Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sassy Little Sweetheart

Yesterday I had jury duty, for the first time ever. Aside from the babysitting issues, I wouldn't mind serving on a jury. But I was so afraid I would get stuck in a trial and not be able to be with my Mattie today, on her third birthday. I lucked out, and the case ended up getting resolved. So today, me and my baby girl are hanging out together while Chris is at work and the big kids are at school. I tried to convince  her to let me hold her all day and pretend she's still a baby, but she resolutely proclaimed, "I a BIG girl!" My brain knows she is a big girl, but my heart, it doth protest.

Mathilda, at three, is a whirlwind of emotions and moods. She is sassy, spunky, and sweeter than sweet. Tough and glowering one moment, and insisting that she is a ballerina and showing off a perfect twirl the next. She exasperates me with her (let's be honest) fierce crabbiness. And the next minute, she's just as likely to melt my heart as she jumps up and down and shouts, "Mama, I love you so much! Thank you for being my mama!"

We found out about Mathilda's impending arrival during one of the most stressful and trying times of our marriage. We had a lot going on. But I believe there is only one way to welcome the news of a new baby, and that is with joy. Although I always wanted to have four children, I never really thought it would happen. So in spite of everything, we embraced our happy news. The timing seemed all wrong, but now I've come to realize that the right time to have a baby is when you have a baby.

From her very first days, Mattie has tried my very last ounce of patience. I remember being in the hospital, exhausted from child birth, and just sobbing because she would not latch on and eat, even though she was clearly starving. That's pretty much how things continued to go. Before long she got the nursing thing down (and never, no exaggeration, accepted a bottle feeding), but it took her much longer to ease into a sleeping routine that the rest of us could live with. Like, 18 months longer. Just when I thought I couldn't take one more second, I would look at my baby, content to be held in my arms, and realize how lucky I was and how fleeting this time would be. With three kids under my belt already, I knew there would come a time when I'd miss holding my baby, even at the expense of sleep and sanity. And that day has come.

I no longer have a baby. I have a little girl who will be starting preschool in a few months. She walks and talks and uses the potty, and she doesn't want to be held so much anymore. She'd rather hang upside down off the couch, hop around the house like a frog, or practice her ballerina moves. I love her independence, I really do. It is joyful watching her grow; physically and emotionally. And her confidence grows with every growth spurt. Each stage (I can only speak through age 10 and a half) has its own special attributes to admire and appreciate. But as Mathilda moves onto each new one, I can't help but grieve a tiny bit for the one she just left behind. The baby days are officially a part of my past. I will never be the mama of a baby again.

I am utterly head over heels in love with my little red-headed, blue-eyed sass pot. I love her dimples and her curls. I love the ballet shoes that she insists on wearing 24/7. I love the way she climbs on our old dog Cleo and tries to ride her like a pony. I love watching her on the swings, and the way she is moved to dance the moment she hears a song she likes. I love when she runs at me full force to hug me with all of her might. I even love how she stamps her foot and shouts, "Never!" like a vexed socialite every time she's asked to do something she'd rather not do. I love her passion, and I love that she's mine. Because even though she is undoubtedly a big girl now, she will always, always be my baby.

Happy 3rd Birthday, sweet Mattie.

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