Real Life Mama: Celebrating the girl who was meant to be part of Mama’s life

I don’t have one single baby picture of her and me. I didn’t encourage her to say her first word or celebrate her first steps. When she lost her first tooth – or even the next 10 after that – I wasn’t there. You can’t find me in a photo walking her into preschool or kindergarten or any of her first years of school on the first day.

Ten years of her life I missed. That’s like an eternity to a kid. That’s like an eternity to me. Sometimes, it pains my heart to think of all the things I missed out on not knowing this girl since she was born. She had a whole life before me – I had a whole life before her. And yet, I couldn’t imagine one day of my life now without her.

This weekend is my third birthday with my bonus girl, Lyndsay – the third time I get to celebrate this young lady all day long. And even though she had 10 birthdays without me, I am so thankful for this third one that we get to share together.

Have you ever had someone come into your life and just know that they were supposed to be there? Like, oh hey God, I know You set this up. Thank you. That is how it has always been with Lyndsay.

You see, I am the mom figure in this relationship – I am the one who should be teaching her all the things. And, while I am certain I have taught her some things over the last three years, I am not sure it even compares to what this girl has taught me.

Never would I have imagined falling for a little child that wasn’t “mine.” How could I ever feel enough love for a little girl that I didn’t create? How could I feel so much pain when she ached, pride when she succeeded or joy when she did her little excited giggle over getting something she longed for. And yet, all of these things just come naturally with Lyndsay – she’s that part of me that didn’t grow in the womb or by sharing the same blood – but instead in the day to day interactions of us growing on the outside together.

When she was trying out for cheerleading, she had me doing cartwheels in the garage. When I wear the wrong outfit, she makes sure I change ha! When she wants her hair French braided, she comes to me and I do it while we chat about life. If she learns a new hair styling hack, she shares it with me.

If I am being too hard on her, she checks me – asks me what is going on – makes me take a step back and reevaluate. She’s beautiful and has no idea – even though I tell her all the time. She’s grumpy in the morning (just like her dad) but has learned to embrace my 30 seconds of hugs before she leaves the house. She loves on my girls – not like a friend – but like the big sister that she is – soothing Reagan if she is upset and giving Maylie pointers on life.

If there is an (easy) TikTok dance, she teaches it to us, and while we may save almost all in drafts and never post them, we have a blast making them. And when she is in one of her teenage moods, (while we have to be careful because sometimes it is best to just leave her alone), the best sight in the world is seeing the corners of her lips turn up unwillingly as she tries to hide it but can’t resist and snaps back into our sassy, energetic girl.

She is the finder of all the things lost (especially that one shoe that always gets away from the littles) but especially, and unbeknownst to me at the time, the little piece of my heart that wasn’t quite full until she came into my life.

I didn’t carry this girl inside of me, hold her as an infant, wipe her tears as she cried as a baby or snuggle her off to dreamland as a toddler. And yet, this grown kid has sat defeated on my lap and wept tears over frustrations in her life or climbed on my lap just to cuddle or even nap. She showed me how to love fully – not from being connected on the inside but by being present and connected on the outside.

I have missed so many firsts with Lyndsay, but I am soaking up the seconds, minutes, hours and days with this girl. We may not have started her life side by side, but you better believe I am hers – her Sarah – and she is mine – my Lynds – not just this birthday — but every day.

Happy Birthday, Lyndsay. I love you so much!

Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her daughters and writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.