Today my daughter turns FOUR! Four years ago today I was pacing back and forth in my small hospital room at Mount Sinai trying to breathe my way through labour pains and waiting for the arrival of my baby girl. I felt totally prepared for motherhood, yet I really had no idea how much my life was about to change. Four years is a pretty long time. Four years is how long most kids are in high school for. It's an entire undergraduate degree in university. Both of those life events seemed to last forever. Yet, the past four years of motherhood have vanished in the blink of an eye. One minute I'm standing there awe-struck, holding a helpless baby in my arms thinking, what the heck have I gotten myself into? How will I ever manage? Will I be a good enough mom? And, the next thing you know, I'm celebrating my daughter's fourth birthday with all the princess paraphernalia I can find!
And she's standing there telling me: "You're the best mommy in the whole wide world." And I'm like... "Who me?!"
Over the past four years I've changed so much as a person, and as a mommy. And, I've learned a lot too. (Way more than I learned in four years of university!) Here are just a few of the highlights:
* BALANCE may sound great in theory...but it's basically impossible. It's much easier to embrace the chaos...and enjoy the ride!
* Along with balance...perfection is also impossible. The 'perfect mother' does not exist. No one is perfect. The more you learn to love your faults as a mother, the easier life will be. So what if your baby isn't sleep trained? So what if turning on the TV means your kid will eat a few more bites of her dinner or allow you a few more minutes of sleep in the morning? Sometimes it's better to say "So What" than burden yourself with all that mommy guilt!
* A full night's sleep is a pipe dream. Sure, you'll reach a stage at some point where your kid will sleep through the night, and you'll shout with pride: "Look at me, I'm sleeping through the night again!" But then she'll get a tooth, or learn to walk, or move into a big-kid bed. Then another baby will come along. And guess what? That full night of sleep will vanish once again. POOF! So make friends with under-eye concealer and good coffee. They'll stand by you...no matter what!
* Your relationship will falter. Your marriage will be tested more than you can possibly know. You'll find out how strong you really are as a couple when you have a baby. And when that baby grows into a toddler, you'll be tested some more. (I can only imagine what the teenage years will look like). Fighting isn't the end of the world as long as you can say "I love you" before you go to bed each night.
* Parenting is like riding a roller coaster. There are highs, higher than you've ever experienced. And lows so low you want to crawl into a hole and never come out. Sometimes the easiest way to cope, is to do just what you'd do if you were riding a real roller coaster: CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SCREAM!
* The intense love you feel for your child can be overwhelming. Sometimes it fills you with so much joy you want to burst. Other times it fills you with insane fear. How can one little person love you so much? How can you ever live up to the job? How can you give them everything they need? I appreciate my own mom so much more now that I've become a mother. Her advice is invaluable to me and her presence in my life, a huge gift!
* Fear is a totally normal part of motherhood. It's something I've had to come to terms with again and again. But, that fear can be paralyzing. Replace it with LOVE and that's when the true magic happens. As a very smart Disney songwriter recently wrote: Let it go! Four years later, I'm still working on that one...
* To survive motherhood you have to be able to put yourself first...at least some of the time. It may seem impossible when you're in the throws of it all, but if you don't take the time for your, there won't be anything left to give to your kids. This coming weekend I'm taking a night off and having a sleepover with a girlfriend. No kids. No husbands. Just wine, movies, and yummy food. These little things can have a huge impact on your sanity. So give yourself permission to treat yourself with the same love and compassion you give to your kids every day.
* There are so many things that are way out of our control. Letting our kids grow up is one of them. The older they get, the more firsts you'll experience. They'll hop on a school bus and go on a class trip...without you! And you'll want to cry. But you'll know that growing up is a good thing. Independence is a gift. And wine will help it all go down a little bit easier! (PS I can't believe kindergarten is around the corner...)
* Your kids will teach you a LOT about life. Listen to them. Watch them. And take notes!
* Emotions will fly. Tears will be shed. Tantrums will be thrown (by kids and mommy!). Some days it will seem like it's all just too much. And other days you'll be hanging out with Minnie Mouse, happier than you've been in a long time. More full of joy than you ever thought possible. Reliving your own childhood and looking at the world through the eyes of your child. And, you'll know for certain that you wouldn't want it any other way.
* Make the most of each stage. Have fun with your kids. Put down your phone. Get down on the floor, and play! No matter how hard something seems, just know a new stage is right around the corner. This too shall pass! And something else will take its place. Try to breathe through it all.
Four years is just the beginning. Four years has only given me a taste for what's to come. I can't wait to see what motherhood will look like over the next four years and beyond. Happy Birthday to my darling girl. You've filled my life with more joy and happiness than I ever thought possible. I love you to the moon and back!
If you liked this post, you might like this poem that Gurpreet wrote for her daughter's first birthday and this open letter from a grandmother to her grandson on his 13th birthday.