I remember the pacifier days. One would be firmly in your mouth, while the other two you twirled around in your fingers like batons. They provided you with powerful comfort, while I became part of the background. For the first nine months, I parented like a race car driver. As much as I wished I was present, I wasn’t. I was always rushing. Rushing to change diapers, clean bottles and draft motions for legal cases that were falling on me like a set of dominos.

In those first nine months, my grip on my identity was slipping, while I attempted to embrace my role as mother. Those days were a little awkward, my arms not knowing what to hug. Because of this confusion, my reach extended to beyond what I was capable. I sensed that when I holed myself in the bathroom, looking at the still water in the toilet, while you wailed in your crib. The bathroom became a makeshift office, so that I could make calls to clients without them hearing the fervor of your crying voice.

And then one of my oldest best friends sent me an email that flipped the metaphorical switch in my head. She said, “You can’t put parenting on the back burner. Make a choice, Rudri. Make a choice.”

I made a choice to limit my reach almost five years ago. But what I am hugging now isn’t rushed. I am present. I want you to know that my little girl.

When you wake up in the morning, I love the sound of your feet. The rhythm of your steps coaxes my own heart to beat. As soon as you say, “Good morning Momma” and give me a hug, I’m aware of your breath and the gift it whispers in my ear. I marvel at your spirit. Your voice is full, with will, whether it is deciding what clothes you want to wear or how you always want two pigtails in your hair. I smile when I hear you sing “My Country Tis of Thee” in the shower. When you tell me that your Momma is your BFF, I pause. Little girl, I want to tell you that I’ve been looking for your type of best friend forever my whole entire life. This morning when you jumped into bed with us, I remember your squeeze and your words saying, “It’s a Mommy sandwich.” Then you planted one kiss on my cheek and on your Daddy’s cheek and said “I love you.”

As you turn five tomorrow, I am in awe of the little girl you have become. Your love of girly things, like nailpolish and pigtails, your ability to perceive and observe the world around you, and most of all your capacity to love. Often times, you say to me, “Momma, everyone’s my friend.” I love hearing that from you because I know you truly mean it.

So Happy Birthday daughter. Thank you for teaching me what to hug. I love you. Momma

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My little girl turns five on January 8. I can’t believe it. How do you feel as your child gets older? Do you feel present in your parenting life? What little tidbits do you think you will remember years from now about your children?

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