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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for parenting

An Eleven Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

My darling, you are eleven-months old – you’re still my little baby, but you’re on the cusp of becoming a big one-year-old girl, my little toddler. Every day, it seems you are more and more a little girl, and a little tiny bit less a baby. It is, as this journey has been the entire time, both lovely and heartbreaking to watch.

At eleven months, you are a fiery little girl, full of personality. You have been particular and sensitive since the day you were born, and that hasn’t changed a bit. You want things – clothes, food, activities, comfort – to be just so, and anything less is unacceptable. I remind myself this will be a good quality to have, when you’re older, picking out dates or clothes or jobs or colleges. Right now – it’s a little exhausting. You are so sensitive, so easily touched by the people and energies, the sounds and smells around you. All I can do is grin, a little chagrined, and say, I wonder where on earth she got that from?!

Also, we have this new cute dress from the Farmer's Market.

You are very clever, finding loopholes to the boundaries Papa and I create for you, mimicking our actions and sounds, and grinning with pleasure when you succeed. You are cheerful, for the most part – I swear, I don’t know any other baby who laughs as often and with such gusto as you do. You delight in being delighted. You laugh, and then you give a little grin, a little check-in glance to Papa or me, that was funny, wasn’t it? I’M funny.

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A Ten Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

I know I could get up and go put her down in her crib, have some hands-free time to read or write or at least fold laundry -- but she passed out so sweetly after a bath and eating, and Fellowship of the Rings is on TV, and I've got a footstool under my feet. After all the running around we've been doing the past few days, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

Dear Ariadne,

About a month and a half ago, you and I were at our friends the Hensels’ new house. You and I drove out to see it for the first time — you cried the whole way. I got maybe 15 minutes of fart noises and coos, and then that devolved into 20 minutes of irritated-at-still-being-in-the-carseat cry.

But — we wound down a long country road, pulled in, you calmed. Smiled at everyone, waved. We settled in for a long visit where you played with (erm near) Norah in the floor. She made up stories with your toys, she had a princess who was baking strawberry pies for you and me to sample. We ate haphazardly in that way only friends-who’ve-become-family can — sprawled out here, there, everywhere.

Man, I really love this age, your Uncle Travis said, somewhere around nine or ten months, suddenly, it’s like they’re a little person, and they can interact with you and you can figure out how to make them happy.

Nope, I said, shaking my head. Disagree. This age has been really hard for me.

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I Love Moms.

One of the things I’ve loved most about this first year of being a mother is other moms.

I love moms of all ages and shapes and sizes, I love moms who are now grandmoms, I love working moms and stay-at-home moms, and breastfeeding moms and formula moms and homeschool moms and moms at their wits’ end and moms full of inspiration and moms bobbing somewhere in between.

I love the moms who were my friends before I myself became a mom. These are the friends who taught me about motherhood before I was even pregnant. These are the moms who taught me literally how to breastfeed and how to swaddle and how best to soothe a baby to sleep. I am endlessly grateful for them because they crossed over into this wild world first, and held out their hands to help me step into motherhood myself.  These are the mama friends who knew how hard it was before I became a mom, and instead of laughing at my naiveté, tried to teach me, just to try and keep me from making the same mistakes they did.  Thank you, mama friends, for being so gentle and patient with me. Thank you for reassuring me for the 15th time that all was well and I was doing just fine. Thank you for letting me complain to you when I was overwhelmed, thank you for giving me advice, thank you for urging me to keep going when I doubted myself.

But I also have an ever-growing soft spot for new moms like myself. I love the moms who are in the trenches like I am, learning this all for the first time. The women, who like me, watched other women become mothers and thought maybe we understood, but in reality had no clue what it would actually be like to live it. I love the new moms who are just trying their best, and constantly feel like they are on the verge of failing. I love the new moms who are coming to grips with the fact that this is forever and always, now – this level of hyperawareness, this constant worrying, this constant responsibility.

I love all kinds of moms and how we support one another. There are women who I was close with, many years ago, and there are women I barely knew, had a class in college with, went to high school with. There are internet friends who I’ve been friendly with for years but might have drifted from as time passed.  Women, that prior to having a baby, I would have thought of with pleasant if dim memories, a warmth without much heat behind it.

Suddenly, these moms became so much more. Suddenly, their little comments, their reassurances, their messages – became little life lines for me. There was this bond, all of the sudden, that seemed to come out of nowhere – and yet, it was born of understanding. Young women who gave birth within a year or two of me – they experienced what I experienced, in enough proximity of time that it is so fresh, so common, so mutual between us. The newness and the shock and the love and the frustration are so prominent, so current – for them, and for me.

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An Eight Month Letter to My Daughter

[previously in this series…]

Dear Ariadne,

I am behind on writing and posting your eight-month letter, as I have been behind on everything this past month. Your papa and I have been late or not caught up on just about every task and project this month.

And you know what? It’s completely intentional, for once.

DSCN4754

I realized, in this last month, we needed to slow down. Everyone needs that reminder, once in a while. It’s so easy to get caught up in our long, long lists of things we need to accomplish, never-ending tasks that we cycle through over and over again. We get so engrossed in obligation and duty and responsibility. We are trick ponies, making our jumps and running the course, aiming to do everything as quickly and neatly as possible.

But – it’s impossible. The course is never done, our lives never stop being busy and requiring so much of us. We can push and push and push ourselves, but there’s no magical day when the laundry stops being dirty and then clean and then needing to be put away. There’s no day that we won’t need groceries or gas or to mow the lawn. It keeps coming, and the more we rush, the less we are living; the more we are becoming robotic – the more we are missing the point of living by trying so hard to cross things off our to-do lists.

To live is to feel life, is to find empty spaces in between the Must Dos, and take advantage of that space, that time. To take advantage of those empty spaces and push at our boundaries, to allow ourselves to be still in those moments and not hassle ourselves to fill them with another activity, another responsibility.

Your papa and I were caught up in that whirlwind of go-go-go, do-do-do. I (as usual) was mostly to blame as I tend to chart my success in life based on how much I’ve accomplished each day. It’s as if I need a concrete list to prove to myself that I’ve done enough, been the best person I could.

It took me a little while to realize it – but our evenings started to feel so rushed. We were in a hurry, your papa and I, and we were rushing you. I didn’t realize it until I was journaling one evening – your papa was at work, you were asleep in your bed, and I had a few minutes to sit and think and write out my thoughts.

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Humility.

I love my daughter more than anything else in this world, and I would do anything for her – and sometimes, I’ve learned, that anything I’ve promised to do is to humble myself and ask for help, to take an action I don’t necessarily want to take but become aware I need to take.

Motherhood teaches us humility in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we learn humility when we have baby puke or baby poop on our hands and clothes, and we can’t clean it off us until we take care of our child first. Sometimes, we learn humility when our child is having an epic meltdown in the grocery store and everyone is staring and we have to just patiently pass items onto the conveyor belt to get the shopping over and done with so we can get the screaming child out of there. Sometimes, we learn humility because we have a plan in place – a mothering plan, a parenting plan – and we are physically incapable of following through with it.

The last one? That’s me. That’s the lesson I’ve learned over and over again since I’ve become a mother. It’s apparently the lesson I need to learn the most, because it keeps coming back and reminding me I haven’t studied hard enough yet.

I’ve said this before – if sheer force of will were enough to get things done, I would never be behind. I would always have my ducks in a row. My spirit is always willing, but the flesh is weak. Or, perhaps more aptly – there’s just a world outside my stubborn, strong-willed self. There are other people in the equation. There are jobs and obligations and traffic and people whose priorities are not my priorities, and visa versa. I have a will, and I am determined to find a way – and the truth is, that lesson that I have to learn over and over again – is that just because I want make something happen a certain way doesn’t mean it’s going to happen that way. I can fight and fight the inevitable outcome as hard as I want – I will eventually have to humble myself and learn the lesson.

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