One of the delights of parenting is witnessing all the ‘firsts’, writes Shvonne Hunt.
The first smile, the first crawl, the first steps.
There is a special kind of joy in seeing your child develop, but there’s also a vicarious pleasure in watching them experience something – a taste, touch or sound – that they have never had before.
If you’re not a stay-at-home carer, you can’t guarantee you will be there for all of these. It’s not like you’d expect the parent or carer at home to knee-cap your kid if it looks like they’re about to take their first step.
But there are limits.
Listen to Kinderling Conversation: How to make it through the first year of parenting:
A guide for carers not in the baby bubble
I get it. There are pre-children and post-children sensibilities.
Before you have your own child, it doesn’t seem like a big deal if Grandma gives baby her first bite of solid food, or the babysitter posts bub’s first steps on Instagram before you’ve even seen it yourself.
Until your world has been turned inside out and upside down, you won’t know how the care factor works in the parenting world. Just understand it’s not the same as yours.
Of course, sometimes it’s out of anyone’s control – babies will reach their milestones whenever they’re good and ready, as we well know! But wherever possible, firsts that actually can be controlled are strictly off limits.
Here’s a list of ‘firsts’ you should never steal from parents
1. First haircut
For you, it’s a practicality. Little Jimmy’s hair is falling in his eyes and he’s tripping over his feet. You’re helping out because both parents are working, and they mustn’t be able to find the time (otherwise *cough* Little Jimmy’s hair would be nice and neat).
You’ll save a clipping of the hair. What’s wrong with that?
Everything. That hair you just cut? That was the hair on his head as his mother pushed him screaming out into the world. It’s literally virginal hair, and probably has a market value on a level with breastmilk.
Use a hair tie and save everyone the angst.
2. First bit of solid food
Giving your sweet little granddaughter their first piece of apple pie at four months old is a God-given right for all grandmothers. Isn’t it?
No. No, it’s not.
Chances are, your child (or their partner) started watching what they were eating from the minute they found out they were pregnant. It was all about what kind of goodness goes into their child’s body. Before they were even born.
Then, when they came into the world, they fed them exclusively from their own mammaries (and sometimes through cracked and bleeding nipples) or from formula that costs about the same amount as their mortgage.
Either way, they’ve been watching their little baby suck on milk for the last four months. They’ve probably planned their first meal, have the organic avocados ripening in the bowl. They’re looking forward to whatever expression their faces will take when they first feel solid food on their tongue.
You don’t want to take that away from a sleep-deprived parent. Really, you don’t.
3. First ice cream
I never said being a parent is a logical experience.
For exactly the same reason you shouldn’t give a child their first piece of solid food, you also shouldn’t give them their first delicious treat – like an ice cream.
Parents deserve to enjoy the first time their little tyke tries this icy goodness, enjoying the way they lose themselves in its cold, creamy yumminess and get it all over their face.
After all, they will spend the next sixteen years telling their child they can’t have ice cream for breakfast, so they may as well enjoy the first time.
4. First swim in the ocean
These days, many parents start their babies in swim class before they can crawl.
Over the first years, we spend hours waist deep in chlorinated pools with other people’s babies howling around us. We shiver uncontrollably as we dress them first in the change rooms, dripping on the wet tiles.
It’s our right to enjoy our child in the natural environs of the beach. To see them full of curiosity, stuffing their mouths with sand – and saving them from near-death experiences as they roll towards the ocean.
If you’ve marinated in small humans’ wee for an hour every week, you have earned that right too. If you haven’t – let those who have enjoy the first experience of salt water and fresh air on their cheeks.
5. First poo on the potty
A key difference between life before and after kids is the amount you care (and talk) about poo. It goes from an unmentionable conversation topic to regular dinner conversation with other adults.
Parents care about how their kids poo, therefore toilet training is a big deal.
You may have toilet trained your own child when they were 9 months old (or at least think you did), but that isn’t necessarily the way they are doing it with their own child.
And the first poo on the potty really should be reserved for the person (or persons) who have wiped their bum the most. If that’s not you, save it for their parent.
What other ‘firsts’ do you think we need to add to the list that should never be taken away from a parent?