Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reflections on Anna's Birthday

It's hard to believe my oldest daughter is 5 years old today. Everyone always says how fast kids grow up, but I think that only a mother can really understand how it feels to see a baby turn into a walking, talking young person. A woman-in-the-making. A future-mother.

Anna is a happy and joyful girl. She is a wonderful big sister to Holly and Jasmine and she is very responsible. She is eager to please her parents, and she is very good at following instructions, cleaning up and being helpful. Anna loves to be praised, and I worry a little that I have made her into a praise-junkie. But better to have 'too much' praise than to never acknowledge what a wonderful girl she is.

Anna is fairly cautious. She does not like to be in groups of people, and she would rather be in a group of adults than in a group of kids her own age. She is easily intimidated by kids who are loud, assertive and domineering. But she is no shrinking violet! She states her preferences and is not bullied. She is learning to accept that in public places like playgrounds other kids have the right to whatever they are doing, as long as they are not putting her in danger. She totally understands how to take turns and that sometimes she has to wait to get her own way. (These are skills she practices with Holly every day, of course.)

Anna still is very much a home-body. She is not interested in doing activities that require her to interact with an instructor and a bunch of other kids. She likes going to the playground and to other places as a family (such as the Zoo and the Museum). There is just no way that we could have sent her to Junior Kindergarten this year; it would have changed her into a different kid. I can just imagine the endless crying, and then the sullen acceptance, and then the distance and anger because of having totally lost any control in her life. What a nightmare. She is the exact opposite of a kid who would do well in the school system. It would destroy her.

Anna is very perceptive and a little bit conniving. One time while I was putting ponytails in her hair she changed her mind and wanted a barrette. I started to argue with her and then I said, "You're right Anna. It's your body. You can do whatever you want with it." Now she uses the line "It's my body. Why can't I do whatever I want with it?" when I ask her to stay out of the mud, or not to draw with marker all over her arms or to stop picking her fingernails. Sigh. At least she's not old enough to come home with a tattoo or a piercing. Not that those are things I would freak out about.

I'm a little worried about how much Anna loves her stuff. She is really into accumulating more and more and more. I've started to talk to her about how much better it is to do than it is to have, and she is starting to understand me. I recognized that it is not her fault that she has a lot of toys and books and dolls and other paraphernalia--it is the fault of her parents who buy it for her. One of the few arguments that Partner-Guy and I have about the parenting of our children is that he is always the one to say 'yes' whenever Anna asks for something. And he always seems to err on the side of 'more is better'. I understand that it makes him feel good to give things to the kids, and as he always says "It's only money" but I hate how materialistic Anna is already, and I hate how much work it is for me to have to take care of all her stuff!! I think if her dad had to spend all day picking up, sorting, putting away, finding, fixing and putting together her enormous collection of stuff, he might have a better understanding of why I want to put an end to the endless buying.

I am often faced with acknowledging that Anna will never be a baby again. So obvious, yet so hard for me to really accept and understand. My first baby will never again be my baby. I will never again comfort or nourish her at my breast, my baby who taught me about breastfeeding. I will never again scoop her up in my arms, or carry her in a sling, or walk around the house with her sleepy head on my shoulder. These are delights-of-time that end far to quickly.

Remembering those moments with Anna makes me cherish my moments with Jasmine even more, because she, too, is growing up so fast. For me, each new baby gives me the chance to re-baby all of my previous babies. Loving Jasmine is a way of re-loving Anna and Holly when they were each her age. And my next baby, not yet even come to life, will let me re-love and re-baby again. My mistakes with each baby are erased when I get it right with the next baby.

"Happy Birthday, Anna. Your authenticity is an inspiration to me. I admire and cherish your honesty, your experiences, your goals, your courage and your compassion. May you always have the strength to honour your joyful spirit, to engage only in what is worthwhile, and to

give and receive love without reservation. I am already so proud of you. Watching you grow for 5 years has taught me more about love, trust and honesty than any other experience of my life. I am delighted to be your mother for the duration."

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