I woke up today and my husband told me that it was our oldest daughter’s birthday. He says she turns 7 today. And, I just don’t understand how this could be true. How can this be real? Seven? Really? But she was just born last week.
It was just last week that I rocked her tiny frame, heavy against my chest. I pressed my lips to her head and shut my eyes and inhaled–her smell engulfed me. She smelled like all babies do: sweet and innocent and perfect. “Let me soak this is in all the way to my bones. Please. Help me remember this always.” I begged of whoever was out there listening.
And then the next day she took her first step. The day after that she became a big sister. And then she started school and now, today, she is in first grade. And she is seven. All of this in the blink of an eye. And I just don’t even understand how this could be real. When did this happen?
She is a beautiful seven year old, just breathtakingly beautiful. I cannot look at her too long because the tears will come. They fill my eyes anytime I allow myself to really take all of her in. When she tucks her sandy colored hair behind her ear as she reads from a book, or when she squints her eyes closed and squeezes her hands tightly together as she prays. It’s just too much. My heart fills up. I can feel my heart swell.
She’s kind, and not just in the way that every parent thinks their child is kind. She has an innate kindness about her that I perceive only in a few people, one of them being my husband. And she loves with all of her, with her entire soul. She gives hugs to anyone willing to take them (and sometimes even to people unwilling to take them). She doesn’t do anything half way. She is a deeply feeling person, a trait I recognize in myself. She has a great big heart and sometimes the pressure inside of her gets too high and she has to release it. Her daddy doesn’t get it when she cries “just because,” but I do, my sweet girl. I do.
My favorite parts of her are the parts that didn’t come from us. The parts that I don’t recognize in my husband or myself. The parts that make her her own. Those parts remind me that she wasn’t created for me. She is her own person. She exists outside of me, and that’s hard for me to reconcile. It’s difficult because every part of me loves every part of her so fiercely. It’s hard for me to remember that she will not always be mine. One day, God willing, she will have her very own life. She will have a husband and children and a home and a whole existence apart from me. An existence I hope to be part of, but a life that will not center around me.
It’s hard for me to remember all of this because the day she was born is also the day I was born. I was thrust into motherhood on October 23 of 2010. She baptized me by fire. And, I’ve made many mistakes. I am too hard on her most days. I am constantly wondering when I need to push and when I need to stop pushing. Mothering her is a struggle, you see, because she is my first baby and I’m figuring this out as I go.
She’s my teacher. My very first teacher. And I am learning how to navigate this life right along side her. I worry that I’m not doing her justice. I worry that she doesn’t know that she is my whole entire life. I worry that my mistakes will seep into the very essence of who she is and I’ll be responsible for the sad parts of her.
For now, she spends her days practicing her split and reading to her siblings. And she loves me, oh how she loves me. She loves me above all others. Me. Can you believe it? She thinks I am God. And she won’t always. One day she will see just how fallible I am. And it will hurt me and it will hurt her. I pray that she loves me then, too, flaws and all. Because her loving gives me life.
She is the one who immediately begins praying when she sees someone else in need. She is the one who encourages our family to have dinner together every night. She is proof that there is a God who loves me, there must be. How could this all be an accident? How can someone like her be only atoms? It’s impossible. She is proof that God exists, you see, and she taught me seven years ago today what love was.
My how we have grown, my sweet girl, me right alongside you. I beg you, don’t leave me behind just yet. I have much to learn, too.
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