As some of you might have realised from the cake decoration picture I had up as Silent Sunday, we recently passed the incredible milestone of Ramona’s first birthday.
I thought about writing this post to her, but I’ve actually already done that in a way. Ashley and I each wrote a letter to her and put it away, along with her cards from everyone, for her to read when she’s older. We plan to write one each year and give her the whole lot at a milestone birthday like 18 when she can start to appreciate what’s in them. The tone of the letters was quite interestingly different; mine was a waffly description of her birth, and the things she’s learned to do, and what I find amazing about her, whereas Ashley’s was a shorter but beautifully emotional piece all about how he feels about her. The whole of which I think will make a great mixture of stories from childhood and understanding how parents can be just overwhelmed with love.
For me, being the mother of a one-year-old is, as I think with most childhood milestones, bittersweet. On the one hand, I’m truly excited at all the amazing things she can do; she walks pretty well, now, and she’s learned to clap at last! I’m very happy that we’re embarking on a journey that will see her gain even more independence and the ability to communicate clearly. She can now understand simple directions and that’s really quite amazing when I compare her to the blinky, waily, confused, wrinkled little pudding I held in my arms a year ago.
On the other hand, she’ll never be that tiny little brand new person ever again. And I find that sad. Maybe it’s the reminder of my own mortality. Maybe it’s the knowledge that, although we have a long way to go (and I’m terrified of teenagerhood), every step she learns to take already takes her further away from me. Although she suffers a little separation anxiety at nursery on and off – though mostly enjoys it – she loves being left with grandparents and doesn’t seem to mind if it’s me or Ashley with her. All of which certainly makes going back to work, which I’m thrilled I did, much easier but at the same time reminds me that although I feel like she’s an extension of me, she’s also very much her own person.
That’s the challenge of parenthood, I think. To you, they are almost literally your own flesh and blood; when they are away from you, something is missing. When they are sad, something in you is broken. When they are happy, something in you flies. When they are learning, exploring, doing, something in you delights with them every step of the way. And yet they are not you, and every move they make is for them, and must be for the them, and will be for them. Until, one day, if they choose to make it so and are lucky enough to fulfil their choice, it will be for their children.
I wish I could say this has made me even nicer to my own mother – not that I’m unpleasant to her, you understand; we are actually very close! – but I don’t think that’s how it works. Once a selfish kid, always a selfish kid.
And once a mother, always a mother.