When I was 21 my cousin, Caylin, was born and I was allowed to be in the room during my aunt’s labor. It was long and painful and beautiful and mind altering. When my mom and I left to get some rest after being awake for my aunt’s 24 hour delivery, I distinctly recall telling my mom, “I am never having kids. Never.”
Flash forward four years to age 25 and I am in the delivery room with my boyfriend, Paul. My parents came as quickly as possible, but our sweet Claire didn’t show up for about 12 hours. And when she did, I knew that I was meant to be a mom. It sounds completely cliche but it is the only way I can describe this new sense of purpose. I knew that what I had said years prior was out of fear and naivety. I knew I had a place in this world bigger than my own space.
1. Being an older sister is tough and special. Only other older siblings recognize this dichotomy. Bringing little Leo into our family of three was the most challenging thing I could ever imagine doing to a precious three year old. We had to open our hearts further. And ask her to share our love. And herself. It is a big task for a toddler but she amazed us.
2. Being comfortable is much more important than matching or looking cute-Claire did not wear jeans for years and still only owns two pairs! She “marches to the beat of her own drum” in terms of fashion and loves soft comfy clothing more than dressing up formally.
3. Being silly is necessary in this harsh world. I was looking for lighting for our bedroom when I heard, “Mom! Mom. Mom. Ohmigod Mom.” Knee deep in mismatched lamps and shades at a Florida flea market, I turned around and there she was. We both laughed and laughed. Later I reflected on her childhood innocence and hoped it would stay with us longer.
4. Photo opportunities exist everywhere and traveling is necessary, especially if that means taking a pontoon out into the middle of the Gulf for a sliver of sand called The Sand Bar. Grandpa had only been to this hidden spot once and wasn’t completely sure of the location so it was kind of scary but then we saw Hulk Hogan and he yelled from an enormous jet ski, “Not today, brother!” after posing for a few pictures.
5. Friends, Dawson’s Creek, and Grey’s Anatomy still resonate today. These two and their shows! I love that she can share her thoughts with me about some of my favorite old shows and then share them with her friends but I was baffled when she hated the pilot episode of My So Called Life.
6. Dancing should happen daily. Claire has a passion for ballet. She prances around the house. Constantly. It happens in the store, at the lake, at school, and even at the tattoo parlor yesterday when I was getting my nose pierced. I asked her to take a picture while she was pirouetting in front of a haze filled mirror because an apprentice vaped along to AC/DC.
7. When you feel like you need a breather, water helps. Lake Michigan is the best. Claire’s escape is water. It calms her, nourishes her soul, and gives her comfort.
8. Sleepovers are not for sleeping. Since ten or so, these girls have been enjoying numerous sleepovers where we hear tales of headstands and backsprings, see remnants of musically videos, and often find empty bags of crackers and cheese scattered around the basement.
9. Being an ally is one of the most valuable gifts you can offer. Claire asked if I would lend her money at a flea market up north. I did and she bought a PRIDE flag. When we returned home, she hung it in her bedroom window as a proclamation. I didn’t notice it for a few days after and when I did, I went in and gave her a hug. Her birthday occurs on the second day of PRIDE month.
10. Compassion doesn’t always come with a smile; sometimes it comes with grief and pain. This has been a tough one for us to wrap our minds around, but we are learning to feel and then let go. To use our voice and be able to defend it. To offer a hug instead of a critique.
Happy 13th birthday, Thumper. We love you more today than ever before and look forward to what this year will bring. Thank you for your beautiful gifts. Keep sharing them with the world. It is a much better place with you in it.