Second Birthday Blessings and Blues

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I had originally planned to write nothing. I had originally planned to enjoy the day as any other. I had originally planned to not feel this way.

I was told many things a little over two years ago, as my wife was preparing to have our first child. At the top of the list was how drastically my life was about to change. Those who spoke these words spoke the truth, but for a number of different reasons.

For starters, all the warnings of losing sleep or missing milestones did not fall on deaf ears. I heard, and I chose to listen or ignore. Either way, I was aware of a decision and I thank those who warned. But the warning of a life change is different. It is a unique experience for all, and no one could have prepared me for exactly how I would be impacted.

The first year did not fly by. Now that the second year is coming to a close, I can say with confidence that, by comparison, there is no comparison. The first year was filled with every milestone, picture, and video that could be recorded. In that way, it will probably be the most eventful year of my child’s life.

The second year transpired in one week.

Every part of my life has, indeed, changed, but not because of my daughter’s presence, but rather who she is as a person.

For the exact reasons why the first year was so satisfyingly drawn out, the second year, as the direct opposite, was a blur. We purposely stopped trying to count Hayley’s age in months as an effort to stretch the year across 365 days, and still found it unable to work. In the end, I sat on my couch tonight,  amazed at what my daughter had become during her second year of life.

Those same people who warned me about how fast childhood goes also warned me that it gets worse when a routine has set in. Typically, this means school, and it will only speed up at that point. But that has also contributed to the blazingly quick past twelve months. Tina and I felt like we had finally hit our stride with our daughter, and life was going to be business as usual from that point on. It was, and that was the problem.

Now, as I watch the video of Hayley’s first year with us, I sob. Tina asked me why. She asked if I was sad. She asked me how I could be so upset.

I am neither sad, nor upset, nor sobbing out of depression.

I am blessed.

I see the face of my daughter on the television, and it is the same face (slightly smaller) than the one sitting to my right with her hands on Tina’s knee. I hear her laugh on screen and it mimics that which I heard minutes earlier. I see her smile and I see Hayley smile.

I cry because I know that, as much has changed throughout the two years, that’s how little has changed. While each day goes by, and absolutely nothing new has transpired, I discover that, somehow, I am able to fall more in love with a person. I don’t see it coming, and I didn’t see it pass. I only feel it when I look back and see what has multiplied throughout the past two years.

Then I cry because I know she loves me too. I see a video of me and my daughter dancing, and I know that, in ten minutes, we will be dancing again. I see her wrapped in my (our) yellow blanket, and I see her bolt off the couch to grab it again. I see her falling asleep in my arms on screen and I see her falling asleep in my arms upstairs, tonight.

The series of images pass my blurred eyes, and each one brings a different emotion. I find a soft smile in how adorable my daughter looks in most of the typical pictures. I find the pained yearning for last year when I see the videos. I find the swelling of love for a life lived when I see moments unfolding.

As always, it is the moments that bring the impact.

The moment when the tree fell on our house and Hayley was beaming with happiness because she got to stay up late and sleep downstairs with mommy and daddy. The moment when I accidentally found a fat, round Jets stuffed animal and realized that Hayley was hysterically laughing at it (and the moment we bought it). The moment when the heat in our house was broken and Hayley had to wear a winter hat inside for a few days.

It is the moments, whether captured or not, that make life memorable. It is the recognition of these moments that make life special.

I had planned on not writing anything tonight because I found it difficult, at first, to pinpoint how I felt about my daughter’s second birthday. Part of me wanted it to be “just another day” so that I would not be forced into a position of sadness, but a bigger part wanted it to be special, regardless of the consequence.

I planned on simply wishing my two-year old daughter a Happy Birthday and continuing on with business as usual. Then I saw the video and remembered how important it is to accentuate the moments and break away from the mundane.

I remembered who caused me to feel this way and why she deserves everything she has received.

I remembered why children are the greatest gifts of life and why a altering a plan is always worth the story it tells.

I remembered how my life has been forever changed.

And I will always remember who changed it.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Hayley!