1. Coming before all others; earliest, best, or foremost 2. Rated, graded, or ranked above all other levels 3. The ordinal number one, preceding all others in counting order
Everyone wants to be first. First caller wins, first in line for -insert whatever electronic device has taken an unprecedented hold on the American culture enough for us to trample employees to get to it-. Who ever said while waiting in line at the DMV, “No, you go first, I’ll wait”? We have a tendency to obsess over being first.
We also tend to care more about first times in our lives. I am no different. I’ve driven a car a thousand times in my life but nothing quite compares to the first time my dad gave me the keys to his car. Among some of the other firs moments in my life that I can list and not incriminate myself with the law or my wife: my first kiss with Beth at a 5th grade dance, my first true love and subsequent first heartbreak, and my first date with my future wife. The list could go on and on or at least until my wife starts reading this over my shoulder.
As a parent, our lives also are punctuated by “firsts”. We become consumed with witnessing, documenting, cheering on, and sharing with the entire world, these first times of our children. I am just as guilty as any other parent who has their camcorder or iPhone holstered and at the ready like Billy the Kid in the event their child does something they have never done previously.
The first time the baby smiles. The first time the baby rolls over, giggles, grabs your finger, finds their foot, “surprises” you during a diaper change, the first time they begin crawling, the first time they puke over your shirt, the first time they say something (which is usually the name of your pet or something on TV as opposed to ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’) and their first steps. Any parent, with a child young enough, could make a day of clicking ‘Record’ for the first times for their children.
I have enjoyed all of those first times with my children too. Except, although I remember the feeling of excitement from them, I can’t remember exactly when my daughters’ first crawled or took their first steps (or decided to climb the steps when I wasn’t watching). Neither of them called my name first. If I remember correctly, Hannah’s first word was ‘Pop Pop’ (which was the first time she got $5 from my father who was grinning from ear to ear) and Emma’s was ‘Hot’. I’ve been sprayed so many times by my kids’ digestive system I’ve lost the count and the first time to a series of bombardments that all run together. Now that I see my kids walk, run, talk, shout, call my name, and play all the time, the first time for all of these moments (except maybe the being ‘pooped’ on) stand out from the 1000th time even if I can’t quite remember all the details about them.
However, there have been two moments as a parent that have remained permanently etched in my consciousness. These moments both happened this week, 9 and 6 years ago respectively. This is the week I watched my kids be born and listened to my wife pepper me with insults and derogatory remarks because I was at fault for making her go through childbirth. On July 23rd, 2002 and July 19th, 2005, after a lot of hard work from my wife (and cementing the fact I would never want to go through bearing a child), I introduced myself to my girls.
There have been a lot of first times in my life, both before and after being a parent. As I think back, there have been some good, bad, and some fantastic moments but with all due respect and apologies to Beth, the keys to my dad’s 1988 Dodge Caravan, high school sweethearts, my wife, and all the first times in my kids’ lives, I can’t think of a better time or a time as permanently ingrained into my memory than when I said ‘hello’ to my kids with a gentle kiss on their forehead and tears in my eyes for the first time.