The first days of school for a fourth grade teacher are about getting to know the students and helping them to meet each other. This year, we did a partner STEM activity. They were given a sheet of paper and tasked with cutting it into strips, and then connecting them in loops to make the longest chain possible. When they were finished, I told them how as a kid, I made them as countdowns to vacations. Each day leading up to our departure, I’d remove another link. Then I said, “But don’t forget to make all the days leading up to the big event count, too.”
With my daughter’s 17-month birthday coming up, I have to remember to take my own advice. Ever since Autumn was born, I’ve made a big deal about her monthly birthdays. While the average parent stops at one year, I decided to continue celebrating every 30 days until she turns two. In the beginning, I’d plan for weeks in advance what outfit she’d wear and set it aside in anticipation. Then, on the morning of the 21st, I’d get her dressed, announce “photo shoot” to my sleeping parents, and head downstairs to our boppy-pillow-on-the-couch-turned-studio, where my mom, dad, and I would make funny faces, dancing around to get her to smile.
September marks the first monthly birthday that I will be working. I guess I’ll be at school on month 18 as well. Hopefully, I’ll be off for Thanksgiving when she turns 19 months. And in December, maybe it will be winter break?
When all of this gets too intense, I try to express gratitude for the moments I have now. I stay in bed ten minutes longer and cuddle with my goldendoodle, Tod, who has had a difficult time adjusting to his baby sister. Then, I leave notes around the house thanking my mom for everything she’s doing for us, and my dad for cleaning the drain in my bathroom, taking care of my taxes, and loving my daughter.
At work, I place Cocomelon stickers on the kids’ desks. Then I order more, because few of them will remember prepositional phrases, but they will recall getting stickers.
After work, my family is in front of the house and when they see me, Autumn beams and runs toward me, a measuring cup in one hand and her 17 month birthday sticker in the other. I jog backward in front of her, snapping photos. The faster I move, the more she picks up speed, the picture blurring, the sticker crushing, the energy frantic. And even though I wasn’t with her when she woke up this morning, I’m here now, in this awesome moment, making this fun memory.
Later, we jump around in the bathroom mirror, blow bubbles in the bath, read a book, hold our nightly light show and sing-a-long, and then slow-dance to our song -- Wonderful World.
After she falls asleep, I ditch my plan to take Tod for a walk and clean the living room, which looks like a Toys R Us exploded, and instead I gorge on snacks and fall asleep on the couch. I want to be perfect, but I am exhausted.