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I don't remember my child's first word


Do you remember what your little one's first word was? Somebody asked me and I drew a blank.

“I think it was something like a word or an action.. or ” (I trailed off)

I can’t quite remember what my son, my first born, what his first word was.

I think it might have been "dog" or something approximating it. But I didn’t record it. I didn’t write it down. We never had one of those baby books where you keep these kind of memories for posterity. I thought I committed it to memory.

So much for memory. Two years of broken sleep will do that to you.


My mother has 7 children. I’m the middle child. Pregnant with my first baby, my  midwife asked me about my mother’s labours. So I asked my mother, about my birth, the births of my siblings. Turns out they all-but melded together to form just one memory. Details of each individual birth she couldn’t recall. I chided her softly, silently inside.

Now I get it.

My baby is 6 months old. My older boy is almost 3. I look at my baby and try to conjure up in my mind the memories of the older boy at the same age.

It’s impossible. The memory turns into the baby in front of me. I can recall that he rolled over at this age, that he ate his first piece of food at that table, but I can’t fully access the memory and separate it out it from the feeling of this current moment, with this baby.

Tonight I lay in bed with the older boy and told him the story of his birth. To remind me.

But there is just so much to remember. In each moment. Even today there were so many small things I asked myself to note. Some of them disappear before the day is over; others are gone by morning.

I want to take the older boy to the hairdresser to fix up the hack-job I performed on his hair last night. “No’ he screams. “I don’t want the lady to cut my hair”. Why not? “I don’t LOVE the lady. I LOVE Mommy and Daddy. Mommy and Daddy cut my hair”.

Hard to fault the logic of love as a precondition for allowing someone to wave a scissors about in front of your face.

Walking down the road with that hat on. The blue one with ‘horns’ on it. A neighbour cautions me about the ice on the path. “Yeah and I nearly SLIPPED” my son shouts accusingly across the road at him.

Later he sits up in the hairdresser’s chair frowning, a slight shake of the head ” My mummy’s not very good at cutting hair”.

The scowl on his face when I went to wake him up from his nap.

He made me laugh so many times today, toddler and baby both. But now a few hours later I struggle to recall what I was laughing at. Should I blame it on sleep deprivation? Or make a note of 5 memories a day? Jot them down. Keep a baby book?

The richness of each day. From pure joy to pure frustration and back again. It’s overwhelming when you stop to think about it. One mind couldn’t contain it all.

I moved myself to tears once for all the joyful moments my son himself will not remember, will not know on any conscious level. The happy giddiness of this baby, expressed in kicking legs as I carry him downstairs to begin our day. He will never remember that moment. And will I forget it too? Maybe not now that I have written it down.

What can we hope for? That they get to experience that joy for themselves, with their children? Or should it be enough, the smile in that moment, then gone. A lesson in non-attachment?

Yes, maybe that. A lesson that the moment, the present moment is all that we have. That smile, those kicking legs.

But your first word baby, we’ll know to note that down this time round.

And this memory:

Me writing this in the dark, your breathing in the cot beside me, your dad and your big brother giggling downstairs. While the rain came down outside.


Are there details from the baby years you can't recall? (even though you imagined they would be indelibly printed on your mind)

Did you find a way to record the milestones?

What could you do today to record a special moment or feeling?


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