Holidays with my husband’s family are insane. He is one of seven. He is the baby of the family. He is a twin.
When our daughter was born last year on March 23, 2011, we filled an entire waiting room with people anticipating her arrival. The days that followed her birth were filled with visitors, meals, and lots of gifts.
This is how my husband’s family is they do everything big. Holidays, birthday parties, and everything in between. This is not to say that we do not appreciate our extended family, we do, we just tend to be a bit more reserved and are trying to do things a bit differently.
At Christmas time this year my husband and I decided we would NOT go overboard with our new daughter and asked family members not to get her anything, after all she was only 9 months old. We also have 4 other children between us and they are quite accustomed to getting lots of gifts. They also tend to get spoiled because they come from divorced families.
We want to encourage things to be different with our daughter. The child we share together. We have come to realize that children especially babies, don’t need tons of toys. What they do need is time, attention, and love. After all most kids I know at younger ages prefer the boxes and the wrapping paper, not the stuff inside.
So we sent out our usual email that circulates for family Pollyanna and made mention that along with trying our best to keep it a Made in America Christmas, we would also like to ask that everyone refrain from buying the Little Flower anything. If they could not resist we asked for no battery operated toys of any kind, no plastic toys (unless it’s recycled~there’s a fabulous company that makes toys out of recycled milk containers & they are Made in USA), nothing made outside of the USA, and if at all possible that it be naturally derived and organic.
To most people this is odd. Crazy. Too crunchy, but this is our family and our ideals on how we would like to raise our daughter.
We have been through this with our older children and I have seen first hand what over spending on frivolous things can do to a marriage & the children involved. I wished I had the guts that I do now to be more outspoken about this, but I was young and easily swayed, I over spent and thought my kids needed the latest and greatest videos, toys, and gadgets now almost 14 years later I realize just how wrong I was.
Kids learn to expect things.
I am not saying I never splurge or there aren’t moments when I may buy an item without checking to see where it’s made, but I do my best to buy only what we need and to support American jobs in the process. We are trying to teach our children the same values. We typically leave extra spending for Christmas and Birthdays. We also stick to a very tight budget. If I told you what it was per child, you may be blown away. (Perhaps that will be a blog post for another time) Now that our children are older and we have such a large extended family we have monthly birthday get togethers. This means we celebrate every family member’s birthday for that month. We also started this year with a new idea, we offered our boys the option of an activity of their choice, or a gift. (once again within a budget)
Which leads me to this…
In two weeks Little Flower will turn one years old. My husband and I talked it over and decided NOT to have a first birthday party. We have been there done that with our other kids. We have asked them if they recall the elaborate birthdays they had when they were younger and not one of them can. Heck I can’t even remember. What I do remember is the weeks leading up to the party, agonizing over the theme, menu, entertainment, party favors, waiting on RSVP’s, for a final head count because my family sucks at that, and being terrified I would run out of food. I also remember the stress and finances it took to throw such a party and believe me on my ex-husband’s teacher salary it was tough.
So we decided to just add the Little Flower to the March birthday get-together celebration and call it a day. However, the peanuts in the gallery are talking and rumor has it that certain family members are shocked. We also composed an email and asked that everyone refrain from buying her any gifts. Financially we know things are tight for everyone, and after all she is only a year old. It makes no difference to her whether people buy her something or not. We would rather see the money spent on babies or children who are truly in need or have a donation made to a charity in her name.
I know. You are probably thinking this is just the silliest thing you have ever heard. No birthday party, no gifts, donate money to charity instead?? My husband and I believe our family and our daughter are very blessed. We feel its important to teach her from the start that life is not all about receiving. I saw an episode of Oprah once that touched me deeply. The boy’s parents chose to celebrate his birthday every year by doing some type of service. He learned from the time he was a small boy that his birthday was about giving back to others. I would like my daughter to grow up realizing the same. Children live what they learn. I recall another episode with Bette Midler (and I use this example often) where she was speaking about her daughter and when Oprah asked her about spoiling her and buying her whatever she wanted because, after all Bette could afford it, she answered, “No I do not buy her whatever she wants nor do I spoil her. In fact she only has a few pair of shoes, toys, and other things. How else will she learn to have a favorite anything?” That episode was over 10 years ago and it has stuck with me all this time.
We are trying to do similar things with our children. We teach them about people who are less fortunate. We donate food or our time serving durning Thanksgiving. We adopt a less fortunate family at Christmas and we tell our children it’s about giving more than receiving.
I promised myself I would do better this go round as a mommy.
I promised to be more present in every moment. I promised I wouldn’t take gobs of pictures because when my other children were small it seemed like I was behind a camera more than I was actually participating in their lives.
I promised myself that this time I wouldn’t allow my baby to watch any television. I already raised two babies, who watched television, and their brains weren’t fried, but this time around I wanted to try to do things a little differently.
I promised myself I would slow down. Enjoy the time I got to spend nursing and cuddling with my sweet little flower and not worry so much about the laundry or the dishes or the dust collecting on the furniture.
I promised myself that I would relish every second because I know first hand what its like to wake up one day and have your baby no longer small enough to fit in your lap.
Last night I held my little girl a little longer than I usually do, even though in the back of my mind things were nagging at me. My to do list called. I stroked her hair, kissed her chubby cheeks, and I rocked her just until her eyes got heavy enough to fade off to dream land. As I gently got up and placed her down to sleep she raised her little hand to my face, began softly petting my cheek, and cooed the words “ahhh, ahhh, ahhh!” as she passed her tiny open palm down the side of my face several times in a row. My heart melted as I stood lingering over her and soaked up the tender moment. I kissed her once more and said goodnight.
I began to walk out of the room making another promise. Don’t ever forget this moment I told myself. It seems simple enough and perhaps to some people not that big of a deal, but to me it was huge.
You see just yesterday my little flower and I were playing and as little babies sometimes do, in a moment of excitement, she smacked my face. So in order to teach her not to “hit” I took ahold of her hand and stroked my cheek with it. As I did this I said, “ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, gentle” and ran her hand down my face three times.
Last night she showed me what she learned.
Next month she will turn a year old and already things are going by too quickly.
I can hear my baby snoring over the monitor. I sleepily snuck out of bed and down the stairs to try to catch a few moments of mommy time.
I listen to her breathing. Even as she sleeps I am pre-occupied with thoughts of her.
I cannot believe our little flower will be a year old next month.
The journey of her actually being in our lives wasn’t the most difficult, but wasn’t the easiest either.
When she was first born I never gave it a second thought. Joy filled my heart where there was an emptiness and I began my journey into motherhood once again after a very long vacation from newborn babies.
Only this time it was a girl. *still brings the biggest grin to my face*
If you’ve read anything else I have written you know between my husband and myself we collectively have four boys 11~14 years of age.
This sweet little angel is our first together.
Her first days and months were heaven. Her first smile was at 2 days old and I swear it was not gas. I relished each feeding, diaper change, and little whimper she made. To this day she rarely cries. I attribute my giddy attitude about diaper changes and everything in between to the fact that I am older and collected many years of uninterrupted sleep before she came along.
I have been nursing her for a year and she is still going strong. Playfully I refer to her as the “milk vampire” because up until about 10 months she still refused to try solids and rarely slept through the night, in fact she still wakes at least once sometimes twice
to suck my blood nurse.
She has the most adorable little rolls I have ever seen on a baby, enough to start her own little bakery and I am in love with every crease, fold, and dimple that graces her soft little body. When I sing to her or music is playing she tries to mimic the sound. When I say “kisses” she leans into me with her mouth wide open, drool spilling out over her bottom lip, and presses her face against mine. She has a gentle spirit yet I sense a strength about her already, which I am hoping will serve her well with four older brothers.
She waves bye-bye, claps her hands, raises her arms above her head when we yell, “TOUCH DOWN, GIANTS!” (we have some NY fans in this house)
She also makes the best sniffy faces.
However, one day it hit me. Out of nowhere while cradling here in my arms as she nursed. Not that I didn’t think about it. I had. It consumed me for nine, almost ten months, until I gave birth to her and could physically hold her. Just like the doctor said it would.
I almost didn’t have the pleasure of knowing this sweet little creature. She who has my heart in the palm of her chubby dimpled hands. She who has my eyes and her daddy’s wonderful sense of humor and beautiful smile. Our lives together almost failed to exist. All those moments late at night that I pulled her into bed and nursed her to grow and thrive, sniffing her soft downy hair, and becoming intoxicated with the mere sent of her.
My heart ached for months trying to understand the loss we were dealt, even while she was forming into life within me. Now almost a year later the love that oozes from my every pore when I see her has softened the pain. Its not to say sometimes I don’t wonder who that baby would have been. But in those moments of what if…
I pause look into those beautiful little eyes and tears fill my own. Not to know her as I do now would be unfathomable.
At least twice a month I meet up with a younger friend of mine and we walk around a paved path that stretches 3.7 miles surrounding Cooper River. We have certainly logged some miles through sun, wind, rain, warm, and bitter cold temperatures all in the name of staying fit?!
I love that this friend rarely settles for my suggestions to meet up for coffee or lunch. She’s an avid runner, triathlete, and gym rat (In fact I used to see her every morning at 6 am for years at our local gym before we ever became running buddies & friends). Even when I was nine months pregnant she would shoot me a text and I would lace up my
running walking shoes and we would hit the pavement. Certainly if the trees, shrubs, and geese that occupy the spaces surrounding the river could talk we would both have A LOT of explaining to do.
You see although we would both probably rather have a latte from Starbucks and a side of banana chocolate chip pound cake to go with it (ok I won’t speak for her, but this is my struggle because I pass 2 on the way). We meet up in the same parking lot to walk the same path and neither of us thinks twice about it. Even if we are sleep deprived. She is a nurse, who clocks crazy shifts and I have a baby who is currently teething and has yet to sleep through the night.
Sometimes I get her text and I want to answer back with an excuse on why I am too tired to meet up. Other times I am overjoyed to hear the distinct tone that chimes when I receive her message because I know despite what’s currently going on in my life this is a constant I can count on. This is a part of my month that I look forward to. It’s so much more than just exercise for my body.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that she is younger than me. We have many things in common, but have very different backgrounds, I am divorced with 2 children and now remarried with step children and a new baby. She is still single (although after today’s walk her status may be changing *YAY*) Oops the geese might be talking! However we have created a bond. She is not someone I see or talk with regularly yet I consider her to be a very dear friend.
As I drove away from our walk today I considered the many conversations we have had. Wind at our backs, side by side, striding our way with one foot in front of the other. Now I push a jogging stroller, when a year ago I waddled with a babe inside me. We’ve discussed everything from relationships to our favorite running shoes. We have laughed so hard we’ve almost peed our pants and we have silently walked next to one another with tears streaming down our faces, but through it all we walk.
I am grateful for such a friend who encourages me to stay fit, but more importantly thankful to have a friend by my side to walk through the seasons of life. Thanks @unachicka7
Who are the special friends or people in your life? What things or activities do you do together? What bonds beyond these activities do you share?