Hi, I'm Dawn Klinge, welcome!  I write here because doing so helps me to take notice of the sweet things in life.




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Her smile

That first real smile from a baby is one of those precious gifts that elicits feelings of pure joy upon the lucky receiver.  It’s often followed by the craziest of antics or the silliest sort of baby talk, regardless of how dignified said receiver is under normal circumstances, all in order to get another smile from that baby.  And the first laugh?  That can send many loving caregivers over the moon with happiness!  Of course a baby’s smile or laugh is adorable, and all but the grumpiest of people can’t help but smile back when they gaze upon a happy baby.  But that smile is even more special to those who have dedicated the long sleepless days and nights caring for, feeding, rocking, changing diapers, and loving that little person who isn’t capable yet of reciprocating love.  Those first few weeks with a newborn are amazing but they’re also physically exhausting.  A baby’s smile is a sweet reward.

  I remember the first time my baby girl smiled at me.  I literally could feel my heart in my chest, skipping a beat or two, my throat tightened, and my eyes got all blurry with tears.  I’m sure that my own smile couldn’t have been any bigger at that moment.  Her smile felt like a gift from heaven, like she was saying, “I love you too”.  She was a colicky baby who cried a lot.  I felt like I was sleepwalking most of the time, and I often had feelings of panic when I thought, “I don’t know what to do!” Sometimes there was conflict between my husband and I when we disagreed about how we wanted to parent her or whose advice to follow.  But we loved her like crazy, and that smile was worth it all.  I would do almost anything to bring a smile to my little girl’s face.    

  I once read somewhere that the hardest years of parenting are the baby years and the early teen years, but they’re also some of the most important, in terms of establishing in the child, a sense of being loved and secure with their place in the world.  My daughter is now in her early teen years.  My personal experience is showing that what I read is true.  It’s a different kind of hard, more emotional than physical, but I’m seeing a lot of parallels.  She’s a great kid.  She’s normal- or at least she is very similar to me at that age.  I keep reminding myself of that when things get a little….tense.  Once again, I find myself consulting the parenting books, and thinking to myself, “I don’t know what to do!”  Parenting conflicts are more frequent- this time, over issues such as when to grant certain freedoms or how to react to certain….attitudes.    

  She smiles often, but those smiles are usually directed at her friends.  Her Dad and I are more often the recipients of the raised eyebrow, the arms crossed in front of the chest stance, or the angry scowl. But I love her now more than ever.  Occasionally, one of her smiles still gets directed at me, and it still lights up my world.  I will do almost anything for one of those smiles.  But now the rules have changed.  Baby talk and crazy antics are no longer appreciated.  Instead, I find myself watching the Justin Beiber movie on a Friday night because I know how much she wants to see it, or taking her for make-up lessons downtown, even though I think she’s beautiful without it- because if that’s what it takes for her to feel confident in her own beauty, then okay...we'll make it special. 

  Just like the baby years turned into the golden childhood years and the memories of the hard work involved eventually faded away into a rose colored nostalgia.   I know we’ll move on from these, sometimes, difficult early teen years.  And I hope that when it happens, she’ll still know how much she is loved, and how that sweet smile of hers can still bring tears of joy to her mama’s eyes.

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Reader Comments (11)

It does get easier and then when she is grown she'll think you know everything like my girls do. Well 2 of my 3 adult girls do anyway. ;)

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

This is such a beautiful post, and I am so delighted to see someone writing honestly, and with such love, about the preteen years. Your perspective is wonderful, in this world where mothers are always complaining about their daughters, and I know your reality is no doubt many times ... tense ... but I appreciate that you wrote about it with kindness as well as truth.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradie

I am in that first smile phase, and with two boys, hopefully won't have to deal with too much of the preteen stuff : ) Grace is still super sweet, even with the "eye rolling" : )

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNaomi

Can't......stop......crying! This was so beautiful and terrifying and encouraging. I am trying to enjoy every day and every phase of my daughters as they grow because I know that there will be days, all too soon, where they will not smile at me first thing in the morning and just before they fall asleep. I know that the "I love you's" will not come as frequently and that getting a hug may be more like wrestling and aligator.

I am so thankful for your posts and for sharing your life will all of us.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Thank you everyone.
Kristen, Naomi...when Grace was younger, if I heard other people say such things as I have written here, I would feel kind of angry at them (a "shoot the messenger" type of response). It is terrifying at times, but I'm glad that you also found it to be encouraging, Kristen. Perhaps I should have put a warning at the top, telling people not to read this if their children are still young. ; ) There are also so many wonderful aspects of having a twelve year old! I'll make sure to write about those soon.

July 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterDawn

I enjoyed reading what you wrote ( always enjoy reading what you write!) and totally agree on what you said. As the mother of a 12 year old myself - it is different - every year is different and we have to enjoy each moment for what it is as it goes by way too fast!! I have to remind myself always some really good advice that I recieved after some stressful drama with my daughter- and thats to pick your fights! Some things are way more important that others and dirrecting them to a relationship with God is one of those deal breakers. Somethings are just phases that can be lessons learned! I graduated from the school of hard knocks and want so much for my daughter to learn from my mistakes- however sometimes they want to learn them on their own. I am proud of the job you are doing with your kids and love you ooddles!!

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue Horton

Thank you Aunt Sue. Love you oodles too! ;)

July 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterDawn

Nicely put. She will try you - when my kids were her age, I still had them mostly home, only part time at school. It's the friends that kill you. I wish all children were brought up by parents who pay attention and think and see what's coming and say no when it needs to be said. Remember that her brain is being systematically re-wired and shrunk, and that the process will take until she is at least 24 - so she's a tiny bit insane, as we all are at that age. Do not be afraid to say no, and don't cave to histrionics when they hit. Be straight with her and lay the law clearly down, with its cool-headed punishments formally presented also. She needs to know where her boundaries are so that it will be HER choice whether to choose the right behavior or the consequence. Don't let her smell your fear - they can, you know. You need to just smile at her, explain and shrug. And say that you love her and want her to have the chance to grow up and be a solid, strong, intelligent good woman - even if it kills you both. You will get through it. My kids are my best friends now - but oh, there were moments . . .

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK

Thank you Kristen. This sounds like wise advice. I'm so glad to have you as a mentor/friend.

July 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterDawn

i love this post. thank you for the heads-up!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichelle

one more thing...the pic of the two of you in this post is precious. i love it!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermichelle

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