My daughter Acadia was the first child born in Meriden in 2006. Some of you may remember the half-page article and flattering image of her in my arms (focus on her, not me, making it so much the more lovely) in the Record-Journal. We had planned a homebirth and had transported to the hospital in late second stage when a potential complication arose, and, thankfully, everything turned out fine. And we had this lovely newspaper image to boot. Each year, I conteplate writing a follow-up piece. Most years I write something and decide it isn't really what I want to say and so I don't post it. This year is different. This year, I've spent the last several weeks feeling so extremely lucky, not just that both my kids births' were physiologic (natural, free from drugs and medical interventions), not just that both are generally fun, cooperative and enjoyable kids and that they are expressive of the love they feel towards each other and their parents to boot.
This year is different. This year is different because my Acadia just turned seven two days ago. This year is different because there's a class full of kids her age who don't go to school anymore. Not because their parents decided to homeschool them, or because the school was found to have asbestos. There's a class full of kids her age who don't go to school anymore because they are no longer living, breathing kids. Not a day has gone by since the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy that I haven't taken extra breaths, give my kids extra kisses before brief partings, be grateful for all we have, remember that I'm lucky. Lucky to have a kid who acts up sometimes (generally not Acadia, for the record), or who spills stuff occasionally (or a lot, really), lucky to have kids who can read above grade level, read at all, that my kids are here and alive.
As it happens, we were out of state when the tragedy in Newtown occurred. It is such a weird experience to come back and hear all the stories about the first reports filed and where people were and what they were doing. I was at a theme park in Florida trying to shed some of my accumulated stress after a very challenging semester of teaching a very challenging class. I was with my kids, being with my family, frankly, having the only rough morning of the whole trip, but working through it as a family. In the aftermath, I have realized all over again how every moment of parenting is a gift and it really is just sheer luck, as far as I can tell, that I have this gift. My kids are not perfect, though they are amazing and awesome in so many ways. I am light-years from perfect, so it's pretty much a miracle that they turned out as great as they have. I've been breathing more and trying to remember this to be more patient, and letting the things that really only matter to me (like getting my second kid a “Thing 1” shirt because she didn't want hers to say “Thing 2.” We only got one set of souveniers the whole trip. Does it really matter that I now have two “Thing 1” kids in the house? No. It really, really doesn't matter. If she wants to be the second Thing 1, you know what, she's got an opinion and she's using her voice to tell me. That's good, really...) Life is made up of moments. Each moment is one that will never happen again. Letting go of my idea of having one “Thing 1” and one “Thing 2” saved a moment from causing her sadness and anger and I learned, for once, to deflate my own Ego. It became a good moment.
And yes, this year, as my Acadia enters this new age, I am planning to hug my kids and put what I am doing down to really listen to them more. I am remembering how precious her life is, how tenuous it seemed for that hour before her birth, when we heard her heart beat slow to nearly nothing, how quickly and unexpectedly it could all end. I used to tell her every day from the day she was born until she was about five months old that I was so glad she picked me to be her mom, that every day I loved her more, that every day I was becoming a better person, just by being her mom. Our love-dovey days were cut short a bit when my father was diagnosed with a Sarcoma when Acadia was about five months old. Acadia and I traveled back and forth to New York regularly to be a part of his final months. He passed away about two months before Acadia turned a year old. His death was a pretty good death, as death goes. He had time to say goodbyes, to finish most of the writing he wanted to complete, to spend time with his newest grandbaby. He had the luxury of time.
Acadia was there his last day. She sat on my lap as I sat next to my father while the Hospice music therapy team played. When they began “Pachabel's Cannon in D,” the tune I had walked down the asile to just three years before, Acadia reached out her tiny arm and rested her hand on my father's tired, thin shoulder. She had been able to say goodbye to him. After that, she didn't want to be in the room, so I wasn't there when my father actually passed away.
I have never seen someone die. But, I have been blessed to see many people come into the world. And each one, no matter the circumstances of their conception or birth, each baby is a precious gift to the world. Each of baby deserves nothing short of love, caring, devoted attention of the adults in his/her life. And they deserve this throughout their childhoods, even through the difficult teen years and early adulthood. So, this is my plan for this year. To let my kids know that I love them unconditionally, that I will give them guidelines and boundries and maybe even an occasional character tee shirt of their own choosing. And that every breath they take, I will be grateful for them, and for the gift I have been given of being called “Momma.” Happy Birthday, Acadia. I am so proud of you for being just who you are.