Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Scattered thoughts on Ashlinn's 1st birthday... Forever my baby girl

Ashlinn turns one year old today. Happy first birthday, Baby Girl!!! When others are generally elated with their child's first and subsequent birthdays, if for nothing else than to proclaim both they and their child survived a year of firsts, I find myself conflicted and more melancholy than anything. Yes, I feel blessed to have a happy, healthy, bright child, etc., etc., etc., but I feel like with the start of her first whole year, I'm leaving something behind. My baby is growing into a beautiful little girl, and I should be on cloud nine thinking of everything she has learned and accomplished, but it's not as simple as that. Nothing is ever simple as a mother. We think way too much, and often error towards the side of pessimism. What is it about wanting to make everything perfect for your child that often brings about so much imperfection?

I have worked so incredibly hard to make everything right, and the more things that I can't perfect, the harder I try to perfect what I do have control over. I read all of the books, did all of the research to figure out what was best in every circumstance; I breastfed (still am), make all of her food from scratch, have tried to cut out as many chemicals and preservatives as possible, try my darnedest never to yell or lose my temper in front of her (I've failed there once or twice...), mostly cut out television and all that other stuff "They" swear rots your children's brains, taught myself a number of signs (ASL) to communicate with Ashlinn; I cloth diaper her, sew, mend, read to her, sing to her, work on her vocabulary by constantly communicating, I put her to bed every night, and check on her every night before I go to bed. I am a very dedicated mother, but feel as though I'm lacking somehow maternally, perhaps because of the extreme guilt I feel over not being able to stay home with her more, or perhaps it just goes with the territory.

This morning I was dissapointed with myself because I had a super cute wrap dress that I had grand plans of finishing in time for her birthday, but to look at it now would be to see a pile of rags. Is this representative of my life as a mother? An unfinished work in progress? Yes, I'm sure it is in a way. Mothers are continually evolving in an attempt to keep up with their children, and just as they grow comfortable with one era in their life, a new one begins. I feel like as hard as I work during the day, and a hard as I work to make things at least a step closer to that unattainable perfection at home, things will always be in a slight to modest state of disarray. I'm am learning to accept this, though it is a hard pill to swallow, and am trying to rely on Ryan more for help, trampling on the myth of fictional character, Super Mom (created by evil doers everywhere!). Super Mom exists purely to serve her family and the world, getting everything on her list crossed off, having a never-ending supply of energy, and doing it all with a smile on her face, a gleaming reflection from all of the clean hard surfaces in her home, and with a happy, thankful family by her side always. Real people cannot get everything they want accomplished to perfection without 12 hands, continuous pill-popping, chain smoking, a few cocktails, 32 hours in a day, no sleep, and all while crying heavily on the inside, and who wants to achieve that version of "perfection"? The act of growing 10 extra hands alone sounds daunting. Wow, I'm realizing I'm letting my inner wordy self escape again and go off on a tangent. Back wordy self, back! You're hindering my progress.

Anyway, I'm still finding it difficult to accept that Ashlinn is 1 already, but am trying to find peace in what should be a very joyous, celebratory event. Last night after I laid her in her crib, when going through the usual list of songs to sing to her ("Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Baby of Mine", "Baby Love", "Smile", etc.), for whatever reason I chose to sing her "You are My Sunshine", except I replaced the word "sunshine" with "Ashlinn". When worrying about losing your baby to time, singing about holding your sweet love in your arms, only to awake to reality is probably not the wisest choice of song.

Then, to end the bedtime routine, I transferred a kiss to my hand, and then massaged it in her temple for safekeeping as I always do, and then she did something she'd never done before. She waived "bye-bye" while staring intensely into my eyes. At first I wanted to cry all over again, looking at it symbolically, as though she were saying good-bye to babyhood, childhood, innocence, and beyond, and saying hello to tricycles, then boys, her first kiss, a driver's license, and finally cutting the cord completely and embracing freedom and adulthood. I then realized something. So many parents tell you to treasure every moment because it all goes by so incredibly fast. I knew those things truly were just around the corner, but was that so bad?

Our ultimate job as a parent is to establish a sense of independence, and with each new stage comes more and more autonomy. It is difficult to watch your child grow, leaving one stage you've just barely begun to grow accustomed to for another, unfamiliar, sometimes scary yet overall rewarding one. Yes, yesterday is in the past and will never be again, but who's to say that tomorrow won't be just as fulfilling, if not more so and come with it new firsts and memories, eventually becoming tomorrow's new yesterday perpetuating the cycle. I am so thrilled to witness what is in store for my precious little girl. Plus, I suppose you're supposed to miss the early days at at least a little bit. This is nature's way of encouraging further procreation, right?

No matter what anyone else says including her, Ashlinn will forever and always be, my baby girl.

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