September 2, 2017.
“Happy one year of parenthood to us.
I almost wrote “successful parenthood.”
Who really can define successful parenting? We kept our kid alive, sure. Therefore, by that definition we succeeded. She grew and thrived. I guess if we can take credit for that, we’ll call it a success. She is a year older and we are a year stronger in this parenting life.
But if we’re talking failure and success here, then we failed too many times to count.
We failed when our tongues were sharp towards one another in the heat of an argument, surrounded by echoes and chaos of an inconsolable baby. We failed when we judged one another’s choices, silently or not-so-silently thinking we could do it better ourselves. I failed when I could not relinquish control or micromanaged my perfectly-capable husband and the father of my child. He failed when his patience ran thin and he didn’t try harder to understand what I was going through. We failed when we tried to parent separately rather than together, selfishly, rather than as a team.
But we succeeded because we learned.
When we can take every single flaw and failure and make it an improvement, we flourish. We can recognize all our ugly and go to bed ready to improve tomorrow. For her. We can celebrate the strengths and trials that we have had the last year. We can look them in the eye and know we learned from them. And then we will celebrate every year.
We learn and know better, so that we can do better.
Because before her, there was us. And in order to do our best for her we must first and foremost do our best for us, you know, oxygen mask stuff. So cheers. To us. To one year of parenthood.
To surviving. And succeeding. Whatever that means, by whatever definition. And learning. And doing better. And inevitably failing and growing on repeat.
For years and years to come.”
On S’s first birthday we went to Publix. We browsed the bakery for special sweet for her. We looked at balloons and cookies. Then we got an ice cream cake.
For ourselves. Okay, we shared with her a little bit.
And then I came home and wrote that letter. To us.
While everyone knows a baby’s first birthday celebration is really for the parents, we had a different, grace-giving reason to celebrate; our one year of parenting.
I pray this becomes a tradition. Maybe we’ll always get a small cake. Maybe we’ll just acknowledge it. Maybe we’ll kiss or toast to life and love and parenthood, to surviving another year, to surviving that first terribly, mostly-awful, hard one. I hope and pray that on her third and seventh, and sixteenth and thirty-sixth birthday, we can celebrate our role in her life.
Our story woven tightly within the threads of hers.
We can celebrate each year alongside her, but differently. Maybe that’s selfish. Maybe it will be more selfish as she gets older and smarter and more independent. Maybe it will be more unnecessary throughout the years she needs us less. But I pray we’ll learn with each year. We’ll keep celebrating each year. I hope we’ll continue learning the role of parents and we won’t stop as she grows. Some years our toasts will hold relief and survival. Others, I’m sure, will hold laughter and contain many eye-rolls. Surely some may even be tearful, stitched together with failure and even more learning.
As we approach her second birthday, the second celebration of a thankfully-much smoother year of parenting,
we will still celebrate us.