17 Years Around the Sun
In celebration of my daughter’s 17th birthday today, we got together and recreated some of my favorite childhood memories of her as she grew up. Because yes, growing up happens…newborns become babies become toddlers become little tykes become tweens become teens who then become adults. This happens quicker than it feels when you’re knee deep in diapers and legos, let me tell you. It seems like just yesterday I was hiding in a closet just to get 5 minutes of “me time”, and yet here I am with a daughter that I now chase around so we can spend some blissful moments together.
This is how it all started*!
(*the part of Naturalist as a baby is played by Naturalist as a 17 year old, the part of me as a new mom is played by me as an old mom)
I remember bringing you home from the hospital after an intense and grueling 20 hour labor. I had an amazing doula with me, and she helped me breathe through the changes my body went through to get you out into the world. You were stubborn there towards the end, so the nurses and doctors weren’t in much of a hurry when I told them I thought you were going to be here all of a sudden…in fact, I reached down and caught you while their backs were turned in preparation for you. You were tiny with a head of dark hair. I’ve never been so terrified of something so cute and small. I’ve never been so exhausted just sitting and watching another human being breathe. I’ve never been so in love with something that didn’t do much more than eat, sleep, and poop everywhere. The love was for who you were, not what you could do. It was a big love, bigger than anything I’d ever felt before, and it made all the sleepless nights and feedings every 2 hours and spit up covered shirts totally worth it.
I remember when you first started eating big girl food. Man, you were picky. You loved fruits and veggies but hated meat, even at 9 months old. It doesn’t surprise me that you’re a vegetarian now. When you were full, you liked to take a big bite of pureed food, smile, and then spit it back out all over me. I didn’t find this as funny then as I do now.
You woke up every day ready to go do epic shit. In fact, you would get really cranky if we stayed home. You would wake me up by stroking my hair while saying, “Morning mama! What do today?!” I would try to roll over and sleep in a little more, which never worked. You were always a very persistent girl. Of course, then there was the morning you petted my hair and I did roll over, and then you barfed all over the back of my head…after that I always got up immediately. You wanted to do much more than your little legs could handle, so I carried you a lot of places. You liked to point out where we should go, and then rest your hands on my cheeks while I walked with you in my arms. It’s funny the way time works…I remember being so overwhelmingly exhausted at the end of every day, thinking I couldn’t do it again tomorrow…but that’s not what I remember as I look back. All I remember is your chubby hands tangled up in my hair and patting my cheeks.
Did I mention you were persistent as a child? Yes, I think I did. Not just persistent, but vocally so. You were feisty and strong willed, and someone once suggested I needed to break your stubborn nature. I’m ashamed that for a while I really tried to. Luckily, your will was stronger than mine, and we developed a relationship based on both of us expressing ourselves strongly. Now it’s one of many things that I appreciate the most about you. It might have been rough in the beginning, but now I’m in awe of your strength and independence. Soon you’ll be out in the world without me carrying you on my back, and I’m comforted by the fact that you will give anyone hell that tries to get in the way of what you want to accomplish.
It was a big deal when you started walking by yourself! I couldn’t wait to put you down and have you walk instead of hitch a ride in my arms. Then you started walking. From then on you ran everywhere. I missed the slow days. I wondered why I’d ever wanted you to walk, because now I had to keep up with you. It was even more exhausting than carrying you everywhere. There was nowhere you didn’t want to see and explore, and I watched you with a mix of excitement and fear that a fall or broken bone was imminent. I watch you now, with that same adventurous spirit and the same mix of excitement and terror. Luckily, I’ve had 17 years to watch you follow your interests and I know you are a capable, strong girl with a brave heart. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go from here. I’ll always be here to help, even if I’m not right there behind you.
As independent as you were during the day, you were completely dependent at night. For the first 10 years of your life, you wanted to sleep right next to your dad and me. Which meant, actually, that you would sleep pretty much on top of me. You loved to rest your chubby toddler belly across my face and then pass out. I didn’t sleep well, let me tell you. Now I have a big old bed all to myself, and scoot over a little in case you want to come in and snuggle again. You tell me it’s a little awkward and you love being in your own bed. I never would have thought I’d prefer to be partially suffocated and sleepless to comfy and well rested, but that’s just it…motherhood is a real trip.
And now I fit better curled up in your lap than you do in mine. You are stronger than me and can unload 10 times as many groceries from the car as I can. You are taller than me and now I’m the one asking for you to get things out of tall cabinets. Now I’m the one to stop you for hugs as you go about your busy life. We started out, the both of us, new to life and new to the life of being a mom. We made some mistakes along the way, and we’ve had our disagreements and challenges as we’ve tried to figure it all out. In the process, we’ve become a team. And always always I’ve been guided by the love that burst out of every atom of my being as I held you for the first time. Love because you exist. Love because you are. Love because in making you, I crafted the best and brightest thing in my entire life.
I’m so glad you’re you, and you’re my daughter, and we’ve shared so much life together.
Rock on, baby girl.