Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Happy 1st Birthday, Simone

Baby Girl. How you're turning one this week, I have no idea. My last baby is no longer a baby.

I am torn with wanting to bottle up the sweetness of your babyhood...remember every scent and the adorable tinyness of you...and wanting to fast forward to all the stages you'll become. I am giddy to watch you grow up. I can't wait to see what you become. What things will interest you. What it will be like to mother a daughter. I look around at your big brothers…the Transformers…the superhero costumes…every hug turning into a wrestling match…and wonder how you might look in a couple of years. How will your “girlness” contrast with their All-Boy? And how might you be shaped by having these big brothers clearing the path ahead of you? When a little boy tried to give you a hug last month, Andrew blocked him and said to me: “He touched my baby girl.” You have quite the protectors and adoring fans, I see, and I wonder what you’ll think of that. There is no shortage of love for you.

I'm not sure if you'll ever fully understand how much hesitation I had about being a mom to a little girl. I had so much insecurity about doing it well, it seemed best to not even wish for a little girl. I'd been surrounded by boys...felt comfortable with boys...and little girlness, quite frankly, scared me.

And yet...something magical happened in that moment when the ultrasound tech typed the word "girl." I couldn't believe how instantly, totally I fell in love with the fact that you would be a little girl. A daughter! Any fear and hesitation just melted, and I couldn't wait to meet you. To see what it was like to hold a little girl. To fall madly in love with a daughter.

You were only 4 months old when my mom died. As I gained one female in my life, I said good-bye to another one. That she met you was such a gift...amazing, really!...and that's something I'll always cherish. I can still feel her...sense her as part of our life...and hope that you'll feel that too as you grow. That Grandma Lynn is a part of your fabric, even if you don't remember her. That's she's part of the legacy of this family. The stories we tell about her. How excited she was to meet you! How much she longed to have a granddaughter. In your short time of shared life, you made her so happy. You have brought so much joy to so many people in your one short year of life.

So many times I look down at you, your sweet sleeping little self...or your smiling, walking little being...and just feel a wave of gratitude. You were the perfect little person to come into my life. You are the perfect fit to our family. You have this spunky sweetness. The intelligent sparkle in your eyes. The hilarious mischief as you climb over every obstacle we park at the bottom of the stairs. You're going to be a handful, I can tell already, and I love that about you. I absolutely adore you.

I wonder often what I'll pass on to you about womanhood. What you'll think about it all when you look at me, and my choices. I remember growing up and struggling with what it meant to be female...and having difficulty creating the definition of that separate from my mom's disability. Being a woman seemed weaker and broken somehow, and I wasn't sure that's what I wanted to become. And then I found myself when I birthed Jack. I understood, for the first time, how powerful, primal, and strong being a woman really was. It was mind-blowing. For the first time, I felt ready to embody femininity as a place of strength and power and not of physical weakness.

I want to pass that on to you…the idea that womanhood is a powerful thing. Not a competition with males. I’ve never subscribed to the feminist movement, and I know it’s because I never needed to. I didn’t feel any sense that doors were closed to me. I want to raise you knowing that you can be anything in the world you want to be. That was never a question in my childhood. It never even occurred to me. What stunned me, though, was seeing how much my sense of self would revolve around a choice, not a responsibility. Being a mother is messy...and tiring...and sometimes I want to sleep more than anything else in life. But my decisions will always revolve around mothering as a first priority. I didn't expect that. Perhaps if I’d been more of a feminist, I would have seen this as checking-out on a path…instead of choosing this as my most valid choice for me.

I did a lot of things in my early 20s that were meant to breed independence and move away from maternal responsibility...and I think they were important assets to my life now. I traveled all over...I got my MBA, thinking I'd be a career-oriented businesswoman. And now, what I most want is to teach my part-time classes and be with you three at home. I keep thinking back to Elliott suggesting I work at a "fine university." And if only he knew how much I scurry home after only a few hours of nighttime teaching, needing to get back to you. I am all mother. Investing in you three and your lives is what I most want to do.

Had I looked in on this years ago, that would have scared me. I wasn't ready for that vision. And I wonder sometimes if it will scare you. If you'll wonder sometimes why I didn't ask for more. Did I settle by dropping out of the career path to teach my online and night classes? But part of that strength of being a woman, I think, is getting to decide HOW we define ourselves. No regrets.

Dad and I balance things more than a lot of couples I see. He left his old job to go back to school and teach, because he wanted summers home with you three. When Jack was born, he realized he didn’t want to be away so much. He didn’t want to miss out on watching you grow up. He puts kids to bed while I work late at night on the computer, grading papers. I stay home during the day while he goes off to work. Sometimes, we don’t see each other as much as we’d like, but you’ve gotten large doses of both parents…so there’s a payoff.

I can still find myself struggling through the Super Woman balancing act, and I keep thinking I should solve that somehow before you’re old enough to notice or care. Baking cupcakes, grading papers for hours on end, getting behind on my laundry. I keep thinking I’m going to pass along this screwed-up vision of what a mom is “supposed” to look like. I’m too busy, too much in survival-mode some weeks, and sometimes pull too much on my plate and get crabby. But then I look back over what we’ve done together…the outings, the books, the tickle fights, the conversations in the car…and so much is happening, even in the survival mode. We’re creating family, even when it doesn’t seem that glamorous. This IS what I want. So maybe that will seep through to you as well.

I want all of those balls to juggle because they all mean too much to me. My quitting my jobs means Dad working more…or not having the experiences with you…or losing that sense of self I love that I can maintain. My teaching means something to me on a soul level. Sending you off to daycare would be missing a chunk of your life I will never get back. I keep making the new choices at each junction, and keep deciding down the same path. The Inundated Life that brings lots of chaos but lots of really great things, too. ;)

How you define your own path might be different, and I can't wait to see how that looks in your life. You can do no wrong, sweet Simone. If you are true to yourself, that's the best path you can possibly take. And maybe you'll choose the Fine University path. How fun to watch that in you! What doors you open that I left closed. I hope at the end of it all, you can look out at your choices and say "No regrets."

You are loved, baby girl. Happy first birthday.

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