Thursday, February 5, 2004

I am the mother of an 8 Year Old.

2/5/96-2/5/04: Eight years ago today, I gave birth to our first child, and our lives have never been the same.

I guess that's a Duh statement, huh? I mean, who's life stays the same once you introduce a child into it?
We were the typical new parents. Unprepared but for the basics, and even then it was the basics of stuff and not the basics of exceptional parenting. Afterall, there's not much growth to be had when the only resource book regularly perused is _What to Expect When You're Expecting_. We were emotionally too young, still stuck in the self-centered "I" moments of life. I was clueless about attachment parenting, putting nursing on the backburner a few too many times or getting annoyed when she would demand my time. We were impatient and careless. I didn't have any idea about myself as an individual, much less as part of a team as a spouse and a parent. She was our guinea pig, not only in parenting, but in figuring out who the heck we were, and what the heck we were doing. If one thing didn't work, try another. If that didn't work, get upset. Frustration abounded amidst the wedding preparation, newlywed living, moving, angling for a job, struggling through and then dropping out of grad school.
OK, maybe we weren't so typical.
And yet, here she is. Through all our fits and starts, and the continuing use of her as the firstborn guinea pig, we have a stunning 8 year old, with compassion enough for her entire class, an amazing sponge for knowledge, and a power that extends beyond her visible musculature. Sure, she has her moments of impatience with her insufferable family. Oh fine, let's be honest, she can make us truly miserable when gets into a snit. But as a whole person, Katherine is amazing. And dare I say, inspirational? One might ask how I can use such a big word for such a little person. The truth is I'm not sure what it is, but while I see so much of myself in her (yes, all those mistakes I've made), I also see more of what I'd like to be, which extends from her naivete, joy of life and natural curiousity. Granted, I can't gain the naivete, plain too old for that. But the rest... well, I think we could all take a lesson from our children and their joy in the ability to Be in this world.
I'm a different person today than I was 8 years ago, the day she was born. That goes without saying. Even without our marriage, our four kids, and our move 1/2 way around the world, I would still be a different person. But, moving 8000 miles from home is a great excuse to become introspective and figure out who you really are, where you are and what you want out of life. After all, every day here is something new. Every day provides us with opportunities to explore. You can't get stuck in the doldrums of going to the grocery store and phase out from your surroundings, because even that trip is an experience that requires your senses to be sharp and your mind to be open to the possibilities. Being forced into this mindset has done more than just open us up to a new culture. And having Katherine has done more than just shape me into a different person, she has enriched my life in ways I didn't even know until recently. They aren't even aspects I can explain that would make any sense to anyone but me. Just believe me when I say that I'm a better person because of who she is and the way God made her.
I know that Katherine has taught me as much as I have taught her. I have grown right along with her. But I have only come to realize these things over the past few months. I wish that I'd been awake the first years of her life. Awake to the miracle of who she is and all she is becoming. I give my little girl this promise: for as long as you are with me, I will take joy in being your mother.
I know that I am blessed for being able to call you mine. God has given me a gift beyond understanding. You are extraordinary.
Happy Birthday.

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