It’s nearly impossible not to sound like a cliche when you talk about when your first child was born. So I’m going to start this by saying that I’m not even going to try to avoid the cliches. Take a moment. Prepare yourself.
I was 23 when 9lb, 21in Max entered the world.
23, just shy of a year married, tired from labor, shaky from an epidural, puffy and make-up free. I must have looked all of 16 with this roly-poly sleepy-eyed baby with fat thighs and light whips of hair wedged in my arms as I lay on my back.
This brand new person who was about to change my life forever had been handed to me, after being quickly weighed and cleaned with pink and blue hospital hat on his head, while I was still in the hospital bed. It almost seems too casual of an introduction. We stared at each other best we could. His eyes not yet developed enough to see more than 12 inches from his face, and mine half closed because I could not seem to keep them open. “You better teach me how to do this” I thought “because I have no idea what I’m doing.”
When I look back I am amazed by did not know at that time. The truth in that moment.
As parents, we think of ourselves as the teachers. We teach our children what is right and wrong. Not to hit, not to bite, how to make friends. First steps, first words, potty training, and shoe tying. We talk about weather, we talk about friendships, sing the alphabet, we answer the who’s, what’s, where’s and when’s the best that we can. When questions get complicated we choose to lie, or fib or tell half-truths because we see ourselves as the judge on what our children are ready for. We teach them consciously through lessons and we teach them by our actions when we don’t think they are listening or watching.
But the lessons offered by our children are so much more powerful.
The moment Max was born, I became a different person. A mother. A new part of myself that did not exist just moments before. And by following his lead, I became a parent. The best book, the most popular parenting guru or current philosophy didn’t teach me how to be a parent. Max did. We were in it together. Sometimes I was good at it, and sometimes I failed, but he was a patient and persistent teacher.
Maybe it’s because he knows he’s stuck with me.
There have been life lessons that extended beyond parenting, lessons about compassion, depth of love, patience, what we can control and can’t (possibly the most humbling lesson so far) and the sheer joy that can be found in little moments.
There have been moments of self-doubt where he caused me to rethink what I had known previously to be true. His depth, thoughtfulness and insight has surprised and amazed me. His view of the world has inspired me.
As Max gets older, I tend to lose sight of the daily lessons. I lose the “we’re in this together” feeling I felt so strongly those first few days, months and years and I begin to think of myself again as the expert. I close my eyes to those lessons and go on parenting autopilot. Get up, get dressed, get kids dressed, get Max on the bus, head to work, come home, cook dinner, struggle though bedtime and sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But just as I am chugging along on autopilot, feeling like the expert, he’ll say something that causes me to pause, or a birthday rolls around. And once again I am transported to that moment in a hospital bed, staring (or trying to stare) at Max, Max doing his best to focus on me and I’m reminded how much Max has taught me, and how much I still have to learn. But to learn them, I have to turn off the autopilot, surrender the expertise and be open to the lessons that Max and Hudson are ready to teach.
So Happy Birthday Max,
When you were born I became a whole new person. Regardless of whether you are 6 or 36, with each birthday I will be reminded of how you changed me. Keep those life lessons coming, I have a lot to learn.