When I was pregnant, I came up with a wish list for my daughter. It included things like making mistakes, being fiercely independent, and standing for something. You can see the entire list here. The day that Kennedy was born was a whirlwind: emergency C-section (after 36 hours of induction), being told that she had “characteristics of Down syndrome”, an echo machine being wheeled into our hospital room, a baby that was too cold for a bath and too cold to have blood drawn, the NICU charge nurse evaluating and swooping her upstairs, a chaotic NICU room due to K having breathing issues…our lives were flipped upside down.
I went through a lot of pain during those first few months (and still do occasionally) recognizing that the baby we expected and the baby we had were not the same. I worried that our wishes, hopes, and dreams for her needed to change dramatically and still wonder (sometimes daily) what her needs will be as she gets older and how to best set her up for success.
But after a while, I realized that my wish list didn’t have to change significantly, and maybe not at all. Over the last year, I have learned so much from this kiddo who has made our life so much better than we could have ever imagined.
Here are some things that I have learned from my one year old – things I hope Kennedy can teach you or remind you of too.
It’s ok to go at your own pace.
Rushing seems to be the way of the world, in every aspect of life. It’s ok to slow down and do things at your own pace. Sometimes slowing down allows us to see how much beauty is surrounding us.
It’s ok to say no.
Know your limits. It’s ok to not be everything to everyone all the time. It is essential to have space to recharge and reconnect – with your spouse, with your kiddos, with yourself. Saying no can open up a window of opportunities for you to say yes to the most important things.
Start every day with gratitude.
I’ve always been a celebrate gratitude person, but Kennedy has shown me that beginning each day with a grateful heart can provide perspective. And as you move through your day, the old saying “every day is not perfect, but there is something perfect in everyday” could not be more true. Finding that piece of perfect in even the worst days can have a major impact on your outlook and your mood.
Laughter really is the best medicine.
Baby belly laughs are seriously the best. Video tape those suckers and pull them out when you’re having a really bad day (insert gratitude here). Learning to laugh in the toughest moments can provide the levity you need to make it through another minute, another hour, another day.
Your village is essential.
Finding a strong group of people who love and support you, who challenge you and make you better, and who stick by you through thick and thin is essential.
Own your story.
When Kennedy was born, I was nervous to own our story. I was afraid of judgement. When others started to share it, I realized that was not how I wanted it. I needed to own my story because it’s mine to tell. Owning your story and your truth is not always easy but it’s important, because if you want it told the right way, you better start owning.
My daughter is the most curious person I know. She needs to know what’s going on and be in the middle of everything. I have a feeling when she starts talking, it’s going to be non-stop questions. She looks at the world with such wonder. I have started to ask more and better questions because I see how important curiosity is – you can learn so much about the people and the world around you when you get curious.
Respect and learn from the obstacles. Treasure and celebrate the successes.
Man have we had obstacles. But with each that comes our way, my husband and I work through them as a team or as a tiny family or with our village. We have learned so much from some of the barriers that have stood in our way or the obstacles we have encountered over the last year. We have used those lessons to make changes in our lives or to advocate for change or to move us forward.
Success can be defined in so many ways, and, no matter how small the win, we celebrate big. Things that may be routine to some people become things to cheer about in our house – and it’s really fun! Adding some celebration into your life can bring such joy and can help you keep going when the obstacles stand in your way.
Be your best self.
I’m a lot of things to a lot of people, but I’m first and foremost Jen. I’ve learned that it’s not only ok to do things that fill my personal buckets, but to be my best self so that I can show up for my family and for the community that I’m involved in, it’s essential. Honor your values and be true to who you are. Don’t lose yourself in all of the roles you may have.
I’ve learned a lot in the last year and I’m so excited to continue moving forward. Always forward.
Miss Kennedy – teacher of lessons.