It’s hard to believe you’ve just turned two, kiddo. In some ways, the time’s flashed by in a blur of wonderful and awful (often in the same day); yet it also seems as though my memories of life before you were here among us are already distant and hazy.
And while I’ve hemmed and hawed about this letter, and what I would say to you, I’ve decided that the best, most honest thing I can offer you is a description of what the day of your birthday, as well as the day we celebrated your birthday, were like, since both examples demonstrate the joys and struggles of trying to be, at the very least, an adequate mom.
First, let me confess that I had to work on the evening of your birthday – and not just the garden variety “pick you up from daycare and play with you for a couple of hours before leaving at 7 p.m.” assignment; no, no. My assignment involved the much-anticipated underground sensation, “A Very Potter Sequel,” which began at 7 p.m. at U-M. And because I was under strict orders to not release information about the show, I needed to arrive early and talk to show attendees – which meant I wasn’t going to get to see you at all, on the night of your second birthday. (We’ve found that me seeing you briefly before taking off for the evening is a recipe for disaster; you’re much happier and better off if just left alone with Daddy for the evening, sad as it makes me to not see you.)
This made me feel unbelievably guilty and a bit sad, even though you are too young to really take much stock in me having to work on your birthday. And this was made worse by the fact that I absolutely had to get you to daycare during the day in order to get you your birthday gifts (I’d tried and failed to get them earlier in the week).
With this in mind, I thought I’d possibly take you out for breakfast, for pancakes, before taking you to daycare. But after you got up, you snuggled with me in the yellow chair in the living room for a while, preparing yourself to face the day. I told you it was your birthday, that you were now two years old, and I quietly sang to you. (This was a sweet little kick-off to an otherwise unsatisfying day.)
Soon, you asked to watch videos of yourself (as well as Mickey Mouse and Elmo, etc.) on my computer. Since it was your birthday, I indulged you this request for a while. Eventually, though, I told you the video you were about to watch would be the last, and when it ended, I snapped my laptop shut.
You launched into a raging tantrum, trying to open my laptop back up, sobbing “Again! Again!” endlessly as I tried to explain that I’d show you one more if only you’d let me get you dressed. This ploy worked not at all, and things ended in a couple of extended time outs. Oof. Not how I wanted the morning to go, for you or for me.
The hour got to be late, REALLY late, so you ended up eating dry Cheerios on the way to daycare. I dropped you off, ran over to the bakery so you and the others in your room could have little cookies to celebrate your birthday in the afternoon, and then ventured out in my car to find your birthday presents.
After tracking down a kitchen play set, and a mini-bouncey we could have outside at your party, I lugged the items home. My plan was to have some lunch and put together your new kitchen. Easier said than done! Though I’d expected the process to take an hour or so, there were a million pieces that had to be extracted from each other and put together. Three and a half hours later – I’m not exaggerating – your frustrated and exhausted mother stared at this tiny little kitchen set that I really, really hoped you would love.
And indeed, Joe reported that although you were a little sad when he picked you up (you asked for a hug while walking from daycare), he took you to Cowley’s for mac and cheese and brought you home, where you spotted the kitchen and happily played with it for 45 minutes straight before going to bed.
Meanwhile, I watched a nearly-four hour show that I couldn’t write about, then came home and asked for a full report from Joe. It hurt my heart to hear about you asking for a hug, but I was glad you enjoyed the fruits of my much-harder-than-expected labors.
I stayed up writing an article about some of the people who came to “Potter,” and the next morning, you were back at your kitchen, slaving away, as chronicled here.
Soon thereafter, we took you to the farmers’ market – where you wanted to sit and watch a live folk duo play forever – and the bakery to pick up your (amazing chocolate mousse) birthday cake. It had rained all week, but fortunately, the weather had cleared off just in time for your party, to which we’d invited friends, neighbors and family.
We’d struggled to find an automatic air pump to inflate the bouncey (the hardware store didn’t have what we needed, so we turned to our neighbors), but Joe managed to get it filled while you and I were both were napping in the afternoon. At around 4:30 p.m., everyone began arriving, and it was an absolutely lovely, albeit simple, celebration.
Joe pulled the grill out into the driveway so he could chat while cooking; you hung out in your bouncey, not jumping so much as holding court, wearing your green and pink tutu and patting your baby dolls (one of them new) to sleep; and adults ate while small kids of various ages ran around. It was wonderful, and we all had a great time celebrating your arrival into the world.
To be frank, Lily-bug, it’s all getting better as we go. You’re talking to us in full sentences now, you’re active, you love the zoo and playing outside – and we’re having the time of our lives, despite the challenges that come with parenting (see birthday morning description above).
The party invitation I sent out for the party specifically noted that we were celebrating the fact that Joe and I had managed to keep you alive another year, and it’s true. We’re not the most together parents (the candles on that cake would normally appear on a menorah – Hannukah candles were the only ones we had on-hand in the house), nor are we constantly (or ever) reading parenting guides. But we’re so excited to see you becoming an outgoing, playful, world-curious little girl.
Before you were even here, Joe and I were so busy that we felt like we were barely treading water in our own lives. And the nice thing about your appearance on the scene is that, although we now struggle even more to keep up the pace, you force us slow down. (When you walk somewhere with a toddler one day, you’ll understand.) And I think we both appreciate getting to see the world anew through your eyes.
Yes, the tantrums are difficult and sometimes maddening. But the charm of a no-special-occasion tutu and your voice singing “Skinnamarink” makes up for it. We love you, and we’re charmed by something new you do and say every day. We look forward to the years ahead with you, and can’t wait to see who you become.
Your hopefully adequate mommy