Thursday, August 20, 2015

Break my Heart: A Letter to my Daughter

I took you to school for the first time yesterday. I don't know if it was just that I was coming off of six overnight shifts in a row but it was an extremely emotional experience. I lasted okay until it was time to walk away from the school. Only having to wipe the occasional stray tear away, but as I walked away leaving you, my baby, for the first time in a world I can't have an everyday influence in, I began to fight a rush of sobs that were fighting against my control.  A million thoughts raced through my head; memories of bringing you home from the hospital and watching you learn how to crawl and then to walk. Watching you dance crazily around the living room (one of your favorite activities) and then my thoughts turned to the future how this really is a first step to her growing up, and me having to let you go. For a moment I pondered on how much it hurt, on how much love I have for you my little one and how much it pains me to see you go, on how much it will always pain me to see you grow and change. No matter how good I raise you you will break my heart.

After school, when I couldn't find you right away, the thought briefly occurred that I had made a horrible mistake letting you go out on your own. You were not ready I thought. But when your teacher found you at the office trying to call me I realized how brave and how grown up you really are. I'll admit I was just a teensy disappointed that you were only a teensy bit scared. It meant that you had not needed me the way that you used to and the change was a little sad to me. I am proud of you though.

The reflections I have had over these first big steps for you have made me realize that no matter what you do it will break my heart. If you make choices that lead you into darkness and despair I will mourn and grieve for you, and I will fight for you (I will always fight for you) to come back to choices that will bring you joy. On the other hand if you always choose the right path. If you grow up to be happy and successful it will break my heart in other ways. I will miss when you played peek-a-boo with your baby brother (hopefully you will be playing peek-a-boo with children of your own). I will miss when you danced crazily around the living room. I will miss when you needed me every hour of every day, and when I got a chance to be mother to an amazing terrific little girl, because she grew up to be an amazing terrific grown woman.

So sweetie break my heart, it was yours the moment you came into this world. I am very lucky to be your mother, very lucky to hurt over these amazing first steps you are taking. Keep learning, and growing, and changing. Keep being brave, and thoughtful, and kind. Keep striving to be the best you can, and keep breaking my heart for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

EmmyKate the Great

My sister Kate is a strong-willed, amazing, brave woman. My husband's sister Emily is likewise strong and capable. Little did I know that when we named our daughter Emily Katherine that she would also be so strong-willed and determined. From the time she was a baby she has been a very goal oriented stubborn little girl. Once when she was learning to crawl she saw a toy on the other side of a large pile of laundry. She struggled hard to get past it. I noticed her predicament and moved the pile out from between her and the toy. She changed course and proceeded over the pile, which was now out of the way, to get the toy.
She does everything with a ferocity and sweetness. I know that someday that passion will serve her really well. I have watched as my sister has excelled in nearly everything she puts her effort into, and I rejoice at the similarities between my sister and my daughter. Both of them are great examples to me.

The other thing that really defines my daughter's personality is her joyous spirit. When she isn't being a little turkey (and sometimes when she is) she is nearly always smiling. She is just a happy kid, and she is sensitive to the moods of others.

One of my favorite things about my EmmyKate is the way she responds to the question "How are you?".  She nearly always responds with an emphatic "Great!" Even when she is feeling glum she will respond with something like "I'm a little sad and a little great." I sometimes envy her carefree attitude toward life, especially in moments when I feel very down-trodden and grown up. I don't want her to lose that ever. When I think about that my mind begins to drift towards what I can do to ensure that she grows up as an optimistic force for good.

I think the best thing that any parent can do is to lead by example. If you want your child to work, than show them how to work. If you want your child to love than show them love. If you want your child to be an optimist than you had better learn to be an optimist. Optimism is not my forte, but it is something I want so badly for myself, and my children. So for guidance I turned to the biggest optimist I know, my four-year-old EmmyKate.

I have decided that whenever someone asks me how I am doing that I am going to respond the same way as my cute kiddo with a resounding "Great!". Now I know that this could  turn into one of those little habits that we pick up the way that we answer the telephone with "hello" or "what's up".  It very well could lose it's meaning incredibly fast, and then be a completely useless thing for me to do, but saying is only half of it. When I tell someone that I am great I want to  BE great.

Last night at work was very difficult. I was fatigued to the point of exhaustion, and it made things feel like they were ten times harder to do, but every time someone asked me how I was I responded "Great!"  The first thing I noticed was that my response often was met with a smile. Smiles are not something I see a whole lot of on the night shift. It was refreshing. Then after our brief exchange I would continue working, my thoughts going along the lines of "You really are great you know. You have a wonderful husband and children,  you have a decent job, and a roof over your head, you have friends and family who love you , and care about you , and pray for you. Yeah life is pretty great. YOU are pretty great and you can do anything."

Now it is entirely possible that I was just going a little crazy and talking to myself. I very well could have been hallucinating my whole shift (it was a really weird shift with a shirtless marine, and a grown man playing hide-and-seek in the fitting room scaring me half-to death,  not joking it actually happened). However, crazy or not, hallucination or not, it felt good to think about my blessings, and to reflect on the good I have to offer this world. I think I am going to continue my little experiment. I am going to continue to emulate my sweet daughter, EmmyKate the Great. I wonder what it will look like on the other side of a decent amount of sleep. I bet it is going to be awesome.