Last week, Nanny and Baby met a woman with her child at the library. The woman offered up that her daughter, just a month younger than Baby, usually spent her days at daycare. But, due to summer vacations, she’d have more mommy-baby days coming up. And then she peppered Nanny with questions about entertaining small children and potty training and all of the things about which a new Mom so desperately wants advice or instruction or guidance.
I smiled as I listened to this story, remembering the days when I’d eagerly corner any woman (or man, for that matter) with even a day’s more parenting experience than me. I remember assuming that I’d reach a point when I’d no longer crave these answers and guidance; I’d reach a point when I’d have it all figured out.
The truth, I’m learning, is that we are all new Moms. No matter how many months and years that little ones have called us Mommy, we’ll still sometimes feel lost and crave answers from someone wiser.
This weekend, we took Baby to her final ballet class of the season. All of the parents were invited to sit in and watch; which really just means that we all sat in folding chairs at the front of the room rather than crowding around the door and watching through the tinted window.
All season long, Baby has excitedly dashed into class without so much of a passing glance back at us. Through that tinted window, I’ve seen her blossom. I’ve watched her learn her ballet basics and listen to the teacher. I’ve watched her giggle with the other girls and confidently do her own thing far from my arm’s reach.
So I never expected that, on her first tippy-toe walk across the floor, she’d head straight for us, melt into M’s lap, and refuse to return to the barre. For the entire remaining half hour of the class, she withdrew and whined. No amount of coaxing had any effect. She observed the rest of the class with us, curled up on M’s lap.
I felt awful. This wasn’t about me and I knew that. But I couldn’t get past it. After realizing that nothing would get her back to her piques and arabesques, I handed her off to M and tried to not stew (or at least tried to look like I wasn’t stewing). But I was clearly frustrated. I clearly had trouble dealing with my girl’s reaction to having a dozen adult eyes focused on her every move.
I didn’t turn to any of the other parents and ask if they had seen their girls do the same at their first parent observation class, or inquire about how they dealt with such a thing. Instead, I avoided their gaze and tried to quickly make my way to our car.
But, on the way out, another Mom caught me.
“This is my daughter’s third parent observation class. And it’s the first that she’s participated in the whole way through.”
I looked up to see a pair of kind eyes smiling at me.
“Oh, but your daughter did so well today!”
The woman passed over my compliment, “The first time, she lasted all of two seconds. The second time she made it about halfway through. This was the first time she lasted for the whole class.”
“Thank you.” I smiled, “That gives me something to look forward to. I feel so awful.”
“Don’t sweat it.” the Mom advised.
It was just what I needed. Answers, guidance, the wisdom of a Mom who’d been in my place and emerged to tell the tale. I won’t say that I heeded her advice immediately or entirely. I still stewed. It was M who focused on the positives and told Baby that she had danced so beautifully in the beginning of class. But by lunch time I had stopped sweating it and I just simply moved on with the rest of our day. And that felt pretty good.
It doesn’t matter how many years have passed since those official ‘new Mom’ days. With our first, we are always ‘new Moms,’ doing our best and learning as we go. And finding comfort with those who have gone before us.