When it comes to letting go of my grip on primary parenting to make room for Marc's equal role, I have the most trouble around milestones. I think I'm not alone - our culture teaches us that it is a mother's 'right' to mark her children's first smiles, first steps, first tastes of ice cream, first days of school. Sure, I can share these celebrations with Marc. But can I give them up to him too (at least half the time)?
I got to do just that in a very small way this weekend while I was away at the Summit for the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (more about this life-changing event later - I'm still sorting out all the wonder of being a part of it). During a break in the workshop sessions, I checked my voicemail and got a breathless message from M: "Mommy, I lost my tooth!" Her first tooth. I could feel her excitement in the message, and called to get the details. Marc had been there to cheer her on as she made the final pull and was surprised when she found the tiny pearl in her hand. Marc took the picture of her grinning from ear to ear and holding up the tooth. Marc helped her write 'My first tooth - 4/5/2008' on a baggie for safe-keeping until it was tucked under her pillow.
I did have a twinge of 'oh - I wish I had been there' but it was very short-lived. Marc got that milestone to share with M, and I was happy that it worked out this way for both of them. But my ability to let go of this little event is hardly noteworthy. I'm sure many, many kids lose their first teeth in the presence of their classmates and teacher with no parent around at all.
Then there's my friend Kathleen, who purposefully let go of controlling a controllable milestone today - her daughter's first birthday party. A few weeks before the event, she and her husband Tim discussed how they would celebrate, and Tim favored a small party while Kathleen was less sure what she wanted. So they decided that Tim would lead the charge - inviting the guests, buying the food, planning the activities. Kathleen's job was to sit back, assist when asked, and refrain from reminding Tim what was required.
It wasn't completely easy - she had to stop herself multiple times from asking "So, are you going to shop now?" or "What do you want to do about a cake?" But she "practiced ESP," as she put it to me, and held back. The party was lovely - a few friends, a cake that Tim had asked Kathleen to make, appetizers, plenty of pizza, a few streamers, lots of free play and musical chairs for the older kids. No over-structured frenzy. No goodie-bags (thank you, Tim!). Tim served, Tim moved the guests along from food to games to presents, and Tim documented the event on videotape. It was a party Tim-style, and fun was had by all.
Importantly, I'd like to add that Tim and Kathleen are not an ESP couple. Tim, albeit a highly involved dad, works full-time and Kathleen stays at home. What!? That's right. Equal sharing is not just an all-or-none proposition. It is mindset that can be practiced where it makes most sense for each family. The key here is that Kathleen made room for Tim to own something typically reserved for moms - not a token diaper change, but a once-in-a-lifetime first birthday celebration.
Could I sit by and watch Marc plan M or T's birthday party? It would be easy for me to say "yes," but I'm not sure I'd be as graceful as Kathleen. I know it's where I want to go, however. My gut knows that owning this stuff is about me, not about my kids.