Happy 5th Birthday, Laurel!

Laurel turned 5 today and we went out to breakfast at the Square Cafe. She ordered babycakes, of course, because she always does. Five year olds know what they like.

I especially enjoy Laurel at this age with the contrast of Marko, who is nearly two. He doesn't talk much, other than to name objects, and is utterly impossible to reason with. If he doesn't want to hold your hand when crossing the street, he collapses into a toddler puddle, leaving you to drag his limp body as onlookers tsk and impatient drivers inch close to the crosswalk. Laurel, on the other hand, can understand consequences, even things that are somewhat abstract. She can imagine scenarios other than the one we are in. Plus she has five years of experience to draw upon. She holds your hand without asking because she knows which intersections are particularly dangerous and that collisions can and do happen.

We are storytellers in this house, so our adventures are told and retold and Laurel knows them. "Remember when I was 2 and we drove to Key West and I ate a key lime pie on a stick and it was a DISASTER?!" she says gleefully.

I do. And it was a sticky mess. I paid a hundred dollars to get the car detailed after that trip. I remember the first time she went down a slide by herself and bouncing all night on a yoga ball to keep her from screaming and the way her newborn fingers clutched mine the day she was born and I knew her name was Laurel for all of the Laurelness we saw in her eyes that day. I remember her standing on a stool in the kitchen with M, kneading dough. I remember her first day of school last year, and this year, and how she suddenly turns shy and standoffish at the oddest moments.

This year she ran her first race (placed third) and tried ballet (hated it).  It feels appropriate that she's off at school by herself right now, instead of with me, because this is the direction her childhood is going. She has her own gigs now. She spends six and a half hours a day in the company of peers and adults she is not related to. When we go to the park to play she can roam far from me, without me worrying too much. She can go as high into a tree as she can without assistance and it doesn't bother me.

Her favorite things are My Little Ponies, climbing on just about anything, writing stories and watching Wild Kratts on tv. She loves all things sparkly and pink and purple. She does chores around the house and goes to bed easily. She still crawls into my lap for stories or when she just needs a snuggle. When she is unhappy, she is able to clearly articulate why and offer a solution.

And for Laurel to be five means I have been a mom for five years. Half a decade. A blink of an eye, but also, that's a lot of bandaids and sleepless nights and patty-cake. I like being a mom, but I don't really like talking about it anymore. The first couple of years I suppose I didn't really know what the hell I was doing, so it made sense to obsess over car seats and introducing solids and sleep training. I felt bad and guilty a lot of the time because I would try these things and they didn't work the way they were supposed to. Nonetheless, we muddled through and everyone is still alive and well, although I think that can be mostly chalked up to luck, vaccines and abundant supplies of potable water.

The core work of mothering now feels more like building relationships. Here is the thing that nobody really talked to me about before I had kids....you are inviting real human beings with distinct personalities into your life. You don't know who those people are going to be, although they will hold some of your most vexing attributes (as well as your most charming ones, no doubt). So of course, a big part of mothering is getting to know your own kids and building a really secure and loving relationship with them.

But what I didn't understand until Laurel started to talk about her feelings and personal struggles was that all those other relationships you have really, really matter. Your kids are watching how you navigate conflict with your spouse and parents. They see who you spend time with and what you talk about and how you support each other. They learn how to cultivate....or how to terminate. They see you mess up, and repair it, or neglect it. If I watch them closely, I can see what I am unconsciously teaching my kids because children learn what they live. They carry it out on the playground and with each other.

So, I guess after 5 years, that is what has been most challenging for me, but also what I'm most grateful for.

Happy Birthday, Laurel!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You did, and are doing a fantastic job!!!!
love, aunt laine