I’ve had a very busy month, speaking at a fundraiser, hosting a huge event for my children’s school, and attending a conference for parenting writers. I knew it would feel like this (crazy!), and in the many recent moments that I had to deny my daughter’s request for attention, I reminded myself that she is learning from me.
She sees I am needed in other arenas, that people are counting on me to make decisions, that she can either solve her own problems or practice patience. And she did.
When I looked up from the donor checks I was organizing yesterday, and saw Scarlett, 7, reading the instruction booklet that came with her craft kit, I felt proud. Having my baby, now in second grade, ask for help, then decide that she can find her own answers, is like seeing her begin to walk for the first time. She’s reached a new developmental stage, and it’s given me some perspective.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m making note of five moments that new moms can look forward to – beyond first steps.
1. When your child shows compassion. It knocks me off my feet every time my child tells me that he or she felt bad for a friend who was hurt or embarrassed in some way. But even a toddler’s offering of a stuffed animal to share shows he or she wants to help comfort another human, and it is so sweet. Watching my son cry as he watched Dolphin Tale brought me secret pleasure because I could see he understood the drama.
2. When your child wins an award. We know you think she’s special, but getting that validation from someone else is a treat.
3. When your child makes his or her own food. It sounds more superficial than the emotional milestones, but the first years of life are so centered around providing food for a helpless being, that this shift is a really meaningful one. From the first bowl of cereal they pour while you are still in bed, it’s a signpost on the journey to complete self-care.
4. When your child compromises. The art of conflict resolution is an important life skill. While your infant will never say, “Feed me for 20 minutes before we enter that dressing room, and I’ll let you try on as many things as you want,” your first grader may offer to swap favors, and when it’s his own idea, it feels so good.
5. When your child corrects you — and is right. While it won’t be long before your child knows that Super Why is shown on Netflix and not Hulu Plus or which color soccer jersey she’s supposed to be wearing when you’ve forgotten, the instance that will rock your world is when she expresses an opinion and you’re convinced by her perspective. When she suggests a better way to do things around the house, tells you to be nicer to your mother, or optimizes a complicated carpool schedule by proposing a switch, you’ll have to step back and realize you’ve made a person. A thinking person who will be perfectly fine without your help one day.