León, my youngest son, has started walking. For weeks, he had been trying to do it. If you’ve never seen a baby learning to walk, I highly recommend you do. As Nacho, my partner, rightly pointed out in his own newsletter (which comes highly recommended!), there is something highly inspiring about babies’ determination to do things: falling over and over again, and pushing themselves up to try it once more. It is a reminder of why mistakes are so important in life: this is how we eventually make it to where we want to be.
A few days ago, as Nacho was away on a trip with Lorenzo, my oldest son, and I was trying to cook while home alone with León, it happened.
He had been trying to get into the cupboard to get out some pots. I gave him a plastic bowl instead. I sat down with him on the floor. He got up and took a few steps! I got excited and told him, Bravo! I reached for my phone just in time to film him. Nacho and Lorenzo were just an hour away, on their way home, and León was smiling away.
Milestones are strange. We obsess over them, but, as I’ve written in the past, they are depend a lot on cultural factors, and they get us parents into a sort of racing dynamic. What happens to neurodiverse children, or to those with a disability?
If I am writing about a milestone today, it is because it is a clear sign that time is passing, and because witnessing those first steps is a privilege that not all parents or caregivers get to experience.
When I started writing this newsletter, back in 2019, an acquaintance wrote to say that she was not interested in hearing about my children’s first words or first steps, and that I was wasting my time writing about early childhood. She was more interested in politics, she said. As if the two were separable.
Really, she couldn’t have been more wrong. Sure, my son’s first steps are important to me personally. But more broadly, I would not have been able to witness it if I didn’t have a flexible work schedule or I hadn’t been well enough to encourage him and to rejoice with him in such a pivotal moment. And it is important that he had enough support to get there. You can’t separate personal moments from the broader environment they take place in.
Walking may seem like a hard milestone to miss for an able-bodied child. But how many other important milestones and moments do children worldwide miss out on because our policies do not focus on them? And what does that mean in the long term, as their lives develop?
Connecting with you, my readers
Since I last wrote to you telling you that I needed a break because I was unwell, three months have passed. Physically, my dizziness is not as bad as the early days. I have managed to reduce my workload. But I am utterly exhausted. Am I burnt out? Is it just me and my work? Or is it part of today’s structure? We are overworked, and as parents even more so, without a village helping out, with summer school vacations that do not match our work schedules, and salaries that are not generous enough for us to take more time off.
Well, three months have gone and I miss writing and receiving your words. You sent many kind ones, wishing me rest and more, and I have collected them in a document to remind myself that I am not alone.
So, why am I in your inboxes again right now? I am here to share some good news.
The good news is that I will be at two different conferences talking about children and mental health. This week I will be in Bonn, where I studied over twenty years ago, and next week in Gothenburg. If you are around, please come say hi!
The other bit of good news is that this newsletter was chosen as a project for The Break Fellowship, a European Union-funded, Spain-based incubator programme to foster women’s entrepreneurship in Europe. So I will be in Spain for a month in October thinking of ways in which I can spread the word about the first 1,000 days. Again, let me know if you’re around and we’ll connect.
I will be travelling all these places with León, who’s ten months old already. I will tell you one day about how challenging it has been to set up these trips with him, and how difficult it is to have conferences understand that childcare is a real issue for many working parents.
If it sounds like I am doing too much, and I have not reduced my work, please know that this is my schedule after clearing it a lot. And that maybe, all I am doing is trying to stand back on my feet, because I believe in what I do and I want to make sure these ideas travel further. Like León, I don’t take setbacks as a sign I should give up.
At the same time, I am trying to get back to my newsletter in a way that is sustainable for my wellbeing. So please be a little bit more patient until you can see this regularly again in your inboxes.
Thanks so much for being here and for supporting me. It means so very much.
With love and care,
📣 The First 1,000 Days is edited by community member and friend, Shaun Lavelle.