Some days, being a princess sounds like a pretty sweet set up. Then reality sets in and I realize it would really suck to have gossip magazines make it headline news that you missed your child’s milestone while you’re away at a five-star restort.
Currently, Princess Kate is being dragged through the tabloids for missing Prince George’s first attempt at crawling while she was vacationing in the Maldives. Kate and Prince William were away on their first baby-free getaway earlier this month and — of course — that’s when little Prince George decided to test the crawling waters, showing off for his maternal grandparents, Carole and Michael Middleton. US Weekly breathlessly reported on this “exclusive,” further solidifying their place in hell by furthering the institution that is known as parental guilt.
If you asked me when my son took his first step, I could give you a pretty good guesstimate. I know that he was walking at 10 months, which is rather early developmentally, and to be honest that’s why I remember it. But do I recall the actual first step? Not really. But I’m sure when it happened we were ecstatic, smiling our faces off and shouting all sorts of encouraging things.
I also can’t quite remember when my son got his first tooth. Like with the walking, I have a vague sense that it happened when he over a year old, maybe around 13 or 14 months old. Again, I only remember that much because his first tooth popped through much later than the norm.
When I was pregnant, I received a really sweet baby book that included empty slots for me to fill in – my son’s weight and height at birth, when he smiled for the first time, his first words, his first step, etc… I would occasionally flip through the book, imagining the pages all filled up as I dutifully filled everything in so we could eventually look back upon it all together.
When my son was born, I filled in the first few empty spaces, but never went back for the rest. Beyond not really documenting these milestones (although, if I go back through my Facebook or Twitter posts, I bet I could craft together a pretty accurate baby book of sorts!), I will be honest: I have also missed a few. Working and traveling on occasion can cause a parent to miss some of the big ones — and you know what? That’s okay.
I wasn’t there when my son lost his first tooth. But I did get a picture of that gapped-tooth smile right away, and I made sure the Tooth Fairy left him something special. Due to my husband’s erratic and rather inflexible work schedule, he’s missed many firsts on his end. But we always try to find a way to include him in the celebrations.
There’s enough guilt when it comes to parenting that we really don’t need to jump on parents for missing (or forgetting) certain milestones. A milestone may mark certain moments in time, but they’re not full picture. I’m sure Will and Kate were just as thrilled — and nervous — to watch Prince George creep across the carpet once they were reunited.
So let’s all agree to just let it go. It may feel special to be there for the first of something, but odds are there will be many more. Those 2nd, 3rd and even 100th times can be pretty darn amazing, too. And truth be told, your baby won’t remember any of those firsts, and older children are usually fairly forgiving unless you’re a total slacker who misses everything — in which case you’ve got bigger things to worry about.
Avital Norman Nathman blogs at The Mamfesto. Her book, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality, is out now. Follow her on Twitter.