Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Letter to My (first) Baby

Dear Alexis,

You are sleeping now, snoring like your Daddy. The house is quiet and calm, at least for now. Today was a tough day. Actually, a lot of days are. You, yes you and your 3-year-old self once told me "that's why parenting is so difficult." I will always remember you said that.  Those words ring so true, and until you are a Mommy, you will never truly understand how right you were when you thought you were just being cute.

You remind me so much of myself. I see you, even at just three baby years old, struggle with things, personality traits, I have struggled with most of my life, and even as an adult who is now very cognitive of those things, I still struggle with them. We are passionate. We are strong-minded. We are stubborn. We want to be seen AND heard. We generally like the sound of our own voice, and love to share it with others. We get frustrated easily. We have a temper. We are fiery. But we are also vulnerable and emotional. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. When we are happy, the whole world knows it. You, most of all, spread that hysterical, infectious laughter and beautiful smile where ever you go. Your mother is a sap and sometimes, I actually feel tears well up in my eyes when I see you so happy and smiling. I inherited my innate ability to cry at things as jovial as a birthday card from your MawMaw and one day, you will probably be the same way.

Likewise, when we are mad, the world knows that, too. We are practicing using words to express our feelings, and lately, you've been loving to stomp off with a growl, your hands folded across your chest, and a scowl, exclaiming "I'm mad!" even if it's just because the dog beat you to the front door.  Those are the cute "mad" moments, but at this difficult age of three, the not-a-baby-not-a-big-kid in-between phase where emotions are high but the ability to decipher and control them isn't, you have been having a lot of not-so-cute mad moments as well. 

I see you, just as I do, get upset at little things (especially when you are tired, or hungry, or just grouchy). Stubbing your toe or dropping your blankie or lovey, when at the wrong moment, can be likened to your whole world coming down. It breaks my heart, though I know it's growing pains. A lot, you take these frustrations out on me, or your sister, or even Chopper. I try SO hard not to get frustrated with your frustrations. I want to so badly show you the appropriate and more importantly, healthy, way to manage your emotions. It's okay to be mad, or sad, or angry, or frustrated, just as it's okay to be happy. I remind myself this constantly, and I also remind myself that your behavior, though often times magnified, is completely normal. Kids go through emotionally and behaviorally difficult phases - most do any way.  I know this from years spent teaching preschool. But to be honest, it's hard. It's hard those days when I'm tired too, and the grown-up stress I try to keep hidden from you is beating down the door, and you melt down eighteen times in one shopping trip over not getting a "squishy toy" which you already have twenty-seven of at home.

But I realize, none of this is your fault. You are my child. For some reason, unbeknownst to me and far beyond anything I deserve, God gave me (and Daddy, and the rest of our family) the gift of you. My Alexis James. My bookie. And as your Mommy, it is my job to teach you and guide you and if nothing else, love you and have you always always always know how loved you are.  If I get frustrated, and lose my temper, as I am often reminded I am prone to do, it does nothing for my goal of raising you and nurturing you to be a better person than I am/was/could be. Every parent wants better for their children, but that really becomes intensely personal to me when I see myself and my struggles in you. I never ever want you to struggle with yourself as I have myself. I never want you to know that kind of disappointment or heaviness.

When you have tough days, I have tough days, but not for the obvious reasons. Yes, it takes a lot of my patience to keep calm and demonstrate the "right" way to handle things. Sometimes I don't do so good at that, sometimes I do. It's tough to repeat the same thing one hundred times. All of that is tough yes, but that's not truly why your rough day becomes my rough day. "Parenting is difficult" because your child's woes become your own, and if your child is struggling with something, you struggle as well. The issues seem heavier when they are with your own child, even if the "issue" is just a little temper on a three-year-old.

When your sister was born, we did notice a change. Not towards us, and you've always loved your sister (though the two of you are starting to fight over toys some!), and not towards anyone in general, but that is around the time your emotions seemed to be in high-gear. I don't know, and probably will never know, if that was because of the new baby or you had just hit that two-and-a-half year old milestone where those things tend to happen anyway, baby or not. Regardless, if it was brought on by the baby, I'm sorry. We gave you a sister because we wanted you to have someone to experience life with, someone to lean on besides your Mom and Dad. We wanted you to have a permanent, built-in best friend and confidant. I hope these things all blossom one day in your relationship with her. But just as we have told you all along, and I still try to tell you daily, you are my (our) FIRST baby (and I am your first baby, too, like you say). You are special. You are amazing. Beautiful. Smart. Funny. Emotional. Loving. There is no one in this world like you, and you are my heart.

As your Mommy, I promise, when you have a rough day, I will have a rough day with you. And as your Mommy I also promise to try to guide you through those rough days with grace, and sympathy, and I'd like to think years of wisdom which you haven't attained yet. If I get upset and frustrated with you, if you have to sit in time-out, always know that it's not because I want to upset you more, it's because I love you. Growing up takes getting in trouble as much as it takes having fun, too. One day you will understand this. We are in this together and I hope to teach you as much as you have taught me. I love you with every single part of me and will never, ever "ever ever everrrr" leave your side.


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