Wednesday, November 9, 2016

To my son on his first birthday


My son, my sweet boy, how are you already such a little man? It's only been a year since they put you, tiny and new, into my befuddled arms, and yet there are moments when I cannot remember a time when my day didn't begin with your smile.

As your first year winds to a close, I find myself nostalgic already, and reflecting on the twelve months that have been the best, and some of the most challenging of my life. From those first weeks and months where you just would not sleep to so many days fretting over this cold or that ear infection, I've worried over you a lifetime's worth already  and we're only just beginning. I've also gotten to watch you with such wonder as you've become my favorite little person.

I can't believe how much you've learned, but also how much I've learned about you, your daddy, and especially myself.

I've learned that you have two parents that get very nervous about very different things.

You like to play in the dishwasher. I usually check to make sure there are no knives in reach and smile, because I see a baby delighting in exploration. Your dad sees potential pinched fingers, head bumps, and bloody noses. When you dump your cereal on the floor, I chirp that floor food is the best food, and your dad grimaces over the dirt you're ingesting.

You also love the television. Your dad sees you glancing up as you play with other things and developing just fine if it is on occasionally. I see your exploration stopping and suddenly have visions of you getting held back in the first grade. When you stain an outfit we love, your dad throws it in the wash with the "real" detergent (instead of my hippie plant-based option), and I grimace over unnecessary chemicals touching you.

In short, you have two neurotic parents, but we complement each other well. Good luck with figuring out how to navigate that in years to come.

I've learned that I have to be happy as myself, too. 

I struggled early on with trying to give you everything I wanted you to have, which was quite a list. I wanted to have enough money to save for your college and never have to worry about whether or not I could afford something you needed. I wanted to have enough time with you that I would never miss anything new, and always be the face that appeared to comfort you when you cried. I wanted to set good examples for you of working hard and being driven. I wanted you to never question whether or not you were my first priority.

It took me much of your first year to learn that I couldn't give you all of those things- at least not all at once. It took me a bit longer to be able to admit that, in order to be the best mother I could for you, I also had to be my best self. My best self is driven and ambitious, someone who takes pride in a job well done and derives satisfaction from working very hard. My best self is open and social, but also needs alone time for reflection and contemplation. My best self is the person who feels like she will burst with happiness when she sees you smile because you see her, but also sometimes wishes you didn't cry just because she left the room. Frankly, my best self is the me who spends her days working at something I am good at, and her evenings, weekends, mornings, and random afternoons when she ducks out early focusing 100% on you.

I am sure I will feel guilt throughout your early life over being a working mom. I am sure I will feel a mix of shame and annoyance every time someone judges me for working instead of being with you. I am sure I will continue to rail against the fact that we could also get by if your Dad elected to stay home with you instead, but no one (including him) will ever try to make him feel guilty about it. But mostly I am sure that I will always, always, always do what is best for you first. If that changes, then I will work to find a new best self to be your best mom.

I've learned to let things go. 

Your mom is obsessive about some things, kid. I am willing to bet that, throughout your life, the very few arguments you will overhear between me and your dad will be about scheduling. I am a planner, to a fault, and your dad is not, to a fault. Periodically, these traits clash. We're usually both wrong.

I will always want the calendar on the fridge to be up to date. You'll get used to it. But I am learning to calm down about some other things.

You make it hard to be on time all of the time, something I like to do, and I am getting better about not letting that make me anxious. I hate clutter, but have made myself start thinking of the toys that litter my floor as happy memories instead of clutter.

You will grow up and find new ways to become an affront to my compulsions, I will try to keep adapting!

I've learned that you are exactly who you are

When you are much older, you will know what it is to daydream about what your child will become. If you inherit any of my compulsion to plan, you may even have a strategy prepared for making those things happen. Perhaps, like me, you will want a child that loves to read so you will ply them with books. Perhaps, like me, you will want a kid that is adventurous with food so you will start giving them Thai food at 7 months old.

And eventually, like me, you will learn that your child is exactly who they are. As a parent, I can try to influence the things you love. I can share what I love with you, but already, at age one, you have taught me that you are going to be exactly who you are. I cannot change that, nor do I want to.

Despite surrounding you with dinosaur or astronaut themed everything, you constantly reach for the only truck toy you own. I have tried over and over to get you to love avocado, but you remain lukewarm at best.

I will continue to show you the things I love, and to delight in the things we love together, but I also respect the little personality that shines through more every day. I love watching you be perfectly you.

I have learned new definitions for worried, happy, and love. 

I felt those things before, and those feelings were very valid and very real. I feel them differently now with you.

When you're sick, or in the second after I see you fall and bump your head or leg or arm (which you do approximately 15 times a day), I feel like the worry might actually break me.

I still am amazed to find how happy sitting on the couch and watching you play with a paper towel tube can make me.

And love. Oh kid, no matter what comes from here on out, what difficulties we face, what fights we inevitably have, always know this: you are loved. You are loved intensely, fiercely, and fully. Always.

This is just the start, my son. I can already tell that your next year, like your first, will have challenges and joys. I hope it involves less illness, because your immune system has got to be top notch by now. I hope you eventually just accept your fate when it comes to diaper changes. I hope you stop biting me...and the dog. I hope you still want to snuggle, though I already see you getting too antsy to get back to your exploration to do that as much. I hope you learn so many words so you can tell me what you need.

But most of all, I hope you keep teaching your Dad and me new things about you and ourselves. I love watching us all grow together.

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