My daughter recently celebrated her 10th birthday. And as I spent the last couple of weeks planning her party, it occurred to me that this is also my 10th anniversary as a mother. Time has flown by so quickly that it’s hard to believe somebody has been walking around calling me momma/mommy/mom for an entire decade!
Grammie used to always say, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” I thought that was pretty corny back then, but now, I get it. It may be hard for you to understand now, too. But trust me, the only person in charge of your happiness is you.
Motherhood has changed me, surprised me, and inspired me so much over the last ten years. But lest you think I’ve lost my ability to tell it like it is, motherhood has also challenged me and frustrated me. So, some of what follows may be familiar to my fellow mommies (and daddies). And some of it is uniquely my own, so bear with me. But if at any time you feel like saying “Amen!” go ahead.
The first year of Gabby’s life, I was pretty much just focused on keeping her alive and well. For the most part, I was a cool, calm, and collected new mommy. But for months, I secretly used to worry that I might drop her – like every day.
Then, when Gabby was about eight months old, and she was learning to scoot backward down the stairs, she slipped. I was on the second landing watching her but she tumbled so quickly, I couldn’t do anything to stop it. It was the most helpless feeling because all I could do was watch. Thankfully, she was fine. The lesson for me: I won’t always be able to catch my daughter when she falls, literally or figuratively. It’s a powerful lesson because there will be times when I have to let her fall and all I really want to do is make it stop.
The Wonder Years
As far as I’m concerned, my daughter’s toddler years were a series of tests.
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- Test #1: Can I potty train this kid without gouging out my eyes in frustration?
- Test #2: How long can a child subsist on a diet of chicken fingers before she turns into one?
- Test #3: Can I potty train this child AGAIN without reverting myself?
- Test #4: Will I ever leave or arrive someplace at the time I said I would?
- Test #5: Will I ever pee alone again?
But it was also an amazing time of discovery for her, and I was overjoyed every time she learned something new. And I distinctly remember being exhausted at the end of each day but also excited in anticipation of what the next one would bring.
Back to the Future
As wonderful as those toddler years were, the last five have been the most fun and the most emotional for me. I’ve had the chance to watch Gabby’s personality fully take shape. And she’s hilarious. She’s grown so much, not only physically, but in maturity; and she’s quite the little lady. (I smile every time I catch her sitting with her legs crossed, book in hand.) It’s also been a little bit freaky because I see so much of myself in her. She’s super-sensitive and has very high standards for herself, which sometimes makes life difficult for her. But in reminding her to be kind to herself, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, too, because I know she’s paying attention. In fact, I’ve learned more about who I am – the good and the bad – because of who she’s turning out to be.
Funny how that works.
So, in honor of our ten years together, and all of these experiences that I simply wouldn’t have without her, I wanted to end this post with a little love letter to my daughter.
I just wanted to tell you how blessed I feel to be your mom. There isn’t a day that I don’t tell someone a story about you. I so very proud of you and I can’t imagine my life without you. When I was about your age, and someone did something to hurt me, Grammie used to always say, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy.” I thought that was pretty corny back then, but now, I get it. It may be hard for you to understand now, too. But trust me, the only person in charge of your happiness is you.
Remember who you are, baby. You are a talented, generous, forgiving, and pretty darn funny young lady. And you have the biggest heart I’ve ever seen. It’s the thing I admire most about you and the thing that scares me the most, but I pray you never lose it. I just hope that in time you learn who to trust it with and how to forgive yourself if you give it to the wrong person. But don’t ever close it.
I take my job as your mother very seriously. And even when we both know I’m not doing so great, you always give me another chance. Thank you for that. So, keep holding me accountable when I don’t do as I say. And keep trusting me. One day, you won’t be so free with what you share with me, but I’ll do my best to remember when you were and trust that when you’re ready, you’ll let me know.
Gabby, the love you had added to my life is hard to describe. And as hard as it’s sometimes been to be a single mom, I wouldn’t trade the last ten years for anything in this world.
Happy Birthday, Boogie Bear!