Thursday, August 2, 2012

My babiest girl just turned one year old.  ONE.  They say a lot about that first year.  You know, "the first year is the hardest", "the first year flies by", "they grow so much that first year", "they change so much the first year", and so on.  Yikes, no pressure.  It's not enough that you just want to survive the first year with your baby that it is sometimes hard to fathom actually stopping and enjoying the moment.

Every few months or so, when I pause and see my girls as girls who are beautifully growing up before my eyes (and not just as needy beings demanding my attention) I have to catch my breath at the thought of them getting older by the minute.  You know those moments?  Those I-swear-she-was-just-born times when all of a sudden you see them for who they are - those little aging faces of wonder, those chubby toes and fingers that are more dextrous by the second, those silky strands of hair that weren't covering her eyebrows just yesterday - and now, another moment has passed.  There's no catching up.  There's no going back.

I reach a pitfall of this sort a few times a year, it seems, when I find myself yet again asking God why time exists the way it does, why change is so uncomfortable, and why this temporary life feels so familiar and so foreign all at the same time? (why? why? why?)

It can feel depressing, I'll admit it.  As much as I want to be in the moment and living living living, onward, forward, totally gung-ho and full speed ahead...I also want to document every single second, not forget a thing, and capture each emotion inside the vault of my heart so I can relive it whenever I want.  But, just as I was editing the zillion of photos from Daphne's birthday party last weekend, I realized that you can never fully remember, never totally relive and never completely restore the moment that might as well have been a billion years ago.  It happened.  It was great.  It is over.  (Somebody pass the kleenex!)

I'm reminded of a famous quote from Dr. Suess.  Yes, that Dr. Suess!

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Never before has that quote been more true than when you are rummaging through beautiful pictures of a celebration that captures a moment in time with your baby.  Sometimes, I'll admit, I'm ready for the baby days to be over.  Not entirely - don't get me wrong - our family has not stopped growing yet, but for the moment we are happy to be where we're at and there's no telling when another baby would hit the scene.  Like many mothers, I struggle with living on the fence somewhere between wanting to hug my children so hard with as many kisses and squeezes that it nearly strangles them...and actually wanting to just strangle them.

Several times each and every day, I find myself questioning my own sanity, strength, or salvation when caring for these precious girls.  They are cute as all get out, but after nine hours of them pulling on my hair, climbing all over me, drenching me with their food/drinks/bodily fluids, yelling at me, let alone having to yank them off each other and rescuing them from multiple quandaries just seconds away from certain death...well, you could see how my mind wouldn't jump straight to "please-stay-this-way-forever" mode.

But then, they sleep.  No matter how much I doubt it, even if it has taken me hours to make it happen - they always eventually sleep.  Their little angelic faces, their arms and legs sprawled haphazardly about, their jammies bunched up and their stuffed animals snugged up around them.  Is there anything cuter than a sleeping baby?  (Seriously, tell me.)

And then, they cuddle.  It might be infrequent.  It might be only when they are super sleepy or feverish or just after you've given them handfuls of candy and put on a video...but, they still cuddle.  And you can't help but stare and count their eyelashes and stroke their hair behind their ears and smooth their soft cheek with the back of your hand.

And then, they love you.  I mean, they really really love you something fierce.  And you know it won't always be this "easy".

You know soon they will grow into teenagers who want nothing to do with you or your protection or your hugs or your kisses or your helping them get dressed or anything.  You know that the hardest "problems" of the day won't have anything to do with potty time or toys or throwing a fit in the grocery store.  You know that the smile they so easily shine at you, that only you put on their faces, won't be so easily made in the future just by being silly or singing or dancing.  You know when they look at themselves in the mirror in the future, they won't see that smiling, confident, silly face, but rather an image of questions, insecurity, and unimaginable expectation that society has no-doubt replaced for them (and it breaks your heart to even consider it - ugh).  You know that their unconditional love for you will most likely take a rocky road of sassiness and bad attitudes and independence and misbehaving and pain...and, you only hope that with a lot of prayer that they can come out on the other side silently thanking you for remaining steadfast and encouraging to them as they painstakingly make their way into the world, further and further away from you.

Okay, ouch.  I'm not ready to go there yet.

My baby just turned one.  ONE.  Let's not get carried away predicting a future I have no control over yet.  I'm having a hard enough time seeing her take her first steps and learn to blow kisses!

Maybe the first year is the hardest.  Maybe it's the most difficult because when you get to the end of it, you realize you are going to have to do this again and again and again (Lord willing).  Maybe it is scary because you are so proud of surviving all the worries and challenges that the first year brought, that the realization that it is only going to get tougher from here is just about all the stress you can take!  We've got a lot of birthdays ahead of us; and, taking care of this sweet baby girl and seeing her blossom into a young lady is going to only happen one day at a time.

Some days are just going to be manic.  Some days are going to get ugly and messy and not going to be worthy of taking any pictures hoping-to-remember-the-moment-forever kind of days.  That's okay.  It seems unfair to expect us parents to have to want to relive all the glorious grossness that baby/toddlerhood encompasses just so that we "savor the season" so to speak.  I'm giving you permission to not enjoy it all.

But, some days are precious.  Some days, even boring days without fabulous birthday parties, are filled with sweet moments of mundane treasures that bring smiles to our faces and hearts and minds.  Some days nobody wants to strangle anybody.  Some days have slices of heaven dunked right down in the middle of them:  ten minutes of snuggly story time, a hilarious poop accident that will make a great story later, catching your children giggling at each other when they think no one is watching, the look on your baby's proud face when she finally takes those rocky first steps.  You just really never know when those moments are going to come.

I want to notice those moments.  I want to be in them.  Create them.  Be thankful for them.  Even grieve them as they pass.  Then make more of them.  Share them.  Live them.  Celebrate them.  And keep smiling because they happened...and will happen again.

Happy Birthday, sweet Daphne.  One year done.  Today, I'm smiling because you happened.

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