Look at you.
On Mondays I volunteer at a children’s hospital library up in Salt Lake City. Before going down the hallway that leads to the library, I pass through the cafeteria. Sometimes I see parents with their children. They have food in front of them, seemingly going through the motions of eating just to pass the time. As I make my way toward the information desk, I often see parents dreading results in the lab waiting room. Sometimes in the next room there are children and their parents in the sibling playroom. There’s a life-sized cardboard cutout of Elsa, looking glittery and friendly. The hospital is bright with tall, green plants, left-spectrum colors in the furniture and carpet and fun, educational murals on the walls. This effort to cheer patients and their loved ones is commendable, because everything possible needs to be done to raise spirits in a place that can generate so much fear and heartache. The parents especially look tired, probably from waiting or lack of sleep or anxiety. They look worried. The parents try to get their children to eat or play to make waiting bearable, to lessen time’s weight, to relieve the pain of slow ticks of a clock. I come home and think of the parents looking at their children. Exhaustion, defeat, hope. Love.
I look at you.
A couple of months ago, a friend of mine posted a video of her daughter walking with crutches. This amazing girl was born with limb differences, and I talked to you about the video after showing it to you. As Lamp (her online name) took her first few steps, she squealed and laughed, and I saw your face light up and smile. Tears filled my eyes. I said that’s your friend Lamp. I said do you remember her. I said she lives in Ohio now, but we went to the park with her and her family when you were two months old. I said her arms and legs are different sizes, so her dad and doctors built things to help her move around. I said let’s watch the video again. So we watched it again, and you smiled again. I cried again. We watched the little 11-second video at least three more times, and you smiled each time. Each. Time. I said you can see she’s having fun learning how to walk. I said you have a good heart to be so happy for your friend.
I said please don’t lose that.
You like to play a game where you close our bedroom door and I’m kneeling in the hallway. I put my knee just across the threshold so that the door doesn’t close all the way. I see your fingers wrap around the edge of the door just before you swing it open. When it swings about halfway I see your face, and I say boo. Then our eyes connect and we laugh. You love the game with Dadda where he says I’m gonna get you! and you smile and run away from him, but not so fast that he can’t catch you. And sometimes you actually run toward him. Then he picks you up and laughs while you smile that smile saved especially for Dadda. It warms my heart.
You want us to get you.
You are one year old. And you can probably tell that I still don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m doing the best I can, like I said I would. I read books and articles and watch other parents with their children and ask for advice. For the most part people are very helpful. They share experiences and make suggestions and gently reassure me of my role as your mother. As long as you’re clean, eating, and sleeping, you’re doing okay. You even play hard every day, so Dadda and I are doing something right. And I’m doing okay, even when I shower only every 2-4 days and skip some meals (but eat snacks) and dream about eight hours of sleep during a five-hour slumber. I know I’m supposed to take care of myself, but I can’t say that I’m neglecting myself because I have so much fun spending time with you and Dadda. We eat dinner together at the kitchen table; we share hugs and kisses and snuggles and laughs. We dance and spin and read. We pray. We say amen. While Dadda holds you I stroke your face three times and kiss your cheek. I say sleep good, little girl. I say I’ll see you in the morning. I say I love you. And Dadda lays you in your crib.
You are one year old. You are so smiley and gentle and curious. You point at people you know, and you look at people who ought to know you until they smile at you. I have never known so much anxiety, uncertainty, wonder, and joy than I have in the past year. I never knew I had the ability to love so far beyond myself. I will gladly keep giving up showers and meals and sleep for more years like the first one you gave us. Those will years will be different, because you’ll be learning and growing and progressing exponentially; you’ll be forming opinions and making discoveries and forging relationships, but those differences are what makes those upcoming years the same. Does that make sense? We’ll be teaching each other. We’ll continue to strive to understand each other. We’ll keep playing and reading. Hopefully there will still be dancing and spinning.
We will still be praying.
Happy birthday, little one. We love you. Watch this slide show to see just how much you’ve blessed our lives this past year. (Some songs are cliché and cheesy, but I couldn’t help it.)