First, let me say that I love my son. He has brought more joy to my life than I could ever have imagined.
I don’t actually remember all of my son’s firsts. Nor do I have video documentation or an alphabetized library of scrapbooks as proof that my son did indeed take his first step or speak his first word. But, I can promise you that my now 15-year-old son is a walking, talking teen who can string sentences together and walk from place to place all by himself.
I know you’re thinking, he’s probably that forgotten middle child or one of 19 who just got lost in the mix.
Nope, my son is an only child.
Come on, admit it. When I said he was an only child you judged me, even if it was just a little bit.
I understand, because not only have I judged myself but just the other day my son became judge and jury when he asked me, for the umpteenth time, what his first word was and when did he take his first step.
I gave him the same answer I’ve been giving him for years. Your first word was “mama” and you began walking at 13 months. I’m not sure if he keeps asking because he never truly believed me or if he’s hoping for a different response. But there was something in the way I answered this time that made him question me.
“Are you sure,” he asked as if he were a detective trying to solve a case.
“Of course,” I said, avoiding eye contact and with as much conviction as I could muster.
“Really?” he replied, giving me another chance to redeem myself.
Don’t ask me why, probably mother’s guilt, but instead of sticking to my story, I looked at my grown baby boy and said.
“Perhaps your first word was dada but I’m sure that you started walking around 13 months.”
“Perhaps? Around? Are you kidding me? You’re a terrible mom, how could you forget my firsts?” He asked in the same exacerbated tone I’ve used with him a hundred times before.
I attempted to defend myself but realized he had me. And I knew that this would probably be the thing that would send him to therapy at the age of 30 – blame the mother, they always blame the mother.
Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while the information was of interest to him, what he really wanted was the story behind his first words and his first step. And I wanted to share that with him the same way I had shared so many other stories with him about the cute things he had done or said as a little kid.
These stories, the ones about his own childhood, and the others that my mother, my husband and I share with him about all of our crazy family members, are his stories and his history.
Many of the stories are pretty funny whether we’re sharing embarrassing situations from our own childhood or telling him about the silly and crazy things his grandfather did when he was a kid. They are stories that make him laugh and allow him to connect with relatives that he knows, hasn’t met or who passed before he was born.
But each of these stories also provide him with another piece of the puzzle that together provide a more complete picture of who he is and where he came from.
And while I may not be able to offer him a collection of beautifully crafted, Martha Stewart-esque scrapbooks or a Hollywood style video of his early years (or really any years), I can share with him the boxes of loose photos and the memories they conjure up. I can share with him the stories of my own childhood and those of other family members that have been passed down to me that make me laugh, think or reflect on who I am and where I come from.
But most of all, by telling him that teeny, tiny little white lie about his first word and his first step, I have given him a precious gift. I have given him a story of his own to tell his children…
“You think you have it bad….did I ever tell you the story about how your crazy grandmother couldn’t remember my first words and then lied to me about it?”