Today marks 14 years since I became the mother of my second child, my first daughter. It is the first birthday we have spent apart. She is many hundreds of miles away at a ballet intensive. I will not see her tomorrow, or the next day, not until she is almost 14 years and one month old. It's hard to imagine that this might feel 'normal' one day. It reminds me of the quote by Elizabeth Stone,
“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”
There is a time, in the beginnings of our children's lives, that we count their age by days, and then weeks, months, and finally, years. In those precious first hours we cherish each breath and noise and sigh, we are addicted to our babies. We can stare at them for hours.
Today, I did not have my tall, elegant ballerina of a 14-year-old here with me. But, I woke up in a mood to relish every moment, and also was reminded by a dear friend, and self-care accountability partner, to stay in the gratitude. Another friend was coming into town, and my never-ready-for-guests home was messy and dirty. I recalled something one of my post-partum doulas recommended after my third child was born. Instead of a 'to-do' list, make a list of the things you have done. When you are in early newborn days, that looks a lot like "Woke up, nursed the baby, changed a diaper, stared at baby, snuck in a shower while baby slept, changed diaper, nursed baby, ate a piece of toast, fell asleep nursing baby, put a cabbage leaf on my breast, walked to the mailbox with baby in sling, changed diaper...." It's slow, it seems like those days of diapers and baby feeding will stretch out forever.
These days, time zips by, and especially these summer days, and I barely notice my feet hitting the ground running before it's story time at bedtime for the youngest and I fall into bed and sleep ALL NIGHT LONG most nights, which, after having many babies, still seems sort of amazing. I don't necessarily stop to enjoy the moments, or stare at my offspring, because they're older now, and all but the 5-year-old think that's creepy. Yet, today, I remembered that lovely woman's suggestion. I took stock of what I'd done throughout the day, with deep gratitude.
The minutiae of my life is not important here. But, in the simple act of making my 'done' list, I realized how very much I have to be grateful for: clean water, clean clothes, a man-child spending his first day at college, healthy children who play well together despite their difference in age, my college roomie and her spouse visiting, ice-cream, music and pirates, goodnight kisses. Even in the mess and noise of it all, it's worth paying attention to the wonder of it all, too. Sometimes it's nice to return to counting my age as a mama in days, or even hours.