To my daughter on her first birthday: Now you’re 1

Small one,

Look at you.

A year has passed and like everyone says, it’s been a continual process of learning, growing, moving closer and letting go.

The first time we met — as unsure of one another as any two people could be — marked a paradoxical milestone: the start of our lives together and apart. After 9 months cocooned inside, suddenly your universe became a tiny part of a much larger world.

As for me … part of me wasn’t me anymore. It was you. A strange feeling; like cells dividing.

Now here we are, a year later. We survived! We’ve become a team, and we’ve accomplished so much together.

This year has been incredible, challenging, long, and all too brief. Swaths of time I couldn’t wait to be over, composed of moments I wanted to preserve in amber and hold forever. So many firsts and lasts, it makes my head spin to think of them all. The best part is, it’s only the beginning.

Now you’re 1.

You’ve grown from a tiny, helpless stranger to a strong, gregarious almost-toddler whom we know inside and out. Every day, you show us more of who you are and who you’ll become.

You never hesitate to tell us how you feel, even if you lack the words to do so.

You said “dada” before “mama,” but your first real word was “Lily.” Our cat’s name. Because of course it was.

To my elation and dismay, you’re turning out to be quite extroverted — forcing me outside my comfort zone by charming strangers wherever we go.

You love baths, swings, dogs, plain yogurt, and infant Tylenol. You hate anything that requires you to sit still … or sit at all.

You’re ticklish, like your dad.

You’re blonde and blue-eyed, like your dad.

You have dimples… like your dad.

I’d love it if you could take after me just a little bit, please. (A few suggestions: I’m excellent at spelling, I like following rules, and I’m not easily bored.)

You’re fearless, determined, inquisitive, and exuberant.

You do us proud.

At a year old, you’re teaching me more than most adults ever could. You’ve taught me determination, and resilience, and unrestrained joy. You’ve made me brave and fragile in all the best ways.

I’ve learned to adapt my game plan; to enjoy the small moments; to stop worrying what people think and focus on what matters. You’ve shown me that what makes us happy isn’t always the most elegant, the most polished, the most expensive. That sometimes you’ve just got to bang away on a springform pan.

That life isn’t predictable, and parenthood is at least 85% doing things you said you never would … which might just be the sweetest thing about it.

And all the while, I’m teaching you to live without me.

Not so long ago, we were one.

And now you’re 1.

1 Comment

  1. Corrie Bauml says: Reply

    Jean: Just beautiful! Beautifully written. Words my own thoughts could never express. Thank you for sharing your talent and giving words to this moms own muddled emotional parenting memories.

Leave a Reply