First time parents have no clue what they’re doing. We’re not even sure if we should be allowed to take that baby home from the hospital by ourselves, let alone raise it into a functioning human. Subsequent children can give a parent confidence to make the right choices, but only regarding milestones already reached by their first child. With the oldest baby, you’re always in the dark.
For years, I’ve joked that Jackson is our “first pancake.” Each time I make a batch of
pancakes, the first one is always a bit wonky as I correct the griddle temperature or the thickness of the batter. The mistakes are made on your first attempt, and each adjustment produces better results. My poor son is the guinea pig for all the new methods of discipline, attempts to convince him to eat vegetables, outings that go awry because we’re unprepared or he isn’t the right age for the activity, potty training fails, and big bed struggles.
Today is my First Pancake’s first day of kindergarten. Now, he’s only four (he turns five on Friday) and we’ve decided he isn’t ready for the real deal, so he will attend kindergarten at the preschool he’s been going to since we relocated to El Paso, and then next fall he’ll go to public school kindergarten. He isn’t ready for this next stage, so we felt he should be given the opportunity to learn new things if he’s up to it, but in a familiar environment, with kids he likes, right next door to his old classroom. Since Jackson learned to speak he’s had a lack of confidence. He wouldn’t try out words or repeat sounds until he was sure he’d do it right. Now, when he’s learning to write, every mistake is a catastrophe and damaging enough to convince him to quit. Along with maturity and attention concerns, he didn’t seem prepared for big kid school.
Though he’ll go to kindergarten again next year, he hasn’t switched schools, and I already know his teacher, I’m kind of a mess. I offered to make him a special breakfast for his first day, and he looked up at me with big blue-grey eyes and asked, “what do big kids eat for breakfast?” I started to get emotional, suggested pancakes, and just hoped I had all the ingredients when he said that sounded good.
So last night I found myself prepping a giant batch of buttermilk pancakes and drinking wine, while reliving the greatest hits from his very short life. Really, I was doing fine until my brother-in-law, who was visiting over the weekend, said, “five! That’s a big deal.” And then I realized it was absolutely a big deal and started to freak out. Yes, I have another preschooler to cuddle and a baby to fuss over, so it’s not as if there won’t be any tiny creatures in my life once my big boy gets too old for tickles and hugs, but it seems too soon.
Generally, I’m excited for my kids to get older. Though leaving chubby thighs and drooly kisses behind is always sad, each age brings new experiences and I’m constantly looking forward to the next big thing. His first sports team, his first time on a roller coaster, the first spelling test. When parents say having a child is like having your heart on the outside of your body, that really speaks to my feelings about my kids, and the older they get, the farther away my heart wanders. I’m confronted with new scary things like school buses that pick up my kid and take him away, teachers I’m not as familiar with, the wide halls of a future elementary school full of kids who are older and bigger. My son, who a year ago was crying every morning at drop off and clinging to my knees, today suggested we hurry and get in the car so he could get to his first day in a new classroom. Perhaps the fears my heart feels about what’s coming next year are my own and not my big boy’s.
After our flight last week as we were heading back to El Paso from visiting my parents in Wisconsin, Jackson struck up a conversation with a gate agent who helped us retrieve our stroller. He informed her that he had a brother and sister with his new favorite exclamation: “three kids!” Clearly he’s heard me say this frequently as I’m struggling to scrape chewed gummies off the floor or changing the diapers of the two kids who always poop at the same time; “Ah! Three kids!” The gate agent asked if Jackson was the oldest, and he replied, “yep, I’m her first baby.” I laughed, but then I had to look away.
He will always be my first baby, my first pancake that splashed under-cooked batter all over the griddle when I flipped it too early. I’ve made so many mistakes with him, and I hope he forgives me. I’m doing my best, and he is slowly teaching me to be the mother of a four year old, and starting Friday, a five year old. It’s a big deal.
Maybe I’ll pick him up early today and try to get in some squeezes before he runs off to play. And then runs back to demand snacks.