Monday, August 25, 2014

First, Last, and Only

Today was another first for Dotty and me. It was her First Day of First Grade.
We did the usual stuff...pick out a special outfit, lay everything out the night before, go to bed early, wake up early, take pictures in front of the house, the car, back in front of the house again, we took more pictures at school, in front of the school, in front of the "Welcome" sign, in front of other signs...real smiles, fake smiles, and silly faces were captured today!
Then she was so excited to be on her way to find her spot in line that I barely got a hug and kiss goodbye. But by planting myself directly in front of her line of vision and looking deep into those beautiful blue eyes I got a split second to say "Have a great day! I love you!" as I stole a quick kiss...and then she was off!
As Dotty grows up in life she is experiencing all these "firsts" and so am I. Today like so many other days I am reminded that these firsts are also our lasts. Neither of us will ever get another "First Day of First Grade" moment. Neither of us will get another first time to wait for class in the gym versus the library like she did as a Kindergartener. Neither of us will get those first day of first grade butterflies. Today was our last first for this moment.
You see when Dotty was born I had always planned on having at least two kids. I hate to admit this but in a way I had hoped to "survive and learn" with Dotty and then be able to enjoy everything with my second kid. But life has a funny way of showing us we are not in control. The day I realized that I was more than likely never going to have another child of my own was the day I realized that Dotty was no longer my "dress rehearsal". I don't mean that in a bad way I just meant that a part of me thought if I made mistakes with Dotty I could make it right with the next kid.
Thankfully as Maya Angelou would say "when you know better you do better". Now that I am definitely older and I hope a little bit wiser I know that even if I had another child I would screw up with that one too...just in new and undoubtedly head shaking "what was I thinking???" ways. Now I know that Dotty is not the dress rehearsal for me becoming a "perfect parent" because perfection doesn't exist...especially in parenthood. I now know that Dotty is a great teacher to me. She shows me my flaws and the areas in my life I want to improve. She makes me want to be a better person, woman, and mother. She is forgiving of my shortcomings and she is accepting of my flaws. She loves me even when I don't love myself...and she is the first and last person I think of each day.
I used to get sad thinking about how all the firsts are also all the lasts. I used to strive to make every moment perfect (I am a slow learner when it comes to the subject of perfection). However today as I was racing to pick Dotty up from school (and if you know me well...then you know I was late) I was berating myself for not being the mom who was the first one in line to pick up her kid. In fact I was the last one to pick up my kid.
Dotty didn't seem to mind too much though. After a short "Why were you so late? The teacher almost put me on the bus." I told her "Today was a first and so I thought it should be a last in some way too." She just looked at me funny (not the first time I got this look) and went on to tell me all about her day. As she told me all the details her almost 7 year old memory could remember I couldn't help but realize that whether I was the first mom or the last mom what mattered was I was her mom. I was there...late I know...but I was there.
Having an only child does mean that the first first will also be the last first and the only first. However it doesn't matter if you have one kid or if you are the Dugger family with too many to count. What matters is in life we get to keep having these "firsts". Of course some of them we are going to screw up and some of them we are going to get right but the point is we get to keep having them. The truth is when Dotty graduates from high school or college she won't remember I was the last mom to pick her up from school in the first grade...and without looking at pictures she won't remember what she wore the first day. What she will remember is how many times I was there. Was I there a lot or seldom...was I there with a smile or a frown...was I there cheering her on or with my face glued to my phone...was I there to hold her hand, give her a hug, tell her she is great, wipe away a tear, be the one standing up to cheer...was I there...that is all she will remember.
Life is not a dress rehearsal. We are going to make mistakes...being late to school today was not my first mistake nor will it be my last. Some mistakes will be worse than others but if I keep showing up...if I keep being there for Dotty for the firsts, the lasts, the only moments...then the mistakes won't matter.
If I get it right...great! If I make a mess...okay. If we have a Hallmark moment...that is awesome! If we have a "wow that was awful" moment...then we will do better next time!
The fact is Dotty is my first kid...more than likely she is my last and only child. Does it make me treasure things a bit more than a mom with multiple kids...maybe but I doubt it. I know moms with three and four children that cherish each of these moments too and make them all just as great and special as if they had only one child to dote on and concern themselves with. No matter how many children you have in that moment with that particular child it is always your first, last, and only moment. There is no rewind. There are no retakes. This is life. This is the life we give to each of our kids. We all make the most of each moment.
Today was my first, last, and only time to experience the First Day of First Grade with Dotty. Just like it was for her. I enjoyed today in many ways and I only shed a tear or two that my baby girl is growing up. The bad news is today is gone. I don't get it back. But the good news is (God willing) I have so many more days like today to look forward to with Dotty.
I am definitely looking forward to all the firsts, lasts, and only moments to come.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Dinsey World 2014

For those of you who know me well you know I do not do "character clothing". In fact I barely do prints or stripes or just about anything else that gets away from my solid colors. But the sweat pants in this picture are indeed mine and I have to say that they will forever hold a special place in my heart because they represent to me what a difference time makes.

You see Dotty and I took our first Disney World trip back in September of 2012. Dotty had just turned 5 and I was so excited about what was to be "The Trip of a Lifetime". I put a lot of pressure on this trip to live up to such a high billing and I put a lot of pressure on Dotty and me as the staring role players of this trip. As you can imagine I also set myself up for complete and utter failure.

Disney World 2012 did have good moments (we still met Disney characters, got to see our sweet and special friend Lena, and our hotel was really nice), but overall I remember the trip as being full of frustration, disappointments, and I am sorry to say a few tears shed by Dotty and even me. In general I thought the trip was a failure and that I was a failure as a mother. I won't go so far as to say I hated the trip but I did not look back on it with many fond memories.

Then in April 2013 Dotty and I took a trip to Disneyland. It was an awesome trip and I attributed much of it to being so great because Disneyland is so much smaller than Disney World and we were aided by some awesome family members (Mitch and April Taylor's family) who live in California and were able to show us all the ins and outs of Disneyland.

So now this year we had a choice to make...where to go for our trip. Dotty wanted to go to Disney World again but I was skeptical. I just thought that we were cursed when it came to Disney World. However, with the help of our fabulous Disney Planner, Robbie Burket, we set off for Disney World...but I will say I had a small pit of dread in my stomach.

My game plan with Robbie was to do a few big things and anything else was just going to be bonus. Well that proved to be the best game plan ever. Except for the fact that Dotty wanted to swim in the hotel pool more than I let her (we can swim anywhere) and the fact that Dotty really wanted to go to the Disney Boutique again to get made up like a princess, we had the best trip ever!!!

The pants pictured above are part of the reason why. Let me explain.

On the first Disney trip I wanted everything to be so perfect I missed out on just enjoying time with Dotty. I foolishly thought our trip would look like the commercials I see on tv when I know in my heart those people are just actors and those situations are staged. Just like the rides at Disney...real life comes with ups and downs and sometimes you get a little wet either from a few shed tears or a trip down Splash Mountain...either way the water dries and life is good again.

Was this last trip to Disney perfect? No. Dotty and I both got hot, tired, hungry, frustrated, disappointed, short with each other, etc. A year from now...or especially 10 or 20 years from now will I remember those things? No. I will remember the smiles, the laughs, the hugs, the kisses, the sheer enjoyment of watching my almost 7 year old daughter believe in the magic of Disney.

And I got to the live the magic that comes from a parent getting to make memories with a child.

Those pants pictured above came about because on the last day we were at Disney we had to check all our luggage before we headed to Magic Kingdom. So all we had left at the hotel were the bags we were going to carry on the plane which were full of snacks and new Disney toys. We had a great final day at Magic Kingdom and as we were waiting for the bus to take us back to the hotel I went to open a Coke that I had bought and it spewed all over me. I was drenched!!!

Now I had put an extra shirt in my carry on bag but that was it. So now I was faced with having to fly on a 2 hour plane ride then drive another 2 hours home with sticky pants.

As I sat there a little stunned and drenched in Coke I looked up to see Dotty paralyzed. She even seemed to be a little afraid. You see she was the one who had been carrying the Coke and no doubt had been swinging and playing with it. I am sure she was prepared to hear my roar (and not in the Katy Perry kind of way).

What I did next showed me what a difference time makes.

I simply shrugged my shoulders, got some wet wipes out of our bag and started wiping myself off, and I told Dotty "Looks like Momma will be buying herself some new pants today.". Dotty said, "You aren't mad?" Me, "No. Accidents happen. No use crying or getting mad over spilled Coke."

So when we got back to the hotel the pants above were the ONLY pants the gift shop had. I learned several good lessons from those pants.

1. Pack extra pants in your carry on too.
2. Life is too short to get mad over spilled Coke.
3. People can change.

You see the first Disney trip I would have yelled and gotten very mad over that Coke. I would have made the situation worse than it needed to be. But I am trying to grow and learn to take life as it comes...spilled Coke and all. I don't always do it well or right...but I keep trying.

I hope someday when Dotty has her children and "Coke gets spilled" (whatever the "spilled Coke" actually is in life because it can come in many shapes and forms) I hope she will remember how I handled "spilled Coke". Maybe not every "spill" was handled well but if most of them are then I have done a pretty good job.

As we boarded the plane I noticed a few odd doubt people were mentally critiquing my fashion choice. In the past I would have worried what those people thought but that day all I worried about was making sure Dotty enjoyed every last minute of our trip and I enjoyed every last moment with her.

The airline attendant asked if we had fun. YES!!!...was our overwhelming reply. Then she asked if this was our first trip. I said no but it was definitely a much better one. She asked if it was because Dotty was older. I simply said "Maybe but I think it has to do with the fact that I am much wiser."

As we waited for the plane to take off Dotty looked up at me and said "Mommy our first Disney World trip was awesome too. We got to spend it with Lena, I got to get dressed up like Tinker Bell, we saw the fireworks, we did the Toy Story ride and a bunch of other stuff." Then she went back to playing with her toys.

As I sat there tears almost spilled from my eyes (it was a day of all kinds of spills) because I was reminded that even when I feel like a failure my kid sees the good in me and in the things we do together. Does Dotty remember the not so great things about our first Disney trip? Of course she does. (She is still banned from playing with my phone because she deleted a lot of pictures on that trip.) But are the not so great things the ones that mean the most to her? No. They aren't. She remembers how if felt to be treated like a princess. How it felt to meet Minnie and Mickey for the first time. How it felt to see a friend we hadn't seen in a while. She remembered the good stuff way more than she did the not so great stuff.

And just like she does so often Dotty taught me a good life lesson. We all try our best but we are all going to fail. It is what we dwell on that matters. We can choose to remember the good things or the bad ones but they are still our choice to make. Life is all about choices and we have the power to choose!!!!

So as Dotty slept the entire plane ride back to Texas I thought back to Disney World 2012 and I remembered the good times only. And I was amazed at how many there were. So from now on I will choose to remember the lessons but only the lessons...not the bad things that resulted in the lessons.

And I will always pack extra pants!!! But I will also always keep those Minnie pants. And someday when Dotty and I are going through my closet we will come across them...and we will laugh...and we will remember...and I will be so grateful!