When my beautiful daughter was born, I somehow knew I'd be in for a challenge (to say the least). From the moment our eyes met, she telepathically whispered who'd be in charge for the rest of her life (hint: her). Eerily similar to my own feisty, headstrong will to do things, there's a lot of lessons my daughter taught me before turning 3 that, as a young, new mother, I hadn't quite anticipated. Like, at all.
My pregnancy was a surprise, but my partner and I jumped in with both feet, hoping to be the kind of parents our baby deserved. We had no clue how to do that, mind you, but figured we'd learn along the way (we did and still are). However, I was in no way prepared for the reality. It was a lot harder than I imagined and even while suffering through devastating Postpartum Depression (PPD), I really tried to be what she needed. Of course that's not always possible, especially when dealing with PPD, but I did what I was capable of and to the best of my ability.
In her first three years on this planet, my girl taught me a lot. About her needs, about myself, and about the world around me. Wise beyond her years, I didn't always understand the lessons at the time — like when I was tired and exhausted — but, looking back, it's clear. I like to think she chose me to be her mother long before I knew of the pregnancy; that she saw something in me I didn't and couldn't see until I met her. Here are just some of those lessons she taught me during her first three years of life that I'm beyond grateful for.
Before becoming a mother (and even now at times), I've struggled with not having things happen exactly when I want them to. I've never been a patient woman and time is an enemy I'll never defeat.
After having my daughter, she showed me we're not on my watch anymore. It wasn't always easy to adjust to this new timetable (still isn't, honestly), but in becoming a mother I've realized that's just the way it goes. And actually, all those times I've made mistakes or failed at something, she's been incredibly patient with me as I managed the learning curve. It's no longer only about me and while a hard lesson, it's been a good one.
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, I don't always see things as they are. All those nights I was exhausted (wishing she'd go to sleep) it wasn't in me to step back to see the moments for what they were. Even when she lost her beloved bear in a superstore, I wasn't sure how to see the situation another way. My daughter taught me how to untangle myself from the present frustrations to gain a new, more gratifying perspective.
In terms of that bear, when I look back, I see my toddler missing her best friend and I didn't help matters with my annoyance over it. After that, I tried really hard to see it from her eyes (and heart).
Forgiveness comes easily for kids. Someone takes a toy or says something hurtful and, after a moment or two, they've forgiven and moved on. I'm sort of a caged beast when it comes to relationships with just about anyone. I'm not very good at letting my walls down and forgetting or forgiving wrongdoers but, after becoming a mother, I've been trying a lot harder to work on this. I didn't want my young daughter to witness this kind of behavior when I told her repeatedly to forgive others. Actions are so much louder. Because of her presence, I became more aware of how I handled situations, hoping I can forgive others as easily as she does.
From an early age, my daughter has been outspoken and confident in ways I can't fathom. Self-acceptance has been difficult for me. As the mother of a daughter — especially when she was 2 or 3 and looking up to me — I became acutely aware of how I talked about myself, my body, my anything and noticed how it affected her. I may not always be my biggest fan, but she showed me how a little confidence can go a long way.
How To Be Courageous
To see the world through a child's eyes is a beautiful thing. I've always been afraid of everything but once I had this baby who needed to experience the world, and had no fear of it, she taught me to take more chances, to be brave, and to say "yes" more than "no." I'd like to think she helped me escape from my safety bubble so that I could experience the world they way I was meant to.
Try New Things
Along with being brave and courageous, my daughter as a toddler was curious about everything. She never hesitated when it came to trying something new. While it was my job to keep her away from danger, her curiosity paved the way for me to try new things, too.
How To Let Go
I'm notorious for holding everything inside: feelings, emotions, everything. It's an uncomfortable way to live, honestly, but in having this baby those first few years of her life taught me how to let some of that go. She's always been expressive with her emotions, making sure her feelings and voice have been heard, so with that, I've tried to do more of the same. I want to be more like her, or at least, the person she already (falsely) perceives me to be.
How To Trust
Of course, along with forgiveness comes trust. I've never been good at it, then I gave birth to this little girl who trusted me with her whole life. It's a big responsibility that I'm honored to have. With the ways she looked to me, it taught me it was OK to do the same (not an easy feat).
Never Give Up
Have you ever watched a toddler put a puzzle together or build something with blocks or Legos? They have such focus, even when things aren't going their way. If they can't find the right puzzle piece or the blocks tumble down, they get right back to it, undeterred. My daughter showed me early on, no matter how hard it feels at times (like with PPD), to never, ever give up. Because of her, I haven't.
My daughter taught me more in her first three years of life than anyone I'd ever met before her. I'm not perfect and I make a lot of mistakes (still), but in being her mother I've learned it's never too late to be better. So with that, I continue to try, and try again.