Frances turns four today. Four years old; I can hardly wrap my mind around that number. I distinctly remember when she was born thinking along the lines, “November 11; what a great birthday. She’ll be four when it’s 11/11/11. Geez, what a long time from now.” Along with the Great Wall of China, my colossal naiveté could probably have been seen from outer space at that moment.
Frances came bounding into our lives at 4:56am on November 11, 2007 and Will and I have yet to recover. I still remember her full-blown scream the moment her face hit the cold air of the delivery room – pouting lips, powerful lungs, closed eyes. To this day, she still makes that same face when she is really upset about something (and a small part of me smiles inside when she does). But seconds after her birth, she quieted down, opened her eyes, and took in the world around her (as small as it was at that moment). She gazed into her father’s eyes, both neophytes equally amazed at meeting the other for the first time.
|First picture with Daddy, minutes after she was born|
I treasure those first days our small family had in the hospital. The rest of the world was a hazy background to my sheer joy and newfound emotion of unconditional love. I was not prepared to be so utterly infatuated with a seven pound wiggle worm, but overnight I understood every single strict rule and life lesson my own mother rooted in my brain. I will never forget when the nurse wheeled Frances into my room the morning we were leaving for home. I was alone when they brought her to me; she was swaddled tight in her striped hospital blanket, a soft, pink hat neatly placed on her beautiful, pear-shaped head. I took one look at her, bent over to kiss her smooth cheek and just cried. I couldn’t believe how much I loved her. She was at that moment a perfect being.
Of course, two days later I was crying for other reasons—I was totally overwhelmed and sleep-deprived; every two to three hours the equivalent of sandpaper was being rubbed on my nipples for 30 minutes; I could hardly sit down on my sore rear end; and Will had to go back to work. But a week or so later, Frances and I had found our own little routine and I could breathe out again. Nursing clicked (and I know I am lucky to be able to say that), my stiches healed up, and although there were moments I would have paid $1 million for eight consecutive hours of sleep, I was learning how to survive on less shut-eye. It is hard to convey to young parents (and I know I would have never understood had someone tried with me), but those first months with your first born are simply magical. And it will never be as wonderful, easy or calm as those early weeks.
Four years later? Our life is chaotic, methodical, slow-moving, lightning quick, cerebral, physical, crazy and normal all wrapped up in two adorable little smiles.
And four years later, Frances still takes my breath away. She is passionate, active, athletic, and opinionated – I have no idea where she gets that last one from. But in many ways she is the daughter that I never was—she is a girly-girl (a term that annoys me to death, but I must admit describes her perfectly) who insists on wearing a dress nearly every day; she loves to play with dolls and doll houses; she is exceptionally nurturing to George and anyone else who she thinks needs a little TLC; and perhaps most amazing (and most unlike me as a child) is that her biggest fear in life is disappointing me.
|Her "worried" look|
It is this last characteristic that has challenged me most as a mother because it is the easiest one to take for granted. To be the caretaker of your daughter’s happiness is a daunting job and I must constantly remind myself to take heed with heaping on too much guilt in my discipline because Frances takes every single remark to heart. The greatest compliment I can pay to Frances is to tell her she is a good girl (or a good friend or a good big sister or a good cousin…the list can go on and on as long as the word “good” is in front of the pronoun). Thankfully, such praise is easy to bestow because Frances really is a good girl—for me and for others when I am not around (the true test).
Frances is like a drug – the more you are around her the more you miss her when she’s gone. And I actually can’t take credit for this last observation primarily because I am with her more than anyone else--this is straight from my mother’s mouth. But I have seen first-hand how the people closest to her cannot stay away for more than a week without going into Frances withdrawal. They miss her giggle; they miss her imaginative stories about how all of her baby dolls and stuffed animals are related (“did you know that Puppy is Baby’s little brother?”); they miss her smile; and they miss her small arms squeezing them hard when they have to say goodbye.
I really have no idea what I did to deserve having a daughter like Frances - and yes, this question can mean different things on different days. But most days, 99% of the time, this observation is one of disbelief that my daughter is as wonderful, loving, good, sweet, clever and funny as I could ever have wished.
Now, if only her parents don’t completely botch it up.
Happy 4th Birthday, Frances! 11/11/11 – a date to remember.