Thursday, September 22, 2011

So little time...

When I picked Alli up from daycare on Tuesday, one of her teachers asked me if she had taken any steps "on her own" at home yet. I told her that on Monday evening, Alli stood on her own for a good five seconds while banging some toys together. I went on to tell her that she dropped one of them and was able to squat down, pick it up and return to a free-standing position without having to steady herself at all! While that didn't really qualify as walking, I felt I had to share it with her teacher anyway. Her teacher smiled at me and conceded that she took "a step or two" that day - which I can only deduce to mean that she basically "walked" on her own for them.

This news made me happy and sad at the same time. I was happy to hear that she's getting more brave and becoming more willing to let go of things to venture off on her own wobbly legs. Mommy B and I have been trying to coax her away from the couch, entertainment center, bookshelf, whatever... so she can learn to steady herself without holding onto something. She's been getting better at using a wheeled toy we bought for her to push around - standing behind it and pushing it forward like a lawn mower.

But it made me sad because that means Mommy B and I technically missed her "first steps". Now, her teacher didn't really elaborate on exactly how many steps she took, how far she went, or what happened afterwards - but I can't help but feel bad for not being there for it. Taking your first steps is pretty important developmental milestone, and her own parents didn't get to witness it. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of having to send your kid to daycare.

To make things fair, I know this happens every single day in daycares all over the planet. I'm sure there are parents out there who have missed every single one of their child's important milestone "firsts" - first time rolling over, first time holding the bottle on their own, first crawl, first steps, etc... all because they have to send them to daycare. Furthermore, let's say Alli takes a few steps for me tonight... if her teacher hadn't mentioned anything to me the other day, I would have to assume they were her real "first steps."

They say ignorance is bliss - but I'm not so sure that's true in this case. If I could rewind time to Tuesday, I would have left work early just to drive all the way back to Alli's daycare and watch her take those precious "first steps" through her classroom window. It's a good thing the window is one-way, otherwise she would have spotted me and probably never would have done it in the first place. But obviously I can't time travel, so I just have to deal with the fact that when Mommy B and I see her "walk" for the first time, it won't really be the first time - just the first time for us.

This situation got me thinking yesterday as I was driving to pick her up. It made me realize how little time I actually spend with Alli during the work week. I see her for about an hour in the morning while we're getting ready, then about three hours as night before she goes to sleep. So technically I only get to see her for about four to five hours a day Monday-Friday. Her teachers see her for around nine hours each day while I'm at work.

So let's do the math:

In a given week, I see Alli for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. 4 x 5 = 20 hours. Plus about 18 hours on the weekend (when she's awake). 20 + 18 = 38 hours/week

Her teachers see her for 9 hours a day, typically 4 days a week. 9 x 4 = 36 hours/week

And there you have it... someone else is spending almost as much time with my child as I am on any given week. That means that someone else is getting to learn her tendencies, watch her grow, and experience the joy that is Alli just as much as I am. This part I'm OK with - because it makes me happy to know that she's enriching someone else's life other than my own (and Mommy B's too, of course).

The part I'm still coming to terms with is the fact that someone else is having as much of an influence on her personality as her mother and father. When you find out you're going to be a parent for the first time, you tell yourself those age-old lines over and over again: "I'm going to teach my child to be polite, to share with others, to think for themselves, not to whine, etc., etc." You are going to be the determining factor. You are going to teach them everything they need to know about the world.

But if you really think about it - you learn the most from those who are around you the most, especially when you're young. Based on the math above - that's almost equal parts Mommy B, myself, her teachers, and the other kids in class. Being the economics major that I am, I ran the math equation above through my head while doing 70 on the interstate to pick Alli up.

You know what it made me realize? It made me realize what little time I really get to spend with my daughter. Time is already flying by, and her first birthday is coming up soon. That got me to thinking... have I used the time I had in the last year wisely? Have I used what little time I've had with her to mold her into the best person she can become? Are there things I could have done differently? Are there things I should have done differently?

Perhaps much of this is preemptive so early on in her life, but I realized on my drive that there are so many outside factors that have contributed (and will continue to do so) to make Alli who she is and who she'll become. So, I better make what little time I have with her count. Even if Mommy B and I technically missed her "first steps", it warms my heart to know that we laid the groundwork for those steps to happen in the first place. Maybe I'm doing something right with her after all...

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