Happy birthday, Ruth. Happy first birthday, Ruth.
People have always said that time will fly by quickly when you raise a child. But I couldn’t comprehend the full meaning of that saying until this month when I realized that you were already going to turn one. And truth be told, it was so difficult to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” when I was so sleep-deprived and in pain. But now, I do.
My little Ruth, my little girl. You’ve grown so much over the past 12 months. From a tiny 2.735kg baby who put me through such a long labour, to a feisty little 11.3kg girl who just can’t sit still. You were so weak, you were so fragile. Now, you’re strong and you’re always looking for new things to learn about. You were so small, just a mere 48cm. Now, you’re already 78.5cm and bursting the 90th percentile in height. As an adult, I really couldn’t appreciate how much a person can grow within one year. But seeing how you’ve come leaps and bounds in just a short 12 months, you have taught me that time is so precious.
So as you turn 1, I decided to take the time to count the 12 lessons that you have taught me through motherhood, which I hope, will be lessons that you yourself will embrace in the time to come.
Lesson 1: Patience
Thank you for teaching me what it means to be patient. During the course of work, I always thought that I had great patience especially from dealing with difficult clients and even colleagues. But no, patience whilst sleep deprived is on a whole another level. You have taught me how to be patient even when it’s easier to lose my cool, you have taught me how to be patient even when my eyelids are heavy and I feel like physically breaking down. But at the same time, you have taught me how to be patient with myself. That it’s alright to have bad days, it’s alright to make mistakes because we’re only human. As each day passes, I also hang onto the hope that I can grow in patience for those who wrong us falsely, and that they will see the errors of their ways in His time.
Lesson 2: Forgiveness
Motherhood isn’t a walk in the park. There are times where I have to discipline you because you acted out of turn, or you’re just throwing a tantrum. Or, you’re being rude. Well, that’s part of being a child, isn’t it? You’re learning. When I tell you off for a mistake, you cry. You throw a fit and you rub your eyes. You take deep breaths and howl like the world is crashing down. But after you calm down, you reach out for me for a hug. You still want my affection although I am the one who made you unhappy. You forgave me unconditionally. I struggle with forgiveness, often because I struggle with the concept of “forgetting”. But thank you for being a great display of how I should forgive, even though the scars that some people leave are just so deep.
Lesson 3: Perseverance
Because you’re one little chunky baby, you took a little longer to crawl. But despite it all, you kept fighting. Although other children were walking or crawling beside you, you didn’t get frustrated or feel that this was a setback. You kept trying to push your not-so-little body along although it was tough. You kept trying to pull yourself up although it was so tough for your arms to support the crazy weight of those yummy thighs. But eventually one day, you figured it out. And you were so so proud of yourself. Thank you for showing me that things are worth fighting for, and worth the investment. That our efforts will pay off so long as we don’t give up.
Lesson 4: Curiosity
You have such a curious soul. You’re always searching for new things and constantly on the move. You are like a sponge that is soaking up so much information every day and you love exploring things around you. The amazement on your face when you discover a new texture, the joy on your face when you hear a new piece of music. At this age, it’s hard to still look at things with an untainted perspective. It’s hard to find happiness in every little thing that we undertake. I pray that I learn from your childlike wonder and find joy in the little things. To cling onto the knowledge that life is worth living and every milestone (or in fact, just every day), worth celebrating.
Lesson 5: Flexibility
I have never been the most flexible person. I thrive with schedules and enjoy having things in order because that just makes things more predictable. Those who know me would know I hate being caught off guard. But as a baby, your needs are ever-changing so this means that I have to be flexible and adapt to your needs. It’s difficult. Just as you thought that you’ve settled into a routine, things change again and we will struggle again to work out what works for you. And then after a little while, the cycle repeats. You’ve taught me that I need to be flexible and go with the flow. Even if things aren’t the same, it’s ok. As long as we are all well and happy, that’s all that matters. That being said, don’t ever compromise your ideals and beliefs for another person’s approval. Don’t be that flexible.
Lesson 6: Courage
In this year, I have faced so many struggles. Motherhood, a new job, greater financial liabilities, and the strain that parenthood placed on a new marriage. But I look at you, and I find courage in your smile. I look at you and I have the courage to face the next day. You give me a reason to press on in the face of adversity. I must set a good example for you as you grow into a fine young woman. Thank you for showing me what it means to have the courage of a parent, and for helping me to discover the strength I never knew I had. I will do my best to not disappoint you.
Lesson 7: Faith and Hope
Thank you for teaching me the importance of having faith and hope. For knowing that the future is yet to reveal greater treasures and that we should not fall into despair. As my daughter, you have the faith that I will return home to you every time I leave for work. You have the faith that I will catch you when you fall. You have the faith that I will be there for you. I will not let your faith be blind faith, and I will do my best to prove to you that your faith will not be for naught, but will be rewarded. Thank you for also being my hope for greater things that are yet to come. You are the reason why we work so hard every day, and you are our shining hope.
Lesson 8: The Toxic Don’t Matter
This is one lesson that has really stuck to me this past week. Dear Ruth, please don’t bother to spend time on those who don’t matter, and those who only seek to lie and destroy. I have fallen into this same trap over and over again, and I have lost much precious time and youth on such issues although they were not deserving of my time. And Ruth, thank you for also teaching me that in a world full of lies, the truth is what matters most and the truth is what sets us free. We don’t need to be imprisoned by the falsehoods that others create and we can be free. Don’t let these people determine your worth. You are so precious and so loved.
Lesson 9: Be Kind
Ok, this is not really a lesson that you’ve taught me, but a lesson I wish to impart to you. The world is filled with so many impatient people and often, you’d find kindness a missing virtue from plenty of people. But even as those around you lack this trait, this doesn’t mean that you need to be the same. Of course, I hope that you will endeavor to be kind to everyone around you but please, don’t let these people take your kindness for granted. Protect yourself from those who don’t deserve your kindness, but continue to be as kind as you can. Set an example for these people. Perhaps in time, they will learn from your example.
Lesson 10: Vulnerable
I have always counted myself as a person who is exceptionally strong and has nerves of steel. But as a mother, I found myself so helpless in certain situations. When I can’t stop you from crying, when I can’t figure out why you are refusing your food, when I can’t get you to take a bottle. When I am bathing you alone and struggle to pull you out of the bath, when I can’t soothe you to sleep despite hours of carrying you. Being a mother has only shown me that I am such a vulnerable person and that I need to lean on the support of those around me. You have also taught me that there is nothing wrong with being vulnerable and that I am only human. I deserve time to heal, I deserve the support of my loved ones. In time, I hope that you can be vulnerable with me too so that I can be the unwavering pillar of support that you need. I will be there whenever you need me, little one.
Lesson 11: Treasure each day / Count your blessings
You were born into a world of uncertainty and hardship. But you don’t know that yet. You wake up each day (alright, on most days) with the brightest of smiles, ready to have a great day ahead. You have yet to be burdened by the weight of the world but in so doing, you have taught me to treat each day as a blessing and to find the light in the darkest of days. As a parent, I always look forward to your “firsts”, but I don’t know when it will be your “last”. For example, I was so excited when you finally latched at about 3 months, and then after I had mastitis in late January, you refused the breast. We need to slow down and treasure these moments.
Lesson 12: Love unconditionally
I think this is something that has always been easier said than done. But you, you do it so effortlessly. You take me as I am, despite being a mother of many flaws and shortcomings. Your example of unconditional love sets the perfect example of how I should love you, as well as those around me unconditionally even when it’s tough to do so. As you grow up, I hope that you will also love those in your life with the same unconditional love. And even when you face rejection, I pray that you stand strong and hold firm to your roots and your morals. You will do well, little one. I look forward to seeing you grow up into a Godly woman of excellence, with a heart of love. Happy 1st birthday.