“We have some news!” were the first words I heard when I arrived at our daycare center to pick up my eight-month-old daughter. I smiled at the teacher, but I immediately felt conflicted. I knew the news. After weeks of working toward it, my daughter crawled for the first time. And I wasn’t there to see it.
The mom guilt came on strong and fast. I was excited of course but I couldn’t fight the pang of disappointment. A major milestone and I wasn’t there! On the car ride home, I felt envious of our daycare teachers, who had gotten to witness this magic before me. I thought of all the other milestones that might occur outside my presence—first step, first word. What else would I miss?
But as I pulled into the driveway, it clicked: Today wasn’t about me. It was about her.
By focusing on my feeling of loss over having missed her moment, I was failing to fully celebrate my daughter’s big development. This was a huge day for her. She attained a skill she had worked up to for weeks, cautiously rocking back and forth and scooting as she learned to move. She was proud of herself—even at eight months old, it showed on her face.
While I fixated on my feelings of guilt, I was missing an opportunity to invest in my daughter.
My daughter won’t remember whether I’m there to witness each and every moment. But she is affected, even at her young age, by how I celebrate her. She will remember how I make her feel and that will influence her development for the rest of her life. If she senses that her accomplishments bring me any feeling other than enormous pride, what message does that send to her? The opposite of the message I want her to receive.
Sitting in my driveway, I vowed to let my guilt go and to pour myself into building up my daughter. I would not allow anything—especially a burden I was needlessly placing on myself—to interfere with an opportunity to praise her and build her self-esteem. My priority as a parent is to raise a confident child. That starts with a celebration of her achievements that focuses exclusively on what matters: her.
At home that evening, my husband and I proudly watched our daughter show off her new skill . She crawled around her room, pausing to smile at us and look for our reactions. It didn’t matter that we weren’t the first to see it. It was magic.