My little Rose,
It's funny to hear your voice shake with each little wobbly, heavy step you take to the kitchen, those new steps that began a week ago, when you took five toward the door that I closed behind me (Daddy got to see them). Are you really a toddler now? Can I choose not to believe it? Then on your birthday last Saturday, those steps turned into professional steps. I'm serious. People could pay you for your walking skills, if, you know, that was something people paid for.
Now you are searching for me, the person who makes your world continue. It's nice to be loved like this. I hear you cry as you discover I am not in the kitchen, and I am certain that cry is void of any of the hope that is in the world. I might as well have ceased to exist. Because that's what you do -- you go all in. You are an emotional creature; I very well could say you wear your heart on your sleeve. When you are happy, your shrieks and squeals of delight and funny-sounding growls pierce my ears, and you call for everyone in the room to shriek and squeal and growl with you. And when you are sad, you are just the saddest a baby can be; the way your mouth forms this odd shape, and those eyebrows scrunch with fury, that hot sauce face. And I am uncertain of whether your finger has been dismembered or you have dropped a toy that is now out of reach. It's passion and intensity and I never expected to have a child like you, but I love every bit of you and would not change a thing if I could.
I love the way you say hi to random strangers, but then are too shy to say anything else when they pay attention to you. I love the way you pat my back and lay your head on my shoulder when I pick you up. I love the way you twirl your ankles when I put socks on your feet. I love the way you tap your fingers on a surface, like you're bored. I love your cheesy, lop-sided smile -- the way it takes up your whole face, those big goofy teeth, that under-bite -- what a ham! I love the way you tell me several times a day, "I yuh you!" I love the way you get excited when Daddy comes home from work, and sometimes, before you even scurry over to give him a hug, you make sure your brother knows he's home. I love the way you fake laugh and try to get people to laugh with you -- it cracks me up. I even love the way you try to be sneaky when I've told you not to do something. I love the way you read people's emotions -- you screech and squeal when people are happy, and get quiet and solemn when people are sad. I love the way you play with cars and make them go, "brrrrrm," and push your dolls away when I try to show you how to feed them and put them to bed. I love the way you get jealous if I'm holding another baby. I love the way you snuggle me to sleep some nights, when your belly is too full for milk. I love the way you scrunch up your nose and show all your teeth when you are being silly. I love the way you call my name when I'm in another room... Mama? Or cry for me when you miss me... Mama! Or scream at me when you're mad... MAMA. I love the way you snort when you get excited to nurse. I love the way you nod yes and tell us na-na when you don't want something -- you have always been so good at communicating. I love the way you try to brush your hair with a comb, and put your shoes on, and hold up your legs for me to get you dressed, and try to brush your teeth, and try to help clean-up your toys by putting them in the bin. When... tell me, when did you become such a big girl?
You are incredibly sensitive. Little things have scared you since you were a tiny babe. I could not pop up unexpectedly -- you would cry. I couldn't playfully growl at you out of nowhere -- you would cry. The few times I'm spoken harshly to you out of impatience, you have cried. It's the one stereotypical characteristic that, I will allow myself to say, makes you "girly," Although I know it has everything to do with your personality and nothing to do with your gender. (But have I mentioned how happy and surprised I am still, that you are a girl?)
When you were tiny, we called you our serious girl. It was so hard to get you to laugh and smile. For months, the only person who could really make you laugh was Brother. Now, you are so goofy. A couple months ago, your personality really seemed to blossom and I feel like I've watched you grow into who you are. You just had to take some time to figure out this new world, I guess. You're still pretty unimpressed. You only think something is funny the first couple of times, and then you'd just like to move on.
Your personality is amazing. Your brother is so much like me, and it has been easy to relate to him. But you... you are so your own person. This next year is going to be a challenge, I think. You are particular and routine and high-strung, and I am not. You have called for me to be a special kind of mommy to you, and I am going to try my best to be the kind of mother you need. I want to nourish and encourage you to continue to be your own person as you grow. I can't wait to see who you are going to be, the choices you are going to make, the things that will interest you, how you'll spend your time learning and exploring and adventuring. It makes me so excited, to think about the big person you will become.
You are my sunshine and you make my days absolutely fun and interesting and bright. We may be very different people; however, you are my daughter... that is a bond I am honored to share with you, my little girl. Austen Rose, I love you with my whole heart, and every day I am grateful that you have come to me, and that I get to be your mommy.
Happy birthday, my sweet little flower.
Mediocre house keeper.
Not that talented.
For every few days I feel able, I have days when I feel completely and embarrassingly and reluctantly
I tell myself all the mistakes I made in my life, and what I should have done differently.
I married too young. Had children too young. Should have finished college.
Should have gotten my degree. Should have worked harder. Should have tried harder.
Should have had more confidence in my abilities.
I tell myself over and over
Where progress is made, it seems to trudge through the unorganized, unmotivated pieces
I leave scattered all over, the things that must be kicked out of the way.
Like waves, but without rhythm.
One week I have homemade dinners waiting for my husband
when he walks through the door
(complete with a table set by a three year old I consciously involved)
and the next, River is eating peanut butter and jelly or Cheerios
for the third night in a row
and I ask my husband, Do you want to just stop for something at McDonald's?
And I am very aware of the friends of mine who prepare
warm, organic, balanced meals
for their families every evening.
One week I am patient with my children,
and I actually think, Am I becoming a better mother?
Have I actually got this thing?
And I pat myself on the back.
But then the next week I spend almost every day yelling
and huffing and puffing
because apparently I didn't learn when I was a child
that that's not how we get people to cooperate.
Especially little people who are learning by my example
to yell and huff and puff right back.
One week the kitchen and living room stay clean all week long,
but somehow I choose to stay blind to the diapers piling up in the bathroom
and the mountain of laundry we kick off the bed to the floor every night
(Oh yeah, I'm going to get to that tomorrow)
as my husband suggests that maybe I should clean up a little
before taking the kids to Barnes & Noble in the morning.
One week I am proud of myself because I almost ran three and a half miles
(a new record),
and proud of myself because I realized I can run fast
(even if only for a tenth of a mile)
and the next I can barely make it to two
without feeling like I've left my shoulders dragging on the ground ten feet behind.
And meanwhile, a friend who began running three months after I started
is blazing a six mile path at an eight and a half minute pace,
and is signed up for her first half-marathon next month.
Suddenly my record of almost three and a half miles
is not so impressive.
The past few days my spirit has been aching a little.
And then my stomach hurts.
And then I can't sleep.
And then I'm incredibly rude to my family.
Some days I think it's selfish,
and some days I think it's remnants of my depression & anxiety from years ago.
And some days I hope to God it's not my new normal.
It's called being human, right?
I am feeling painfully human lately.
I feel like everything I try to accomplish, everything I do fairly well,
...isn't good enough.
Sometimes I feel strong and capable,
and then sometimes I just feel weak and tired and failing.
Believe me, I know nothing good will come
from thinking of how things are not.
I know nothing changes until I make the decision to change.
I'm not dwelling in this feeling of mediocrity.
I only think of it in the quiet moments.
And you know, in a week, my house will be clean
and I'll have dinner ready,
and my children will be behaving nicely.
And hopefully I will have confidence again in my ability to simply run.
Even if I can't run six miles.
Even if I can't run fast.
I am really trying to remember that I am an example to my daughter,
And to be the kind of woman I want her to be.
God, that's hard.
And I am really trying to tell myself the things
I would say to a friend if a friend felt like this.
I know we all have seasons like this.
It's okay to have a human moment now and then.