Hannah + 12

My husband Jon and I are both oldest children. All of our parents are oldest children, as well. This means that when our daughter Hannah was born she was not only our first child, she was also the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild on all sides.

She was, in short, The Baby. She immediately became the first direct descendent in a decade or two, and the first niece and nephew for our siblings. Her baby pictures tell the story.

The past 12 years have flown by. The Baby has been joined by one younger brother, five first cousins, and a whole bunch of second cousins (there are at least eight, but I may be forgetting someone). She is not so little anymore. The tiny 5lb 4oz bundle who arrived six weeks ahead of schedule is now a middle schooler with dreams and ambitions and friends and opinions that she can – and does – articulate. She is a tween who has her own Instagram account and communicates with me via text messages. She has grown from The Baby to The Babysitter and she has the Red Cross certificate to prove it.

This feels like a big deal to me. I remember being 12 years old. And not in the way I remember being six years old – with a sort of fuzzy around the edges nostalgia. I remember the angst of being 12, the social drama, the projects I worked on in school, the boys I had crushes on, the sleepovers at my friends’ houses, the bad poetry I wrote, getting my first job as a babysitter, and on and on and on. I was younger and more earnest, but I was me. I really came into myself that year in so many ways, and I see that happening for Hannah right now. And even as I’m tickled pink I’m overcome by the bitter sweetness of parenting.

I’m working myself out of a job. It’s both fantastic and heartbreaking. But it was always meant to be this way, and I knew that, and I can only embrace it. I actually do embrace it. Because this person that my daughter has become is pretty freaking amazing.

Happy birthday to my girl.

Happy birthday Hannah

Jacob + 8 years and 4 days

On Saturday my son Jacob turned eight years old.

Just like every year on one of my children’s birthdays, I once again became ridiculously sentimental. How did this happen? How did my chubby-legged little baby turn into this big kid who can ride a bike and read chapter books and calculate three times 24 in his head? It’s baffling, which is strange because I am the one who was there every step of the way.

But, you know, there’s something about birthdays that makes you stop and take stock and realize just how much growing your kid has done. When you slow down for a second you can really see just how much change has happened during the past year, and the past eight years.

So what is my eight year old son like? He’s very good-natured. As a testament he completely took it in stride when his birthday present was broken and had to be returned to the store. He loves to tell a joke – in fact, maybe a little bit too much. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s still committed to his dream of one day being a YouTuber. He likes to play video games and he recently learned to ride a bike. When he grows up he wants to be a chemist so that he can do experiments and make things explode. He’s played baseball for the last three years and he is a good hitter. He’s finally tall enough to ride the big roller coaster at the amusement park and he’s almost as much of a daredevil as his big sister.

During the past year I was at school full-time earning my teaching degree. Now I am out the other side and looking forward to a great year spent with my eight-year-old. If things go to plan there will be family vacations and school breaks that we can enjoy together. We bought family ski passes for the winter, so we will all hit the slopes together. I want to take advantage of this time and make memories while I can. If the past eight years have taught me anything it’s that time flies, and this will all be over before I know it.

Happy birthday to my boy!

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Me + 40

You guys, today I turned 40 years old.

40. Years. Old.

It sounds significant to me because I’m entering a new decade of my life. But also because I remember my mom turning 40. I remember my mother-in-law turning 40, for Pete’s sake. I had already been dating her son for two years at the time. Yes, Jon and I were young, but still.

birthday selfie 40Looking back over the past few years, it seems that I celebrated my birthdays by making lists of what I would do at 35, 36, 37 and 38. And then last year I marked the occasion by making a list of what I would not do at 39. Ironically, I did many of the things I said I would not. For instance my hair is significantly longer than it was at this time last year and I started writing in a journal when I said I would not grow my hair out or start journaling. So I’m not much better at honouring slacker non-goals than aspirational actual goals.

Luckily, I’m also old enough to not really care anymore.

I spent my 30s in the trenches of motherhood. On my 30th birthday I had a one-year-old. In the past 10 years I birthed a second baby, left my engineering job, changed a lot of diapers, worked at home as a freelance writer, agonized over childcare, and found my calling. There was a lot of soul-searching, a lot of time spent doing things for other people, and a lot of waiting for the right timing.

While I’m having some existential angst at being officially middle-aged, this birthday is also celebratory for me. I’m wrapping up my teaching degree and applying for jobs. I have an interview next week. If my 30s were about babies and laying groundwork, my 40s are shaping up to be about enjoying the fruits of all that labour. I worked hard. My kids are now two really cool people who can do lots of things for themselves. I have more time to do the things I want to do. And I am realizing my goal of becoming a teacher, which makes me so very happy.

It feels good to be able to look back on the past year – and the past decade – and see how far I’ve come. It also feels good to be excited about where I am going next.

This is me at 40. I am happy to be here.

Hannah + 11 years and 8 days

This is one of those posts that I never know how to write.

On February 19, my daughter Hannah turned 11 years old. Somehow, this tiny little baby:

hannah birthday

Turned into this young woman:

hannah birthay

What do you say about your first-born child? Of course she’s amazing. Of course she’s beautiful. Of course she’s smart, and talented, and funny. And when I look at her I feel so full of mother-love that it grabs hold of my heart and squeezes until the emotion spills out of my eyes and runs down my face.

And what do you say about an 11-year-old girl? Her story hasn’t been my story to tell for a number of years now. She is fully her own person, with her own ideas and preferences and friends and hobbies. She doesn’t need me to speak for her. More than that, it’s inappropriate for me to speak for her. So I don’t, so much, anymore. But of course I think about her constantly. Of course I mentally catalogue all of the milestones, big and small, as best I can. I wish I could do more, but it goes so fast.

So. Freaking. Fast.

Here are the things I can say.

Hannah is an artist who is always drawing. She is in grade five. She started tae kwon do last April and she is fierce. She was one of the MCs at her school Christmas concert, and she sang a solo in the church Christmas pageant. She did a year of tap dance and when she is feeling antsy she does tap steps. Every night I read out loud to her before she goes to sleep. She loves our cat. She tolerates her brother.

Eleven years ago she made me a mother, and every day since then she has made me a better person. And I am proud of the person she has become.

Happy (belated) birthday, Hannah!

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Jacob + 7 years and 6 days

Last Thursday my son Jacob turned seven.

Seven!

Seven year olds climb trees and ride scooters and read comic books. Seven year olds have skinny legs and knobbly knees and gap-toothed grins. Seven year olds go to school and swimming lessons and baseball practice. Seven year olds are not babies. Although sometimes they are still your baby.

Even so, this birthday isn’t hitting me as hard as his last one. Seven doesn’t really feel so much older than six. Grade two doesn’t really feel so much more sophisticated than grade one. Maybe I got all the tears and bitterness out last year, and this year is only sweetness. Maybe. I suspect the more likely reason is that I’m enjoying having older kids. I am really grooving on the increased independence (for them) and freedom (for me). I like that my son can wipe his own butt and choose his own clothes and pack his own backpack. Watching him become a more fully-formed person is cool.

So what is my seven year old son like? He’s funny. He loves to tell a joke and he loves to make people laugh. He is still a little bit scared of the dark. He is always delighted when he receives a gift. He gives me the silent treatment when he’s angry. He’s friendly with everyone. He is super into Minecraft. He dreams of being a scientist. He tells me that when he’s old enough he’ll be a YouTuber. He is better at math than his big sister, although he is much less coordinated than she is and definitely cannot touch her artistic abilities.

Sometimes I look at Jacob and just feel gobsmacked. Can this person really have grown inside me? Is this really the tiny baby I gave birth to seven years ago? Did I really have any part in creating this person? It boggles the mind and even though I was there I don’t really know how it happened. I guess I am always too busy living in the moment to observe the journey from point to point to point. I can’t remember how I got here, but I know what I need to do now that I am here, and it probably involves cleaning a mess.

Because parenting? It is a beautiful mess.

So a happy belated birthday to my son, one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

What I Will Not do This Year

Today is my 39th birthday. Unlike previous years, this birthday actually didn’t trigger a massive existential crisis. This feels sort of ironic given the fact that I am sort of betwixt and between at the moment, cooling my heels until I start school full-time in the fall. Maybe that’s why – I’m letting myself off the hook because I know I have a plan, and I don’t have to do anything to make that plan happen right now. Whatever the cause, it’s lovely.

birthday selfie

Birthday Selfie

For the past few years I’ve made birthday resolutions. The idea was to set some intentions and bring new things into my life that I didn’t have the year before. Given that I’m in a different frame of mind this year, though, I’ve decided to switch things up. Here is what I plan not to do with this final year of my thirties.

What I Will Not do at 39

  • Eat corn.
  • Ruminate on my various shortcomings, big and small, real and imagined.
  • Go skydiving.
  • Stop loving my still-newish-to-me minivan.
  • Start drinking coffee.
  • Have a baby.
  • Slow my rate of tea collecting.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Lose my mind (I hope).
  • Write a novel.
  • Keep track of my weight.
  • Join the circus.
  • Finally manage to do the splits.
  • Start a business.
  • Stop laughing.
  • Give up chocolate.
  • Move to another house.
  • Let my hair grow out.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Dye my hair.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Give up on my goal of becoming a teacher.

You know what the best part of this list is? I think I can manage not to do all of it. What about you? What would you like to not do more of?

Hannah + 10 years and 12 days

There were a few things that I gave up when I became a mother:

  • Bathroom privacy
  • Adequate sleep
  • The ability to leave the house in less than three minutes
  • A rigid adherence to schedules

It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m sitting here writing about my daughter’s 10th birthday almost two weeks after the big day. This is just how I roll these days.

It’s been a decade, now, since Hannah made her surprise entrance into the world six weeks ahead of schedule. The fear over having a preemie has long subsided. So has my desire to maintain my pre-baby identity. I’m okay with letting a blog post slide.

Of course, for all that I’ve given up as a mom, I’ve gotten so much more. I’m able to let go of who I used to be because the person I am today is actually a whole lot better. I’m more flexible, more pragmatic, less selfish and less judgmental. Those early years broke me down and built me back up, a new and improved person. I might not be as chipper and fresh-faced, but looks can be deceiving. I am proud of my children, and I am proud of the person that I have become thanks to them.

Of course, the changes never end when you’re a parent. At my daughter’s party, surrounded by nine and ten year olds, I watched as the children danced around the arts centre to songs I didn’t recognize. They knew all the words, and they sang them out loud while they chased the little circles of light reflected from the disco ball. It was supposed to be a theatre party, but the highlight was definitely having a personal DJ who played every song they requested … provided they were age-appropriate, of course.

As Hannah’s age turns to double digits, her connection to pop culture is growing stronger while mine is waning. She is entering the world and has a strong thirst for staying current. I honestly can’t bother anymore. It feels like I’m passing the baton. Here, you keep track of what clothes I should wear and what music I should listen to and what movies I should see. And I will do my best to let you express yourself without passing judgment. Deal?

Soon Hannah will not be my little girl anymore. But right now, as she settles into tweendom, she still expresses glee over testing her skills against a boy at fencing class. She still tells me I am cozy. She still insists I sing her a lullaby every night. She still asks me for advice about pretty much everything. And so I watched her dancing with her friends and soaked up the moment, knowing that like all things in parenting, this will end long before I’m ready. At each step I memorize as much as I can. I don’t want to forget what this was like. Please don’t let me forget.

I know I will forget. See: sleep deprivation.

The first decade of parenting has been a wild ride. When all is said and done, it’s been amazing. I would do it all over again without any hesitation. I can’t wait to see what the next decade holds, for me and for my daughter.

happy birthday 10 year old

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