Friday, December 6, 2013

1,824 Days of Mommyhood.

I wrote a special post the evening before my daughter turned one, and another special post when she turned three. Tomorrow, she will turn five, and as I reread my previous posts, I felt compelled to continue the tradition. Not surprisingly, there have been lots of changes over the last two years: C is in a Montessori Pre-K class, and she's now officially one of the "big kids" at preschool. She's still taking ballet classes, but is now working with a more traditional (read: serious) instructor — and she LOVES the structure of the class, where only a year ago, she was swinging around on the barre in her own little daydream every Saturday morning. She is starting to read, can tie her own shoes, is a budding artist, and is infinitely curious, asking questions that regularly cause me to rethink how I look at the world:

- Why are there fairy tales? 
- Where did the universe come from?
- How does Santa get in our house when we don't have a chimney?

She is headed to kindergarten next fall, a fact that makes me both proud and sad at the same time — and also makes my head spin, since the happy routine that has worked for us for so long is going to need to be revisited and likely rebuilt from scratch: we are talking school buses, afterschool activities...the list goes on. Anyway, in thinking about the last few years, since my last "special birthday" post, I realized I'd learned some surprising additional truths about parenting.

1. I don't know all the answers, and that's okay. C asks questions about things that I truly just don't know, have forgotten, or require some serious creativity on the fly (see list, above). She also occasionally asks me things that break my heart, like questions about friends being mean, or why people don't have enough food or warm clothes to wear. I am a self-confessed Type A control freak, and not knowing the answers usually stresses me out. But, I have gotten to the point where I can say, "Let's look that up and find out." Or, "I don't know all the answers to what you're asking me, but here's what I can tell you  — and maybe Daddy/Miss Lisa/some other helpful person, God willing — can tell us some more." And as for the really tough questions...well, I know this is just the beginning of a loooong road, where there will be many things that are just inexplicable. And so while I am not a particularly religious person, I pray (to anyone that might be listening) to help me be a good parent and provide the best advice and guidance possible.

2. Setting a good example is hard work. When C was younger, she didn't pick up on sarcasm, or eye rolls, or my exasperated sigh when some jerk cut me off in traffic. But now she picks up on all of that, and more, which keeps me and my husband on our toes. We try to remember to be positive, but of course, we slip — and we try to use those times as teachable moments. How do we react when we're frustrated, or angry, or sad, or hurt? It all takes on a different meaning when we see our reactions mirrored by a little person.

3. Setting good habits early pays off. When C was just learning to talk, we reminded her to always say please and thank you. We often talk about sharing, and being kind to others. We eat healthfully the majority of the time,  try to stay active, limit "screen time," and have hammered home the importance of getting a good night's sleep. And at five years old, these things are paying off: C is a healthy, generally well-mannered little kid, who likes fruits and veggies, and usually conks right out at bedtime. Are we lucky? Yes, I'd say so. But setting good habits early has definitely worked for us as parents so far, and is something that we'll work to continue as C gets older and we get to stickier issues...like curfews (eek).

4. I (still) love being a mom more than I thought possible (a carry-over from 2009...and 2011...yes, there is a theme here, my friends). It's easier now to explain than it was a few years ago: if I have had a tough day, when I pick up C from school, she will pat my face and say, "Mommy, I love you. Would you like another hug?" And just like that, my view on the world gets so much brighter. Being a mom is more work than I ever dreamed, and though some parts are getting easier (i.e., potty training seems like it was a zillion years ago), each new milestone presents its own challenges. And, if I'm perfectly honest, I wouldn't want it any other way.

So: happy birthday, my girl. I can't wait to see what our next adventure brings. And while I can't promise that I'll be totally prepared, I can promise that we'll figure it out...together.