Y’all, I have officially been a mom for eleven years.

How is that even possible?!

But here we are, when it seems like I was just changing her diapers and learning to be a mom for the first time, and we are suddenly in our preteen years.  No more changing diapers, but instead rapidly changing emotions- and still learning to be a mom.

That’s the thing with your firstborn- you’re constantly still learning to be a mom for the first time.  Every day is unchartered waters, a leap into the unknown.  When she was born, I had never had a baby before.  When she turned two, I had never had a toddler before.  Last year was my first year as the mom of a double-digit-er, and now I’m a mom of an eleven year old for the first time.  It’s a steady stream of adventure.

It’s also a steady stream of change that I often don’t see coming.  One day she’s frilly dresses and hairbows, and the next is Converse high-tops and bandanas on her head.  She’s playing with her dolls one night, and when we wake up it’s all about texting her friends and listening to music.  Playdates have turned into “hanging out,” and I dare not buy her clothes anymore as she has her own definitive style that I know nothing about.  Mom and Dad were once pretty cool to be around, but now we get the “look” and eye rolls.

No, my baby girl isn’t much of a baby.  She’s independent and strong-willed and feisty, and certainly has an opinion all of her own.  It’s a balancing act of letting her grow and develop her own person, yet still filtering out a lot of the junk out there in the world and expecting things like manners and kind words and respect.  It’s spurring her on in the right direction and praying with and for her, yet loosening the reigns just enough to let her put what she’s been taught to the test.  It’s still training a child in the way she should go, yet encouraging her to take ownership of her relationship with Christ.

This parenting thing isn’t easy.  There are days I cry, days she cries, and days we cry together.  We lose our tempers more than we should, talk a little louder than we should, and let words slip out that we don’t really mean.  I’m not always right and she’s not always right and we are learning slowly that it’s okay (and even good) to admit when we’re wrong.  In eleven years, I’ve learned that I mess up- every day.  I’ve learned that being a mom takes a lot of humility, a lot of patience, and a lot of grace.  It takes a lot of Jesus.

I’ve learned that our days are a lot smoother when we spend more time in the Word.  I’ve learned that nothing stops an argument faster than praying- even if it means praying out loud over her yelling in the heat of the moment (if you haven’t tried it, you should- totally worth the shock value).  I’ve learned that sometimes all that yuck that comes out is just a cry for help, or attention, or even just a hug.  I’ve learned that no matter how big and brave she gets, sometimes she just needs her mommy.  And I’ve learned that no matter how many times I mess up, there’s always grace to cover.

I’m a little afraid of what’s to come.  I know we’re inching closer and closer to the day that she’ll really spread her wings and soar, and I won’t be able to shield her from the ugliness of the world.  She’ll have her heart hurt and she’ll slip along the way, and she’ll have to make those tough decisions that cause you to lose sleep.  Eventually she’ll decide who her friends are and where she wants to go and how she’s going to live.  She’ll have to choose courage when chaos abounds.  It will become her choice to be kind or brave or wise… or not.  And she will have to face the consequences of those choices.

And what can I do?  How can I ensure that she’ll choose correctly, that she’ll allow God to direct her steps, that she’ll stay on the path He has for her?  I can’t.  But, I can continue to show her how to pray, how to turn to God’s word daily, how to apologize, how to be kind, how to love… and I can pray, every day, for her present and her future.  If nothing else, eleven years of mommyhood has taught me the power of prayer!

Happy eleventh birthday to my firstborn “Rae” of sunshine… How blessed I am to know love like this.  You are the one that taught me about love at first sight.  You inspire me to be strong and brave and sure of what I believe, because you are strong and brave and sure of what you believe.  I admire your willingness to stand your ground, to forge your own path, and to not be easily shaken.  You challenge me to be a better mom- and a better child of God.  I love you to the moon…


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