So, what happens when you succeed?
You sit sobbing in your office at a quarter-to-midnight because you realize that your baby girl turns eighteen in fifteen minutes. You panic because you aren't sure if you've taught her enough, given her the right examples, or taken enough pictures so she doesn't feel like she was slighted by the second-child syndrome.
You think back to when she pouched food in her cheeks like a chipmunk and that time she accidentally knocked her plate of spaghetti on the floor then stood there saying "Taa-dah!" like it was some well-planned magic trick. You think about the adorable way she sneezed as a baby--one full sneeze or two, then a big breath like she was going to do it again but instead she'd let out a sigh and grin. You remember the way she mimicked the pigeons outside her bedroom window and how she communicated with animals before she did humans. You recall when she started learning where her body parts were and she called her tummy her "Buddha", except she wiggled her tongue when she said it and it came out more like "Blubbub". You also can't forget when she finally got that whole toilet-training thing and came running out of the bathroom at the restaurant yelling, "MOMMY! I went ICKY in da potty!"
You realize that the days of reading her bedtime stories, tucking her in, and her waking you up in the middle of the night because of a bad dream are gone, and that the next closest thing you'll get to doing that again is when she lets you take care of her children. HER children!
You remember all those times when you just wished she'd grow up a little bit more quickly so she could do more, see more, understand more...and then you realize she did.
And all you want are those eighteen years back so you can go back and make sure you did it right--that you played enough, laughed enough, and loved enough.
Peanut, you have always been such a bright light in my life. Your heart is so big that sometimes I can't even believe you're mine. Your generous spirit, forgiving nature, and loving personality are my most favorite traits, and I hope you carry them with you always. I love you with all my heart and I am so very proud to be your mom. Happy birthday, baby girl!