Put a Bib on It


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First Birthday

first-birthdayWe just celebrated the traditional big milestone in a child’s life, the first birthday. Like many first-time parents, I felt there was a lot of stress to make this a special day, but at the same time, I don’t remember my first birthday or many birthdays growing up. My birthday always landed near a special weekend and was a busy time for our family. I don’t want this for my son—birthdays are a day of celebrating getting older and thanking and celebrating his mother as well. It doesn’t have to be a national holiday, but it does need to be special.

For this birthday, we knew it would be more of an event for the parents. We decided on setting some traditions to move forward. Since my wife is from China and our son was born in the year of the lamb, we had some toy lambs as part of our theme and hope to continue this tradition as he grows older. We decorated the house with balloons and flags making the house look like a rainbow. We also decided to have some sort of game to play each year. This year we played a fun game about occupations with items scattered on the floor that symbolized occupations/interests. First, he picked up a little football, and then he made his way through several other items until finally he was drawn to a little green New Testament bible. So maybe one day he will be a missionary, minister, writer, or librarian. We sang happy birthday and had fun with his cake, and even though he was a little sick he eventually made a huge mess for us.  He certainly gained a lot of energy after eating the cake. We finished with opening presents, and while he was most interested in the paper and bags, he really liked his lamb book from grandma.

Sadly the party had to come to an end, but our little boy did seem to have a lot of fun with everyone that day. We took lots of pictures and will have plenty of memories for this first birthday. As a worn out dad from setting things up and cleaning up afterwards, I reflected on the amount of time we are able to get together like this with our friends. I am hopeful that in the future we will have company more frequently, especially now that we have some practice after this gathering!


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On Birthdays

First birthdays really bring on the tears for moms and dads. I love autumn. Back to school, the colors, the cardigans, scarves, and boots, Halloween, my birthday. My whole life I’ve begrudged my way through July and August in anticipation of late September and summer’s end. But if there are two things that make hot weather bearable it’s these: having survived a hot, hot, hot few months heinously pregnant, and being a mama to the best ever August born baby girl.

When we brought Miss E home from the hospital it was cooler than I’d ever remembered it being in the middle of August in the Ohio River valley. We opened the windows and doors at dusk and turned on the whole house attic fan, creating a pleasant draft that ruffled her wispy hair as she dozed in her Pack ‘n Play.  The weather is just the same now, and I’m overcome with how near those first few days home with her still feel. How obsessed I was with the way she smelled (so good!), how frightened I was to be alone with her, how I would count to 150 when I rocked her to sleep as though arbitrary structure or superstition could ensure she stayed sleeping for more than 20 minutes.

Her first birthday was yesterday and I feel like I’m still working on the words to describe how I’m feeling, how I feel about her. I feel like I’m going to be working on them my whole life. A good friend gave her a book for her birthday that she said was for me, too, and that it would make me cry, Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born. So I put off reading it, but only for one day, settling down with her dad for her bedtime story last night. And while I was definitely moved by what she thought I would be – the sleeping, dancing bears, the whispering wind – it was this bit that made my heart swell:

For never before in story or rhyme
(not even once upon a time)
has the world ever known a you, my friend,
and it never will, not ever again…

It was the “not ever again.” Because it’s all of those moments we won’t ever share again, despite how excellent the ones ahead of us will be. It was thinking about how we celebrated her first birthday, and how it won’t ever be like it was on the day she was born. It won’t be about the moment I held her for the first time, when I looked into her eyes and I knew her but I didn’t know her. It won’t be about how much we wanted her, waited for her, planned for her and dreamed of her. With every year that passes my daughter’s birthday will be more about her, and less about the day we became a family. And that’s the way it should be, of course, but it saddens me, too, because I’ll be remembering her birth day. The close, quiet – after the getting born part was over – celebration that was the three of us marveling at each other. We looked at each other and the sun pinked the sky, rising and shining. It was a new day, and for us, a new way of living.