four years have passed us by and while we have had some very, very long days and nights, the years have flown by like no time has passed at all. It’s overwhelming to look at my child and think of how it seems like yesterday that she was fresh of of my womb and snuggled on my chest for days on end.
Like the scene in “Father of the Bride” where Steve Martin’s character looks across the table at his little girl telling him, “I met a man in Rome and I’m getting married,” I imagine all parents experience these moments of disbelief, no matter how old our children get. But here we are, four years later. We’re still learning, surviving, living and loving every moment of the adventure.
I’ve only been the mother of a four year old for one day, but I can see there is something special about this age. With the days of babyhood behind us, I’m getting a sneak peak into who she is destined to become. We’re (mostly) over the struggles of sleep, diapers and communication and now our days are filled with exploring the world and the wonder of learning new things. The 8,459 questions she asks each day are springboards for life lessons and my opportunity to switch gears from focusing on meeting her basic needs to fostering her mind and spirit.
As hard as it was to care for a baby, the end game was pretty simple and if I had a baby that wasn’t crying and reasonable happy, it was considered a win. Now that my baby is growing up, the weight of parenting “success” seems more daunting. My goal is a happy, emotionally balanced, healthy, kind and compassionate adult. That’s a lot to hope for isn’t it? We can do it though. Together, we’ll learn and figure things out. And say a prayer and hope for the best.
I took Gabriella out to take some birthday photos of her and our photo shoot was the perfect example of how I expect age four to treat us. She choose her own outfit including accessories, determined the location, told me how she wanted to pose and then had a complete meltdown because the wind was making her cold (despite the 90+ degree weather!) and we left in a screaming fit because she got an ant bite. Four is going to be fuuuunnnnn. Before I know it, this year and many more will be over so I will do my best to soak in each moment and take a deep breath when things are challenging.
I don’t throw away the first pancake. Sure, it’s not perfect because I inevitably don’t have the temperature just right or I lift it and peek at the bottom too early, but it still tastes good. And maybe the not-so-perfect pancakes in life are what teach us to stand out from the crowd and dance to our own beat. My parenting of my first child is not perfect, but she is. She’s definitely a keeper.