Posts Tagged ‘Sophie’

Eleven

Eleven years ago.

Eleven years of days, hours, minutes; some blinking fast like a firefly I can’t catch, some crawling with a glacier’s pace. Eleven years ago, I was given a gift, the greatest, hardest gift. Eleven years now of guidance, growing, learning, changing, crying, praising, heartbreak and happiness. Eleven years ago, a piece of my heart was taken from within me, and placed in the outside world.

I named her Sophie. And though she had that piece of me within her, she became herself, an individual who is independent and fierce. And though she has always been exactly who she is (to me), as she approaches eleven, she struggles to find her place in this big, amazing world. And, as part of my heart, it is my job to help her navigate that path, although I fail regularly and spectacularly. Some days I barely make it to the end, wondering how anyone ever saw fit to place me in charge of another human being. But we’ve made it this far, these eleven years, all the while learning about life, love, heartbreak, and happiness together.

Have you ever laid in the dark of night with your child curled into the crook of your arm? You’re wide awake with a racing mind as she twitches and settles, falling asleep in the safest place she can imagine. Soon, over her even breathing, you are left to watch the terrifying thoughts of night race by, wondering how you will ever be able to lead your tiny human safely from childhood to adulthood, protecting her from the harms of this world, teaching her right from wrong, helping her navigate learning, and friends, and technology, and kindness and decency, and individuality, when you are unsure in any given moment whether you yourself fully understand those things.

Eleven years now, I have thought, and searched for answers, and prayed and cried, and laughed, and felt my heart expand in ways I never could have imagined. It seems impossible that much time has passed since the day I first held my daughter, feeling terrified and elated, refusing to put her in the bassinet and instead letting her fall asleep on my chest, until finally the nurse gently convinced me to let her take Sophie for a few hours so I could sleep.

Sophie's Birth Day

Year One took us from the uncertainty of how to care for a newborn without breaking her, hurting her, or coddling her, through Sophie standing on her own, on her first birthday, ready to step away already and do things her own way.

Eleven years is a gift many don’t get.

I often tell Sophie, in the moments when we are alone, just her and I, don’t forget someday when a memory pops up of us seeing a hawk standing on the ground; or us screaming, upside down, on the biggest, fastest roller coaster we could find; or seeing a rainbow that ends right above our house, that we are the only two people alive that share this memory. It’s an amazing and terrifying thought.

Year Three, and Sophie seems to remember many things, yet I don’t even know how she could. She remembers begging her Daddy not to leave, crying, and feeling like it must be her fault because he left anyway. She remembers watching Hachi with me on the couch, and how we had to pause the movie for ten minutes because we were crying so hard we couldn’t watch it. Crying for the dog who mourned his master, and crying for us because our lives had so drastically changed. She remembers the Orange Juice Incident, as she calls it, which was just Sophie throwing a huge tantrum at bedtime, and me doing the best I could to deal with it.

Sophie With Apple

Eleven years and I have laid awake more nights than I can count, racked with worry and tears, wondering, Am I doing this right? Am I making the right decisions? Will she be okay?

Year Seven, and everything changes again. I meet someone new, someone who has the potential to be that male influence she so desperately seeks out, because despite my efforts, I can never be both Mom and Dad to her no matter how hard I tried. But with new comes change, and this year revealed more to me about how broken we both had been. For much of this year things felt bleak and hopeless, that I had failed and I was submerged, barely above water, dealing with as much change for myself as she was with new routines, personalities, new family members, and opportunities.

Eleven years is a long time to figure things out, but that is a fallacy because you can’t figure it all out when things keep changing. You just hang on and hope for the best and keep getting up every day to face it all again. Some days I am so proud I can’t even speak it. Other days I am so disappointed and crushed I wonder if I will be able to carry on. This child, my child, has been given to me for these eleven years, but she is not mine. She is herself and I have to let her fail even when it slowly kills me inside. I have to stand behind her with my arms outstretched when the very people she trusted and depended on let her fall.

Sophie & Me

I will catch my Sophie, even when I won’t buy her excuses. I will back her, even if her words cut into me. I will defend her when nobody else will, and I will stand up in the ways I feel are right, even when nobody else agrees with me. I will love her unconditionally when she trips, when she hurts, when she’s lost, and when she’s angry.

I was told, recently, by a person who used to matter greatly to me, that I will never be the parent this person was. It was meant to be an insult, but I took it as a compliment. I will never be the kind of person who abandons my child, disappoints her, changes on her, or leaves her to cry herself to sleep at night wondering why she’s not good enough for me. I will never insult her, put her down, make her feel less than. I will expect her to act right, show respect, take responsibility for her words and actions. I will refuse to put up with any bullshit from her, and will teach her to not take any bullshit from the people around her, even the ones who are supposed to care. I will never make her feel like she has to change herself for me to accept her.

Year eleven, and I tell her, my baby, my big girl, “Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you have to hide who you are.” So many times, she’s been asked to act a certain way, be a certain way, say this, don’t say this. Now my job, once again, is shifting so I can help her navigate this rocky path, as I have learned the hard lessons hard way and am better equipped to help her.

“What if I don’t know how to be who I am, Mom?” she asks. “If I make this choice, or that choice, the choices that make me different, will it change how you see me?”

Sophie B&W

Never.

When you were two, when you’re eleven, when you’re twenty, never, Sophie, will you change in my eyes. Because to me, you’ll always and forever be my perfectly imperfect child, the piece of my heart that is fiercer than me, more independent than me, smart, beautiful, talented, funny, frustrating, walking around in this world, blazing the path I was too afraid to blaze. No matter what age, what birthday, I will be able to look at your face and see the brilliant individual person you are and the tiny fierce baby you were and know that they are the very same person, and I will love your faults, and your fears, and your accomplishments and your failures equally.

For eleven years, my heart has had a body and a name, and it’s taken form in the world and I’ve been allowed to watch, and to teach, and to love this piece of my heart named Sophie, and even though it’s supposed to be her birthday, it’s the best gift I’ve ever been given.

 

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Finally…finally! I bought myself a real camera. here is one of the first pictures I took with it.

Dear Sophie,

It is the night before your birthday, and all I can think is Wow! Five years? The days were long, but the years were short, as they say. It feels like the length of a sigh, or the beat of a heart instead of five years since the day I met you.

 My first glimpse of Sophie Arwen
I never expected to know what you would be like before I had you, I could only wonder and worry. But I can truly say, upon looking back, that you have been Sophie since the day you arrived. A hundred times, you have done or said something and the only response to it is “That’s Sophie!” I have watched as you went from a curious and demanding baby to an even more curious and even more demanding toddler. You were never content to let the world exist alongside you. Instead, you made yourself known to whoever you met, people and animals, family and strangers, and said “Look at me! I am Sophie, and I won’t be ignored!”
You could not possibly be more different from your Mama.
We are two peas in a pod, you and I. Except I am a regular small green pea, and you are pink polka dotted pea with flashing lights and screaming whistles. Sometimes I just stand back and wonder what in the world I am supposed to do with you. It’s hard to keep up sometimes. But together, we have had so many great adventures packed into five years. We have visited zoos, camped all over three states (Maine, Arkansas and Oklahoma). We have piled rocks and learned to swim and watched the fireflies come out at night. We have asked and answered a million questions, with a million more sure to come. I can only hope the next five years are the same. We have weathered so many storms already, and I only hope I can give you what you need to weather many more. 
This past year has not been one I ever hope to repeat, and I am terribly sorry that you had to witness and endure the most painful and heartbreaking situation I could imagine a four year old going through, except for death. There are some things I can’t explain to you, baby girl, and some things even I don’t understand. I thought I knew what life was about, and I thought I knew the people in it, but I didn’t and I don’t. I can hold your hand, and I can cry with you, and I have. But I can’t fix it, and it kills me. If you had asked me five years ago if I ever saw this coming, I would have thought you were crazy. I tried my best, but in the end it wasn’t enough, and at this point I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why your Daddy left. He has his view and I have mine, and they just don’t match. I would have gone to the ends of the Earth and back to make things right, but in the end, sometimes you just have to let it go. 
The one thing I can truly tell you is this: you have more love than than you could ever possibly know and then some. Every day, always, I hope you know that you are loved no matter what goes on, or how the day goes or who is here and who is not. The only reason I have been able to make it through any of this, every day, through the worst of it is because I knew I had one precious little girl who depended on me to be her Mama. 
You made me be strong when I didn’t think I could. You made me put aside myself and my hurt to look at you and help you through. I held you when you cried and tried to make you laugh and then just cried with you, too. Now that it’s just the two of us, I try so hard to wake up every day and say “Today I will do better.” Not just for you, but for me, too. So you will see that we can make it through together and we will be just fine. We will laugh, and we will play, and we will travel and see life and have more adventures, both out in the world and here at home. 
You have been on this planet for five years, and you have made more friends, learned more new things, laughed, cried, talked and pouted more than I ever imagined you could. You have have made your way thought those five years as only Sophie could. I am so proud to be your Mama and I want you to know that although your birthday is a special day, every day you are here is special to me.
Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!
Love,
Mama 
They Never Tell You This About Being a Parent

They Never Tell You This About Being a Parent

They never tell you becoming a mother changes everything. They do, but you don’t listen. It’s something you have to learn yourself. They never tell you that the child you get may not be the one you expect. You don’t sit around surrounded by baby clothes dreaming of the day your four-year-old tells you she’s sick of you, or having to explain to someone why your child thought it would be okay to give their now-deceased bird a bath at midnight, or that you could sit and cry so hard because whatever you’re doing for your child feels like not enough.

They never tell you that.

To live it day in and day out is exhausting. I have discovered something recently, which I actually always knew, but lately it is much more apparent. My child is not like other children in regards to her temperament and attitude. She is smart, funny, sweet and loving, independent and friendly. But she is also hard-headed, stubborn and increasingly frustrated by the lack of control afforded to a four-year-old in this life. She has been this way since before birth, actually. She was a bright but extremely demanding baby who was never content to sit and observe the world. She wanted to jump into it face first. She learns everything the hard way. It is frustrating for her, and extremely frustrating for me.

I am a quiet person who likes to please people, I avoid confrontation, and when I was little, I always did what I was told. I know, because my mother is constantly telling me, “You never acted like that!” about Sophie’s latest fit, tantrum or episode, and I agree, because I remember being the shy but happy kid.

Sophie is not even in that realm. She fights the world tooth and nail, literally trying to wrestle any control she can with her bare hands. She will fight just to fight, she will defy and push boundaries just because she can. I truly believe it is just her nature. She is a strong-willed, independent person, and has been since the moment she came into being. I have set limits, I have provided structure, the base of the hierarchy is well taken care of, and I have never been afraid to discipline. But still…

I struggle everyday to understand it. I struggle everyday to teach her that right now, I am in charge. Every day, there are a hundred battles waged because she needs to see if I am still in control. She pushes and pushes to see if I will break.

I won’t.

It’s hard, it’s tiring and I feel like a failure sometimes. But I need to be strong for her now, because she won’t just give respect because she’s supposed to. And if I don’t have her respect now, I won’t have it later, when I really need it.

I know I was given the child I was meant to have. We are supposed to learn something important from each other. I can’t change her basic strong will, just as I could never “just be more outgoing,” as countless people have told me throughout my life. That’s like telling a fish to walk on land.

I just hope I’m doing this right. In the hours when all avenues have been exhausted, it feels hopeless. I wonder why anybody thought I could handle this. I have had to be more firm with her than I ever thought possible. I can’t let things slide. When a line is drawn by me, she will try to cross it just because I put it there. She cries and screams and makes me feel like I am the most awful person that ever walked the Earth. But in the end, I have won a small victory, and more likely than not, that line will not be crossed again. And then, without any help from me, she will tell me she’s sorry she did that and she wants to be good. I try to understand her, I try to understand why. And I think the why is just because she is who she is.

I think, just maybe, in these incidents I move up a notch in her mind. In the little game we must play, my token is advancing and I can see that somehow she will turn into a strong person, a smart person and an independent person, and I will have helped her get there. It’s my job, right? I’m not raising a child. I’m raising a person, one that will be different from every other person out there. I want her to be proud of that person, and I want to be proud, too.

So, when everything seems dark, at least I know we’re heading somewhere. There is a place we’re trying to reach. Someday, when her therapist convinces her to forgive me, I hope she realizes that my only purpose was to try to help her become great. That’s really what Moms want for their kids, I think.

But nobody tells you that.

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Eeekkk! Time is going by too fast and I feel like I am completely unable to catch up. I have a bazillion ideas swimming around in my head, but seem unable to focus clearly and act on them in the way that I want to. I guess I just need to keep my eye on the ball (to use a sports metaphor, which is laughable because I am not a sports person), and realize that all this is heading towards something good if I can just see past the present overwhelming messiness and doubt. Whew…heavy stuff!

Anyway, there’s always creativity to calm me down! 🙂 Sophie and I took another walk and my camera and I had fun. Now I am dreaming of a Canon Rebel, although I have no idea why….I like my little camera. It’s fabulous. But photography has me in its grips.

Here are some shots from our walk:


I am in Maine for the week, and remembering why I left. However, I really did miss the ocean. It was rainy and cloudy, but still as awesome as I remembered. Seeing Sophie at the ocean for the first time was amazing. She was curious and excited and completely fearless. The trip here was worth it just for that day. As for the rest of our vacation, let’s not talk about that! Let’s just say we will be glad to go home.

Our feet in the sand.
Sophie and my mom and the 54 degree water.
Sophie digging in the sand.
My uncle Phil and the ocean.

Sophie all bundled up. Brrr!

Have you ever been to Maine? It’s a lovely place to visit…I just don’t care to live there anymore!

 

Soph and I have started taking “photo walks.” They are equal parts frustration and fun. Frustration because Sophie wants to examine Every. Single. Thing. she finds on the ground. But she is an awesome photo subject. She will pose any way I tell her, and even say, “Mama, I’ll do this and you take my picture!” I usually can’t wait to get home to see the pictures!