She turned six this week.
I tell myself I’m not going to cry when we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ and then I absolutely do every time. It’s obviously a happy occasion, I just get overwhelmed when I think about the day she was born. Don’t worry, I didn’t get any tears on the cake.
I learnt a lot that day. About love and fear and what it feels like when the epidural wears off after a c-section. (Like someone has set your stomach on fire, FYI). And I’ve been learning ever since. Not all of the lessons have been as painful, but they will stay with me as long as the scar.
I’ve written before about the things I’ve learnt about motherhood. Now I want to write down some of the things I’ve learnt from my daughter. Because though she probably doesn’t realise it, I learn lessons from her everyday. Here are four of them.
Perseverance pays off (if I don’t get in the way)
A few months ago, our daughter decided she wanted to do a cartwheel. I have nothing to offer in this arena except tales of childhood embarrassment, so I couldn’t give her any support beyond words.
But she was determined. Every night, she’d throw herself about on the landing, never letting a near miss with a door frame put her off. As time passed, she started looking more and more like a star rolling across the carpet.
And now she’s nailed it. Through sheer determination she’s become a little cartwheeler. She can do it because she decided she wanted to, and she worked hard to get there.
I love her for being such a lovely little case study for why you should never give up. She also taught me a valuable lesson about just letting her give things a go.
Because when she first mentioned it, one of my least favourable parenting instincts kicked in. I started assuring her that it didn’t matter if she couldn’t do it. She’d barely tried and my brain had already leapt to a negative outcome and started trying to protect us all from it. But what was I saying? That I didn’t want her to be sad that she couldn’t do it, so she should stop trying? This is not who I want to be – and it’s the opposite of what she needs.
I got two lessons in one there. 1. Keep trying and you will succeed in the end (even if you do fall face first into the carpet along the way). And 2. When she wants to try something new, be supportive and move out of the way. (And clear the landing of breakable items).
If you get the chance to have a good time, have a good time
One of my favourite sights is my daughter’s face at a birthday party when an entertainer is doing their thing. They’ll pretend they can’t find the birthday boy or girl, or that they think they’re turning 56 instead of six, and she will laugh her head off. She is 100% in the moment. I am blown away by her commitment to having the best time possible.
When I go to a party, I’ve spent so much time thinking up reasons to feel nervous about it that I’ve cut my ability to enjoy it in half before I’ve even arrived. I’ll find myself looking forward to it being over so that, best case scenario, I’ll have a nice memory to look back on. I think my daughter’s way might be better.
And it’s not just her approach to parties, but to getting the most out of a day. She has thrown my idea of what can be done with five minutes wide open. I’ll say there isn’t time to dance to Gangnam Style or to play Jenga before her bath and she will always prove me wrong. Unless we have a specific appointment or we will be late for school if we don’t leave RIGHT NOW, there is generally time for a touch more fun.
It’s hard being the one that’s in charge of the schedule – especially when you have two small children who have no idea what day or time it is. But it’s also handy to have them remind you to chill out when you can. I love her for teaching me this, and for being the reason our two year old son loves Korean pop so much.
Wear it today
If I buy my daughter a new top or a dress that she likes, she puts it on immediately. In 2020 she wore a gorgeous little bridesmaid’s dress to her auntie’s wedding, and then she spent weeks wearing it to the park, to nursery and wherever the hell she wanted because she loved it.
At first my instinct was to stop her – you can’t wear something that special to run around in the mud, can you? But then I thought – why not? Because she was going to grow out of it soon anyway, regardless of whether it got dirty.
Children don’t do saving stuff for best and I think they’ve got the right idea. Clothes were made for wearing. I look forward to throwing on some sequins for the supermarket shop because who says the cheese aisle isn’t worthy of a little sparkle.
Write more love letters
My daughter’s been learning to write for the last year or so and it’s been incredible to see her discover how to communicate on paper. She produces multiple notes, pictures and cards everyday, and what stands out to me is that they are packed with love.
She writes ‘I love you’ in pretty much every birthday card she sends to her friends.
She draws pictures of our family and surrounds us all with hearts.
She creates notes for her cousins to tell them she can’t wait for them to come and stay.
And she sits across from me in cafés, passes me secret folded messages, and beams when I scribble a reply.
She’s taught me that if you get the chance to express love on the page, you should take it, so here I am.
Our children come into this world to show us who we can be. We just have to try and find the time between endlessly hoovering the lounge, scraping food into the bin, and asking them to PLEASE STOP DRAWING ON THE SOFA to notice.
Perhaps one day she’ll get to read this blog and understand that she’s been the making of me. She’s taught me so much and we’re only six years in. I can’t wait to see what else she has in store.
Here’s to more years, more happy tears, and to as many notepads as we can fill with all our love.