Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Funny Valentine

Seven years ago, yesterday, Sophia entered my world, and rocked it! Our firstborn came four days early, on Valentine's Day, a possibility I had not been excited about when I first heard my due date. But like so many things about motherhood, I changed my mind when I saw her little face, topped with the red and pink beanie the nurses had dressed her in. What a sweet day for our heart's desire to be born.

Hearts have become a big thing to our family ever since. We chose for Sophia the life verse: "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart." I had heard that sometimes mothers don't immediately bond with their newborns, and I was apprehensive before she was born. But from the first moment, I felt that I recognized her; there was an instant simpatico between us, and around her, I felt the light of blessing. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true. A deep need of my heart was filled, and she seemed completely magical to me, impervious to the work-a-day world around her.

On the second day of her life, a nurse came in to tell us that they had found an irregularity while checking her heart, and the doctor would come in a few minutes to explain. Longest few minutes of our lives! But then the doctor explained she had a heart murmur, the most common form of birth defect, and one that would be easily treated with surgery when she was 18 months old. I honestly was not scared. Again, Sophia seemed to have a light around her, that nothing was going to disturb. This turned out to be true as far as the murmur was concerned; the fervent prayers of her grandparents' were answered, and despite the fact that the doctors said her condition wouldn't improve, it has improved steadily since birth and they now say she will never need surgery. We've explained to Sophia as she takes her antibiotics pre-dentist (the only medical treatment necessary to protect her swishy little pulmonary valve), that she simply has a special heart.

When she was nine months old --cutest of all baby stages in my opinion -- I remember telling my friend Josie that she was exactly the baby I would have designed for myself. Outgoing, funny, sweet, smart. She was talking at 10 months, I swear. She could cluck like a chicken on command. And she was telling jokes wordlessly even sooner. She used to have the supermarket line behind me completely engaged while I unloaded the shopping cart. People would say to me, "Your baby really likes me." I stopped saying, "Oh, she's like that with everyone," after I saw a few crestfallen faces and realized how that sounded.

Now at seven, we think she's the bravest, funniest, smartest kid on the block (we being her parents and four doting grandparents). If you ever can't find Sophia, check the nearest tree or boulder. She's at the top. Hanging upside down. She doesn't like having her hair done. She likes shirts with hoods. She dislikes socks. She dislikes blouses with frills or gathers. Give her a t-shirt with a peace sign on it, a pair of Crocs and a walkie talkie. That's the perfect ensemble for conquering the world, and she looks good doing it.

My daughter is physically fearless. Watch her jump off that high dive, or dive into that wave. Sure, she'll pick up that bug, or catch that lizard. She can run as fast as those boys can. She'll try to jump off that curb on her scooter. But at the same time, she's such a sweet little mother. I love watching her care for her favorite doll, decorating and redecorating her tiny bedroom, making her little homework assignments, tying her hair up in home-made bows.

Sophia loves to read. To her mother's chagrin, however, she rarely finishes a book. She's usually two chapters into four or five books at a time. I have a theory that once she proves to herself that she can read a particular book, she wants to go on and check to see if she can read the words in the next one. Meanwhile, she's a gifted writer. Truly, when her teacher told me, "We have a little author on our hands," it was like telling a former Heisman trophy winner that his son has one heck of an arm.

Sophia is a brave defender of the weak and marginalized -- as much as she might encounter in a suburban playground, that is. I've seen her verbally take on kids twice her age when they were calling some little kids names. Her sense of justice makes me fiercely proud. (I just wish she wouldn't apply it quite so passionately whenever she catches her sister in a misdemeanor, but you have to take the bad with the good sometimes.)

Words of affirmation and quality time -- she'd like to spend it talking -- are her love languages. Boy can I relate. Ironically, it's sometimes hard to give her those; I never thought I could run out of words until I spent a day at home with my daughter! She wants to hear countless stories about my childhood, about her uncles and aunts, and her grandparents. And she wants to tell me stories too. Even when she's not talking, she's humming little songs to herself. At least she's humming in tune.

While my second-born Livie has always seemed like the Other to me (she's so very like her dad), Sophia has always been the Familiar. We joke that she and I are the brown-eyed team in our family of four. She looks like me (only blond), feels like me, thinks like me -- up to a point. So naturally we can go head-t0-head in conflicts as you can only do with someone who mirrors your flaws. Boy can that girl push my buttons.

But it's a beautiful thing to relate to your child of the same gender. I feel I can understand her concerns and anxieties, and having learned to deal with my own, am capable of helping her work through hers. Nothing has ever made me feel prouder than I do of the fact that my little girl brings her worries to me, believing I can alleviate them. When she comes home from school and tells me of a playground conflict, following it up with the question, "Did I handle that right, Mom?" I try my best to do her faith in me justice.

I know my days of being a treasured confidante may be numbered, so I want to lay the groundwork for her teen years. As much as I relate to Sophia, I know that someday she'll need to distance herself from me, reject some of my qualities, and go on to become her own kind of woman. I pray that when those conflicts come, underneath it all she will still remember who she is to me: the child I would have designed for myself, the desire of my heart.

1 comment:

  1. After Sophia was born I remember that you told me that you always knew you'd love your child, but you never knew you'd adore all of her PARTS: that you just died a thousand deaths over her elbows, her tummy, her nose, her whatever. And after having Eryn, I must agree wholeheartedly. Watching her grow into a true human, her very own personality (mix-and-matched with my nose), makes me teary with joy almost every single day.

    I am quite sure that having a boy would be delightful--I hear it is!--but being a girl who has a girl child (or more)...perfection.