I had a grand vision of what the night before your very first birthday would be.
Bath time would be magical; I’d cry a few tears at one of the last times I’d ever nurse you to sleep; we would read a book; and I would put you gently in your crib as you slept soundly until the morning.
This grand vision did not come true. When I drew your bath, you crawled away furiously and laughed as I chased you down the hall.
I laughed too. That is to say, I laughed between the huffs and puffs. You’re pretty fast these days.
Once I wrangled you into the tub, you played and smiled, as per usual. The night was back on track. Or so I thought.
Right when I started to put your pajamas on, you began to scream…loudly. You didn’t stop screaming until I started to nurse you. This didn’t last long. You were so upset and I figured you were just tired. I prayed the shortest nighttime prayer and put you into your crib.
That’s when the real screaming began.
I could only stomach about a minute of this heart-wrenching cry. This was not how I envisioned the last official night of your infancy.
So, I walked into your room calmly and began to try to read you a book. You were miserable with the light on: rubbing your eyes and crying. So I turned the light off and I rocked you to sleep.
And, as you tightened your little hands around my neck, I began to cry big, fat mommy tears.
As I rocked in that glider like so many nights before, I began to reflect on the past year. I thought about those first few nights as we fumbled and guessed how to make you happy. We wondered if we’d ever get the hang of parenting. I remembered the nights when your daddy sat in that same spot and held you so I could get some rest. I remembered seeing your sweet smile for the first time. I could faintly hear your first real belly laugh, or the first time I heard you whine, “mama.” I will always remember the look on your face when you saw Christmas lights for the first time. I won’t forget the day you crawled to your daddy on his birthday.
Everything came flooding back. My grand vision for the night before your first birthday wasn’t anything that I’d expected. It was better.
This unexpected night was so much like you, as you weren’t what I expected. You were better than I could’ve ever imagined.
Sure, I expected to love my children. But I didn’t know how much I would love you. I didn’t know how much you’d change me. I didn’t know how rapidly I would grow into the woman that God intended for me to become, simply because he entrusted your life into our unworthy hands.
This month, I spent an inordinate amount of time dedicated to your first birthday party. I planned and cut and placed and re-ordered and chose and agonized….and it ended up being the most wonderful time with plenty of family and friends. The house was packed with so many people who love and support you. As special as your birthday party was, those two wonderful hours don’t hold a candle to the little things that have happened over the last year.
Little things like “snuggle and snack” time after your afternoon nap when I get thirty minutes just to hold you; or when you and I fake cough back and forth and laugh; or when we chase each other around the house with your toy train; and when you crawl to me, pull up on my legs, and beg me to hold you are the things that I will never ever forget. Its the little things that have made me love you more than I could possibly imagine.
As we enter into your toddler years, I understand that we will have to learn to tackle an entirely new set of challenges. But, as much as I can, I want to learn to treasure each moment because there will be more little things to remember. Because, as so many people have said before, it’s the little things that really are the big things. The most important moments come disguised as the mundane; it’s the little things that people miss the most once a season of life has passed. And this season, the time when I get to be your mommy, has been the richest and most fulfilling time of my life. I am grateful for each second. I know I will miss your infancy and dependency on me as you grow older; and yet still feel deeply satisfied that I have been given the gift of motherhood.
I want you to know that for the rest of my life I will do anything to protect you, to help you grow, and to display God’s perfect love for us. I want you to understand that, sometimes, without realizing it, I have grand visions for how your life should go. But know that, like your last night as a baby, if you decide to change it, I won’t be mad at all. After all, my plans have been absolutely nothing compared to what has actually happened in your infancy.
I love you with my whole heart and cannot wait to see what’s next.