Our daughter was born on our first wedding anniversary. It was during that last push, that I learned my first lesson from her: You Can’t Plan For Everything. And everyday since that day, I realize she has taught me more about being a good person than anyone else. With great pride, I share these life lessons I’ve learned from her.
On her first birthday, I learned You Don’t Have to Invite Everyone to The Party. I definitely over invited people to her party that year. I think first birthdays are more of a celebration for the parents anyway – kind of like a “Look, we kept the baby alive!” party more than anything else. Yet, that lesson of not inviting everyone has helped me through many functions since then. Not everyone can come to everything.
On her second birthday, I learned Taking Time For Yourself is Okay. I ran a five mile race the morning before her second birthday party. At first, I felt so guilty for doing this, but seeing her and my husband waiting for me at the finish line is something I still think about. She looked so happy to see me, and my husband looked so proud.
On her third birthday, I learned You Have to Work on Your Marriage. My sainted mother-in-law watched our girl for her birthday weekend while my husband and I went to Vegas. I had never been to Vegas, nor had we ever been away from our girl for so long (we were only gone two nights!). Yet the time away from her let us be a couple and let her miss us. It was good for everyone.
On her fourth birthday, I learned Patience. A couple months before she turned four, we welcomed our middle child who was born at 33 weeks. I had been in the hospital on medical bedrest for three weeks prior to that. I was away from her and my husband for almost two months. Then when we got home, all the little guy did was cry and scream. By the time her birthday rolled around, I felt like I was drowning. When I walked into the baby’s room in a panic because he had stopped crying, I saw a four-year-old whispering quietly and telling her brother “It’s K Jamie. Natalie is here.” Patience.
On her fifth birthday, I learned You Have to Ask for Help. We are those crazy people that had babies back to back – the boys are only thirteen months apart. So while juggling a one-year-old and a newborn, she turned five. It was chaotic. I would not have survived with out the loving arms of my friends. They always came or always invited me out, because I asked for help.
On her sixth birthday, I learned Summer Birthdays Can be Fun. I invited people from the neighborhood we lived in to come to her party that year. And boy did they deliver! There was a slip in slide down our grass hill, several shade tents, presents, food, and so much fun. She told us later it was her best birthday ever.
On her seventh birthday, I learned Sometimes I Will Do it All Alone. Every Army family has years where their spouse is gone for all the special days. Not only was my husband deployed when she turned seven, but we also moved half way across the country on her birthday. Like the resilient Army kid she is, it was all taken in stride. She required cake and stickers and that was all.
On her eighth birthday, I learned You Have to Let Go Sometime. Her small birthday party last year consisted of five giggling girls lounging around kiddie pools in their swimsuits. They played on one of the girls phones, sang songs, and ate little more than cake. I had to hold myself back from butting into their fun more times than I like to admit. She didn’t need me there, and in the back on my mind I knew it was okay.
This year, I have learned Strength Comes from More than Muscles. I watched her grow more this year than any year before. She conquered gymnastics, academics, and her baby brothers. There were tears, and there were times she doubted herself, but she always pulled herself up. She shows us daily that there is more strength in determination than in anything else.
There are days I can’t believe I get to help mold this girl into a woman. I am unbelievably blessed and honored to be her mother. And I can’t wait to learn more from her – she is the best teacher I have ever had.