Today you are one year old. I didn’t expect to feel as sentimental about this moment as I do. I also didn’t expect that you would still feel so small to me and need me as much as you still do.
I used to imagine that when you turned one my life would change. You’d wander off into the wilderness like a bear cub and I’d use the bathroom with the door closed. But turns out baby bears don’t leave their mamas until they’re two years old, and trying to have a bowel movement while pulling your kid’s face out of the garbage is common fool’s place for many moms.
I flinchingly remember the girl I was who too often said, “I will never […] when I’m a mom.” Excuse me while I go kick her in the throat.
As you round out your first year, these days you love to sneak paper and a pen away from my desk and into your own little corner and scribble, (future writer?) and love to play catch — you have a surprisingly strong arm and accurate throw! (future All-Star?) You put your hand to your ear and pretend it’s a phone, dance like you’re conducting an orchestra, have learned to tickle, brush and comb your own hair (or at least try to), and your hilarious reaction to the laundry machine is a family favorite.
You laugh all the time (your laugh sometimes reminds me of Donald Duck) and you separate the food on your highchair tray like Daddy does on his dinner plate. You know where your toes, nose and ears are, you can stand by yourself for a handful of seconds, you mimic me when I wash my hands, give lots of kisses to Daddy and me (and also to yourself in the mirror), and when I sing “Anjaan Choon Choon” (a song about a bird that my mom used to sing to me) you bunch up your fingers and tap your opposite palm like I taught you.
This first year of motherhood brought with it two companions: Pain and Enlightenment, who have stayed by my side through this deeply transformative experience. There were moments when I hated having to be there for you all the time and moments when I couldn’t get to you fast enough. When I look at pictures of the girl taking pictures of her growing belly, eagerly awaiting your arrival (and often double and triple checking to make sure she didn’t get “muffin top”) I don’t even recognize her. She looks so young and so naive. I just want to hold her and say, “You have no idea what you’re in for.”
You have altered my life inexplicably and added to it exponentially. Nothing could have prepared me for this fantastical and grueling journey — for the tears and frustration, for the joy and the love. Or for the screaming. My God, the screaming. But here we finally are, on the other side. And for the first time I can look back at pictures of you as a wee infant and feel a connection that had previously been void.
You say “Daddy” and “Dada” all day and no matter how many times I say, “Say Mama,” you still call me “Marm,” in an accent that sounds like Australia and Wisconsin burped at the same time. I still believe Daddy is your favorite person in the world and I’m fine with that because that makes two of us. He has been been my strength and sanity this year as you and I danced and fought our way into eachother’s lives. He has been my safe place to curl up and cry and my happy place where laughter comes in side-splitting fits. He has encouraged me without making me feel pressured, supported me without making me feel inadequate, and guided me without making me feel inferior. We are so blessed to have him in our corner.
Sometimes I get lost in the parent-baby hierarchy and mistakenly think I’m the only teacher around these parts. But you have taught that me that it’s okay to say ‘no’, that not now doesn’t mean not ever, and you have gifted me with a sense of self-confidence that my other life experiences could not.
You have ripped my heart open and filled it with your light, piercing through the darkness of my past and liberating me from the discomfort of my vulnerability. I didn’t know it could feel this way to feel. Thank you for allowing me to arrive.
Happy first birthday, Minnie.