My Favorite Mistake

I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes lately. Not for any particular reason other than the “mistakes” in my life have led me to the very best outcomes.

It’s funny how we spend so much time working hard, trying to climb this invisible ladder to get comfortable enough, yet few of us ever do. We stay on course. We try not to veer. And when we do, it’s often seen as a mistake instead of one of life’s great adventures.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, from the mundane (purchasing brand after brand of natural deodorant thinking this will be the one that will actually work) to the more serious (almost losing three fingers in my garage door recently, while Sophie sat in the middle of our back alley in her car seat, wholly unprotected as I writhed in agony) to the monumental (thinking I had the no birth control/rhythm method down pat and couldn’t possibly get knocked up because I never wanted a baby). And yet all of these “mistakes” have been a lesson (though smelling like chicken noodle soup is not a lesson – it’s an abomination).

And yet, each one has led me here, in this corner of the city, to our condo, with my little girl rolling happily on her mat in our living room. Sophie is by far my favorite mistake; she is the only mistake that matters, and she will always be responsible for giving me the perspective on life that I never knew I was missing (or even wanted).

Though I’ve surrounded myself with books and inspiring people and rules and regulations over the years to try and find the meaning of it all, I find that Sophie has taught me the most. Quite simply, she gets it. My favorite lessons:

1. She doesn’t judge me when I sing to her, off-key, at the top of my lungs; when I smile and have food in my teeth; when I get up, bleary-eyed in tattered pajamas to care for her. No, she doesn’t judge; instead, she presses her little fingers to the planes of my face and smiles.

2. She needs me. Lovers always talk about “needing” the other. We need those shoes, that car, that house. We need a vacation. But, there is nothing so stripped down or urgent as a child’s need for her mother (as demonstrated by the monstrous wail last night as I slipped from bed to brush my teeth and Sophie searched like a hungry bird for the warmth of my body that had evaded her).

3. She simplifies life. While her life won’t always be simple, my days have been stripped to the bare necessities: feeding, bathing, soothing, laughing, teaching, sleeping… There’s no need for fancy gadgets or tricks – she doesn’t need a huge audience or an iPad or a 401K. She doesn’t care who’s a CEO and who’s a bum on the street. In her eyes, it’s all the same. We’re all the same. Human interaction is all that matters. Attention. The fact that I get to provide this here, with her, every second of the day, and she’s not learning from some wonderful caregiver in a daycare center makes me irrationally proud and a little fearful that she won’t learn everything she needs to from me. But I will try.

4. She loves. Sophie loves. She loves her parents, her puppy, her toys, her clothes. She loves the brightly colored produce lining the shelves in the store; she loves cardboard boxes, the clothes in her closet, the vacuum cleaner, the hair dryer, the lights from the Metra outside our window, every single CD, strangers, babies, bugs… she does not discriminate. She doesn’t love one thing more than the next – she simply observes, absorbs, smiles and registers. She is a beacon of love.

5. She makes every day matter. We always joke about living for today, but with a child, you must. You can’t get caught up in tomorrow or next week – you don’t even know what the next hour will look like, much less next year. You stop planning and start paying attention to the immediate needs. And in doing so, you learn to appreciate the simple pleasures in life: a quick make out session with your husband, a hot bath (heaven!), a cup of tea, a walk, holding hands, a handwritten letter, a phone conversation… these things matter again. I get lost in the entire process and relish every second I get to create or be alone or rest.

As we approach our first Thanksgiving tomorrow, I will take these lessons to heart and apply them as we stand on State Street and watch the parade, as we make our massive vegan feast, as we possibly give Sophie her first bite of food and listen to Christmas music and set the table and indulge in our healthy fare as a family.

I will marvel at her more tomorrow than I do today. And one day, I will tell her how she came to be, how she chose us, how she altered our worlds completely. But for today, I will sniff her delicious Mohawk, kiss her plump cheeks and teach her a new skill. I will stroke her back while she sleeps and giggle when she does.

I will relax. I will slow down. I will learn to redefine the meaning of my day – and mostly, I will be thankful.