A few months ago, a friend of mine entered a contest that asked her to describe her personal definition of parenthood. I don’t know whether she won (though I think you should have, K!), but since then I’ve been thinking about my own definition.

Back when I was pregnant with MJ, the thought occurred to me one day that I was in the midst of experiencing the only truly symbiotic relationship a person can have; a moment later, however, I realized that the more accurate term would probably be parasitic. Nursing, baby wearing, and co-sleeping all reinforced that latter definition.

For the last year or so, however, MJ has been growing more and more independent, and the word no longer really applies. At two and a half, she is clearly her own distinct self, possessing a number of traits I admire but don’t always share: her sunny disposition and sweet-temperedness, her lack of fear and her eternal optimism. Already she has taught me at least as much as I’ve taught her. And so my personal definition of parenthood has shifted yet again, and I think my first term was right, after all: I need her as much as she needs me.

– AC

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