The early days of motherhood were both exhilarating and terrifying. I somehow managed to survive on no sleep while battling postpartum depression, but benefited from a multitude of lessons I learned along the way and as I settled into the role of "someone else's mom." Some lessons were the result of obvious mistakes, others were subtle, and some manifested as the things my daughter taught me before learning how to walk. It's pretty incredible to realize that a tiny, helpless human could teach me so much, but every single lesson helped shape me into the woman, and mother, I am today. (I'm absolutely positive her little brother thanks her for that.)
To sum up my (almost) 11-year-old girl: she's a firework. She's bright, loud, entertaining, but at times, she can be "too much." Over the years I've had to learn how to adapt to her growing, evolving, and very outgoing personality. As an introvert my personality leans in the opposite direction so, at times, we've butted heads over the simplest things, like when to clean her room, homework, and the stereotypical mother/daughter battles over clothes and boys.
When she was a lot younger, though — before she could walk — while she showed signs of strong-willed independence, she also taught me things about myself I hadn't recognized before. Because she was my first child, and I was young and inexperienced in most areas even remotely related to parenthood, there's no way to describe how grateful I am for the following lessons my firework girl gave me:
How To Speak Up For Myself
I've never been very good at speaking up, not even when it's for my own good. I'm quiet, insecure, and basically afraid of my own shadow. My daughter came into the world screeching, "I am here, world!" and hasn't backed down since. I've always admired this about her. Long before she took her first steps, she gave me chances to find, and use, my voice. Whether it was for her, for me, or for the world we live in, she's responsible for helping me cultivate something I'd been taught to hide: my voice.
That I Can Do Anything & Be Anything
Self-doubt sabotages a lot of my efforts and can cultivate a seemingly endless feeling of insecurity. As a new mom, I had a whole lot of insecurity. Despite feeling clueless, though, my daughter was always happy to see me. She was always smiling, always looking for me, and always soothed by me, her mother. Even when I felt insecure, I knew I was doing something right when I looked at her.
I'm Deserving Of Love
My childhood was complicated. Love isn't something I inherently understood or felt. For the longest time I didn't think I was even worthy of love. Then, I became a mother and this little girl loved and trusted me with all of her being. I realized, aside from my relationship with my grandmother, I hadn't really known unconditional love until I met her. I also learned that I deserved to feel it.
I Can Make Mistakes & It's OK
I didn't know what I was doing. What new parent does, right? I made tons of mistakes and I tried to learn from them, but constantly fumbling through new motherhood was daunting. Before my baby learned to walk, she showed me (countless times) what forgiveness is, even when I didn't think I deserved it.
Perfection Doesn't Exist
In the very beginning — when I brought my new baby home from the hospital — I wanted to do everything "right." I tried and tried and, well, I failed. Luckily, my daughter was an expert on grace. She allowed me to make as many mistakes as I needed, and loved me anyway.
There's No Such Thing As Too Little Sleep
I thought I was tired before kids. Adorable, right? Yeah. If I could go back to those days, I'd shake some sense into me. It's not even just having kids that's exhausting; it's all that comes along with it. The days are long and tedious. They bleed together until I can no longer tell what day it is. I've learned how to be tired and still get things done. Through her first year, it was hard, but she was always there to remind me it would be OK.
Vanity Is Irrelevant
No matter what I looked like — no makeup, hair wild and free, coffee stains and baby food on my clothes — my daughter taught me how little that matters when it comes to love. She always looked at me as if I was the greatest thing she'd ever seen.
It's Possible To Love Someone More Than I Ever Thought Possible
Before my firstborn child, I thought I'd figured out what love was supposed to feel like. When she burst into the world though, I knew I'd been wrong. She re-defined what love is supposed to be, changing the way I looked at all relationships thereafter.
It's impossible to list all the lessons I've learned from my daughter over the years — particularly through her first 24 months. I grew up with her by my side. Some day, when she's old enough to understand how grateful I am, I'll tell her all about it.