Monday, January 27, 2014

Baby's First Words

Everybody talks about a baby's first words with such excitement and anticipation.  It's such a wonderful passage of right to look forward to in a child's life.  It's the first time your baby takes an effort to communicate with you through one of the many words he or she has learned to understand since you first met face to face.  Moms and dads vie for the opportunity to be the first name the child utters.  Great elation is held within the heart of the person whose name the child utters first.  Then that same elation is felt in the heart of the second person who hears their child utter their name for the first time.

I've known lots of people whose first words spoke volumes about their upbringing, who they were on the inside, who they would be closest to at least for those first few years (since they typically spent more time around the person whose name they uttered first), and sometimes even who they might become.  Though realistically speaking, you certainly can't read too much into those first words.

My first word was "cookie."  Ha!  That's right!  Take that, mom and dad - "cookie" was what I chose!  For a short period thereafter, everything in my world was "cookie."  I think it spoke volumes and set me up for being a foodie.  I knew a guy who had two first words that were used in sequence - the words were "dirty" and "water."  He used these words because his hands were dirty and he wanted water to clean them.  His wife said it was highly appropriate because he was highly obsessed with being clean and a bit OCD (or CDO, as I like to call it - with the letters in alphabetical order just as they should be!).  I have a friend whose first name was a three syllable word - martini.  Yes, you can probably garner enough information about their parents based on that first word alone.

Now, I don't have children at this moment in time.  When I was a teen, I wanted kids.  Then I met my ex-husband, and we decided together that we wouldn't have any children.  It was a remarkably wise decision for numerous reasons - some well beyond my comprehension at the time.  After my divorce, I realized that I did want to have kids after all.  I just realized I didn't want to have kids with someone who wouldn't be a good life partner or father.

Of course, as every year ticks on in my life, I realize that I'm running a great risk of becoming like "Carol" from the movie Idiocracy.  If you aren't familiar with this concept, you can catch the movie intro here: Idiocracy Intro Clip(warning: some language is not safe for work)  I've also come to accept the possibility that there could be someone among my high school peers who becomes a grandparent before I become a parent.

With the luxury of time and planning for children, I've also had the luxury of taking the time to think about how I would approach child rearing.  I've spent a fair amount of time around kids.  I've spent years watching the interactions between other parents and children.  I've seen some really great decisions made, some absolutely heart-breaking decisions made, and everything in between.  I've spent a lot of time talking with parents and friends about their experiences in parenthood and their experiences in childhood.  I've come to realize that although nobody can claim to have the most perfect answers to every parenting decision they will ever encounter, the important thing is to realize that what makes a great parent is one who genuinely tries their best to be a great parent.

Though I certainly do not think I have everything all figured out, I do think I have a pretty good idea about how to avoid a lot of mistakes that I don't want to make.  I absolutely reserve the right to change my stance on every single thing I have decided in advance of actually having a child to care for.  I realize that I might have to throw everything I think I know out of the window when I encounter a real-world application.  I am also aware that I will make countless mistakes when I become a parent.  After all, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

I realized a long time ago that the most important job a parent will ever have is to prepare their child for life.  It's an all-encompassing job, and it's a 24/7 job.  It's also the most important job anyone will ever have.  The job includes everything from teaching them how to love, how to be loved, how to manage finances and resources, how to swim, how to talk, how to read, how to be a productive member of society, how to cope with life's ups and downs, how to be a likable person, how to develop a work ethic, how to develop life ethics, how to obey the laws of the land, how to make good decisions, how to deal with success and failure, how to be a good sport and team player, and the list could go on and on!  I firmly believe that if every parent grasped this concept and put it into practice, the world would be a much better place.

In part of preparing children for life, I've often thought about many of the "firsts" my future children would experience.  One of those things is their first words, but not the first words they say.  I'm talking about the first sentence I would say to them on the day I meet them face to face.  I've thought long and hard about what that sentence would be.

Some people don't really ponder it well in advance.  Some just go with whatever words come to them in that magical moment.  Most people choose something along the lines of "Hi, (insert baby's name here), I am your mommy/daddy!  I've waited a long time to meet you!  You are so beautiful!"  I have chosen something a little different.

"You are loved."

I've chosen these words because I feel that this will set a good course for a child.  I want them to know that they were already loved long before they knew who I was.  I want them to know that no matter what life throws at them, they are loved and they are worthy of being loved.  I want them to carry that knowledge with them for the rest of their life - above and beyond everything else.  I want them to know that when my time on this earth has come to pass, that was the the most important and first thing I wanted them to know.  Of course I realize that just saying the phrase for the first time isn't enough, and scientifically speaking, those first words spoken to a child won't really matter very much.  I have to make sure they grasp this concept in future interactions.  After all, actions speak louder than words.

Though I realize that in the heat (and agony) of the moment, I might forget to say those words when I meet my child.  What matters the most is that they know it and can feel it for the rest of their life.  After all, if I were to ask them years later "Do you remember what I said when I first held you in my arms the day you were born?" they wouldn't have a clue!
"I don't know, mom, I didn't understand English just yet."
Of course I also might respond with something along the lines of "Good, 'cause I don't remember either.  Those drugs were something else!" :)

I know they won't understand or remember those first words, but I will make sure I spend great effort in showing them so they can understand that they are loved.

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