In my girls’ baby books, I dutifully filled in all of the exact dates I could remember for their “firsts”— first time rolling over, first step, first word, first time using full sentences. Over the years, in my head, I fill out a corresponding book of “lasts.” Last diaper changed. Last pacifier used. Last tooth lost.
I can remember, for instance, the last time I picked up my oldest daughter. She was 8, dressed head to toe in pink for her class Valentine’s Day party. She’d had a constant cough for weeks, but hadn’t run a temperature and had never asked to stay home from school.
After school that day, though, she was reading in her bed when she suddenly started sobbing. Her cries pierced through the silence like a siren, warning of a thunderstorm that materialized out of nowhere.
“I can’t breathe!” she cried, clutching her chest.
Motherhood has taught me that no one really knows what they’re doing. Our parents didn’t know. Your pediatrician doesn’t always know. The expert who wrote a book on the topic doesn’t know. All those other moms posting on the parenting forums? They definitely don’t know.
As much as you want someone to tell you what to do, to reassure you you’re doing this right, no one can tell you that for sure. I learned this quickly with my first child. My oldest was born without incident, but when we brought her home she wouldn’t eat. I took her to the pediatrician four times in her first two weeks. They thought she might have reflux. Then, they thought she might be allergic to something. For months, my mom insisted she was probably allergic to milk.
In retrospect, the itinerary for our New York City trip was too ambitious. It was my 8-year-old’s first trip to the city, and I’d spent months picking just the right places a young girl might love. First we’d put down her requests, which were just two: climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty and find Taylor Swift.
There’s nothing I love more than spending a weekend getting lost in Manhattan, shopping, eating and exploring. I wanted to share some of my NYC infatuation with my daughter. So I added: taking the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, getting milkshakes at Shake Shack, seeing a Broadway show, checking out the three-story American Girl store, going to the Natural History Museum, exploring Central Park, experiencing Times Square, and eating a croissant for breakfast (she wanted to eat something fancy).