September 11, 2016

Dear Aria {one year in}

Dear Aria,

You're a year old. I have celebrated the joy of your first year by crying so many tears. Apparently motherhood makes the stoic cry all the time.

I have cried because your first year is over and because it went so quickly. I have cried because I didn't savor the more difficult first-year moments that didn't go fast enough. I have cried because you make me so happy. I have cried because you're not the tiny pink newborn I cuddled peacefully the first night of your life, when I couldn't sleep a wink for staring at you.

I looked back through my photos of you from birth to now. I reminisced over every phase you went through, every subtle change in your appearance. I realized, with a feeling like relief, that I like you best exactly as you are now. If I could go back, maybe I would revisit an earlier stage for a moment or two. But I'd want to return to one-year-old Aria very soon. Because as much as I sometimes miss the squishy days, the first smiles, the gentle coos—if I went back, I would miss the person you are now even more.

I love your seriousness about books. When I'm busy in another room and you've gone curiously quiet, I can usually find you sitting on the floor near your bookshelf, a pile of board books fanned out around you as you pore over every page of one before moving on to the next. Sometimes I find you seated near my bookshelf, squinting at a page of a dusty old book in a foreign language as if you actually comprehend its sentences.

I love your enthusiasm for dogs—an affinity you did not learn or inherit from either of your parents. I love the "woof woof!" sound you make when you encounter any mammal smaller than a horse.

I love how you're lingering on the cusp of walking. You stand alone, quite proud of yourself, before plopping joyfully onto your cushily diapered bottom. You inch your way down halls by leaning gently on the wall. You can get anywhere you want to go and acquire almost anything you want to get your hands on. You hide from me sometimes, listening quietly as I rush around in a panic hoping you're okay before I spot you under a table, behind a door, crouched in a corner.

I love your insatiable curiosity about what's in the kitchen cabinets. You're learning what you're not allowed to touch; so you open the cabinet door to simply stare at the punch cups and electric griddle.

I love your willingness to dance at the first hint of a beat or hummed melody. You're so full of movement and exclamation. And yet, I love how, without fail, the rhythm of the day calls you back again and again to nurse peacefully, leaving your tummy and my heart both full. I love how you say "Dat! Dat!" when you are hungry. I'm unsure why this is your word for feeding, but I ask, "Do you want some milk?" Your eyes widen, your knees bending compulsively to push your petite frame into a series of jumps. "Dat! Dat!" you squeal again with anticipation, until I pull you close.

I love the way you look at your daddy as if his presence lights your world. Intuitively knowing when it's time for him to come home from work, you crawl to the front door and pull yourself up to watch through the window expectantly. When he appears, you bounce and giggle, waving and calling "Dada!" And I wouldn't trade the mini handprints on my front door for all the shiny Windexed glass in the world.

I loved who you were. I love who you are. I hope you've enjoyed your first year as much as I have.