On my daughter's 5th birthday, I reflect on how far we've both come

I remember her, so tiny and beautiful, sweet and new. And I remember me, innocent and hopeful, exhausted and adrift. Something changed in me the day she was born, but I didn't know that yet.

On my daughter's 5th birthday, I reflect on how far we've both come

She turns five this month. My sweet, little baby girl will be five.

I have all the typical parental platitudes: Where did the time go? I can't believe she's FIVE! Remember when she was just born? Took her first step? Roared like a lion all the time? (Okay, so that one's making a comeback.)

When she rocketed into this world, I had no idea about anything. I had no idea who she would become, or who I would become, or even that I would transform into someone else.

Looking at pictures of that day produces the same nostalgic emotion in me, directed at both of us—Awwww, I remember that girl.

I remember her, so tiny and beautiful, sweet and new. And I remember me, innocent and hopeful, exhausted and adrift. Untethered. Something changed in me the day she was born, but I didn't know that yet. And I certainly didn't know what or why or how I would get to the other side.

Five years. Five years of sleepless nights and intense love. Five years of laughs and kissing booboos and reading books.

Five years.

She's growing up. So much changes by five. I'm heading into this year pretty certain that this is the last year of being able to see any remaining baby-ness in her. I've watched it start to fade faster than ever, these past few months.

I don't want to head into five being overly sentimental or sad. I am fiercely proud of my girl. For the way she embraces love, creativity and adventure. For how she's traversed the past few years of preschool and new friends and a little brother who is growing up fast and requiring more and more of our attention. For how quick she is to hug and laugh.

She's independent, stubborn and strong-willed. She's curious, open and loving. And she was trusted to me. I am awed. Whatever I did to earn this girl with the beautiful, magical, wonderful spirit, I will never stop trying to live up to the privilege.

And now, I wonder about myself.

I've also been trusted with my own beautiful, magical, wonderful spirit. For a little while, I stopped considering that a privilege. I stopped considering it at all. I think this is the point where danger lurks in motherhood, the point where we put ourselves on a shelf and go all-in on our kids' lives.

I also think it's okay to do that. In some ways, it's required. But we need a tether, something attached to dry land that can pull us back when we wade out too deep.

The Stevie Smith poem echoes in my head, when I think about the darkest, deepest days: "I was much too far out all my life/ And not waving but drowning."

How many mamas do we see waving who are actually drowning? So many, I think. We haven't figured out how to be moms in this do-it-all era. We're getting there, but so many of us are untethered.

I would do anything for my kids, and if it came down to it I know that I would cast aside my dreams in favor of theirs. I just can't think of a scenario where it would come down to that. I think that both can coexist.

I think I can give my kids my best and still water the garden of my own desires. I think I have to. I know I want to show them that. I want them to see me happy, fulfilled. I want them to believe that anything is possible, not just because I told them it's possible for them but because I showed them that it was possible for me.

I love them with a fierceness, and so I have learned to be fierce about my love for myself, too.

My daughter turns five very soon, and we'll celebrate her. But in the back of my head, I'll be celebrating me, too. So maybe it's really this: We turn five this month.

For me, five years of motherhood. Feeling tethered, finally.

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