It seems surreal that it’s been close to a year since we met our little munchkin. Time has a funny way of staying still and passing by fast at the same time. Although some days seem endless, years pass by in the blink of an eye as a new parent. The past 12 months have been full of love, laughter, fatigue, sleepless nights, tears, and gratitude, all mixed into the best times of our lives so far.
As we’re getting ready to blow the candles on Ava’s birthday cake, I get nostalgic and look back to our time together. I know it’s in their first year that babies establish their beliefs about the world, deciding whether it’s a safe, friendly place or not. So, I wonder if I did the best I could, if I offered her everything she needed and taught her everything I should have. But really, we’re the ones constantly learning from her, not the other way around.
Here are the most valuable lessons my one-year-old daughter has taught me in our first year together:
1. It’s OK to laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh. All feelings are OK.
If you’ve ever heard an infant cry, you know how heart-wrenching it sounds. Luckily, in the first months, sadness is not yet fully understood and felt, so while crying sounds dramatic, babies can switch to laughing and giggling instantly.
What impressed me the most was watching her go through all the emotions, good and bad, so naturally and without the filters we as adults put onto ourselves. It’s refreshing to see this free, complete little person unafraid to feel and express herself. It’s OK to experience an entire range of emotions, including anger and sadness. However, we tend to block them immediately. As we grow, we somehow become more detained and calculated and start living by society’s rules. We don’t let ourselves feel negative emotions, so we shut the positive ones too without even realizing it.
2. Life is now. This exact moment in time is all you have for sure.
Babies don’t dwell on the past. If they get upset for some reason, they’re fine the next minute and never look back. They don’t make plans for the future either. They live in the here and now and do it quite well.
As a new mom, I easily get overwhelmed with thoughts that make me feel anxious; I’m always on the run and rarely genuinely enjoying the here and now. But every time I stop to play with Ava, I get centered and realize how beautiful each moment is if we let ourselves be. My baby girl doesn’t worry about tomorrow or next month; she doesn’t stress over nutrients on her plate or a clean house. Instead, her entire world is this very moment, and she’s fully present. That was a big lesson for me, one of the hardest, really, but the payout was incredible.
3. There’s magic in every little thing. We just need to see it.
One of my biggest fears before having Ava was that I would find it silly to play with a rattle endlessly or wouldn’t have the patience to do certain things with her on repeat.
But I surprised myself. We point at trees and cars dozens of times a day, smell the flowers in the house over and over again, and I enjoy rediscovering the world and watching it through her eyes. She finds joy in blossoming trees, babies of all ages (she calls all children “baby”), dogs and cats, and even waves at ants or tiny bugs she sees on the sidewalk.
She sees beauty in everything and finds reasons to smile all the time, and we’re learning to do the same. I’m teaching her about gratitude, but she’s showing me there’s so much to be grateful for.
4. Never give up.
Have you ever seen a baby give up? It might seem so when they try to roll, or crawl, or pull that zipper, or say that word, and they get frustrated because they fail. But you never see a baby think, “OK, walking is not for me, I can’t do it, I’m done trying.” In reality, that only builds determination, and they keep at it until one day when, seemingly out of nowhere, they have a breakthrough and take their first steps or finally move forward instead of crawling backward.
If you look closer, you’ll see the important resilience lesson babies teach us without even realizing it.
5. To-do lists can wait. Cleaning and cooking can wait. Play, laughter, and cuddles are always more important.
Your baby won’t care if you’ve washed the poop off their PJs or if you’ve mopped the floors or cleaned the house. The most important thing to a baby is your entire presence right there and then with him. To them, you matter for being you, not for what you do or don’t do.
Before Ava, I thought I was busy and didn’t have enough time. Now I honestly believe you’re not really busy until you’ve had children, and you always have more time than you think. Our society rewards us for perfecting the art of being busy; still, it’s up to us to make time for what matters and set our priorities straight.
6. We’re all love.
From the moment we come into this world, we’re love. We’re born with this innate instinct of crawling on mom, looking for the breast, and latching on for milk, warmth, love, and security. So we have a natural tendency to love and seek attachment.
A baby never holds a grudge. They get frustrated or angry with you this second but smile at you the next. They’re not controlled by ego and aren’t scared to ask for love. They aren’t afraid of showing emotion and expressing feelings either, because everything they are is emotion.
We’re born into these perfect, complete, resilient, and free little beings that are unafraid to feel and live in the moment and always do what makes their hearts sing. Yet, somewhere along the way, we turn into obedient, stressed adults that care about societal norms and other people’s opinions more than they do about their hearts.
Maybe if we’d open our eyes, we’d see that our babies come into this world not for us to teach them, but for them to teach us a valuable lesson (or several).