We are made up of others. We will make others as well. – Anis Mojgani
My alarm goes off and it’s still dark outside. “Thanks, daylight saving time,” I think to myself. I hop in the shower, brush my teeth, get dressed. I quietly make my way downstairs to start a pot of hot water and pack my lunch. Some days I hear tiny footsteps follow swiftly behind me, today is one of those days. Noelani finds me in the kitchen and yells out “Moommmmmy!” as if it’s a surprise that I’m the one in there making noise, even though she’s aware that all the other inhabitants of the house are still soundly asleep. Without skipping a beat she grabs her step stool and pushes it over to help me finish making my coffee. She knows exactly how to measure out each part and push down on the French press. Her favorite part is to mix everything together with the frother. Today she goes at it a little extra zealously and spills a little as it stirs, then she turns to me and says, “Ooops, I guess I got a little carried away,” and I laugh because the comment is perfectly delivered and I’m not even quite sure where she learned the phrase.
Next I get on my shoes and jacket and I know that my departure for work will go one of three ways. The first, and easiest, way is that I make it through my routine before anyone else wakes and I sneak off quietly, whispering “I love you” to the room where my husband and daughters sleep cuddled all together. Since Noe is awake, that’s not an option today. The second way is that I say I need to head out and Noe acknowledges my departure, gives me a big hug, then tells me that she loves me and will see me later as she waves me off without much ado. The last way is that, as I’m getting my final things together, she realizes I’m about to leave for the day and she starts crying asking me not to go, and sometimes even frantically starts getting her shoes on also so that she can come with me to “check eyes.” Luckily today’s departure doesn’t conjure any tears. Both of the last kinds of goodbyes sting a little — if she doesn’t cry then I am reminded that she is more and more independent and can carry on her day fine without me. If she does cry then the last thing she sees in the morning is me walking out the door and leaving her in tears. I know the big “goodbyes” (leaving for college, moving out of the house, getting married) will be tough, but I wonder if the daily goodbyes get easier.
I make it through an uneventful day at work and head home at my usual time. When I get to the door I start unlocking the main entrance and I can hear a muffled Noe say to her daddy, “Is that my mommy?” Before I make it a few paces through the door she is running towards me to give me my daily welcome home hug. I change out of my work clothes into something more comfy because we are meeting friends for dinner. My husband and I are both upstairs getting ready when Nia starts crying. I try to quickly finish up and get back downstairs but by the time I get there Nia has stopped crying and she is in up dog facing an assortment of toys placed in front of her by her big sister. Noe is down on her level and is cheering her on saying, “Good job baby sister. Look how strong you are! It’s ok, I’m right here.” My mama heart melts.
We find our friends for dinner. Shortly after we sit down to order, a father and daughter, a couple years older than Noe, sit down next to us. Noe walks over to her to say hello and ask her what her name is. Noe introduces herself with her full legal name and then says, “I’m three,” while correctly holding up three fingers. She then points to Nia and says, “That’s my baby sister, Nia, she was born in a pool, mommy pushed her out like a big poop,” very matter-of-factly. My husband and I burst out laughing.
When dinner is over and it’s time to leave, Noe invites our friends over. It’s already way past her bedtime on a Mondaynight, and they politely decline her offer. Noe responds, “Well, maybe you can come to my house tomorrow. I will see you next time.” It’s only a ten minute drive but by the time we get home both girls are completely asleep. As I lift Noe out of her car seat she lets out a little cry because of the unexpected disruption to her slumber. She throws her arms around me and falls back asleep as I carry her from the car inside the house, and for all the ways she has seemed so grown up today, in this moment she still feels like my baby. Inside, we forgo their bedtime baths and just carry them to bed, changing them into pajamas while they are still asleep.
I look down at these two perfect little people we made. I never intended to make carbon copies of myself, but in so many ways they have been my best mirrors, reflecting back to me the things I do and say, intentionally and unintentionally. I am often caught off guard and pleasantly surprised by the things Noe does — the phrases she uses; her interactions with me, her father, her sister, strangers at the park; the imaginative way she plays with her toys.
At times, I feel guilty for the time I spend away from them while I’m at work. What if I miss something important? What if the time I do spend with them is not enough? But then I get glimpses of myself through her eyes. I know that she is learning about hard work because of what she sees me do every day as a physician. She learned strength when she saw me grow and birth her baby sister. She learns affection by witnessing the way her father holds my hand or the way I shower her and her sister with kisses. And in reality, I’m not missing the important stuff because it’s not always the “big” moments that are the most important, but all the small, seemingly mundane, things we do everyday that are helping to shape her voice, equipping her with the tools to be brave and kind and smart, to be critical and loving.They say be mindful of your words, for your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, and your habits become your character. But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized that my words and actions and habits become their character, too. For nine months, I nurtured and grew my daughters inside me, but for the rest of our lives –through what we say and do or don’t, where we spend our time and resources, what we react to and how — we, in our little family and our growing tribe, are making each other as well.