Milestone marked with tenderness and relief

It's a special day in the Hotton household.

Assuming you're reading this at breakfast time, I'll already be busy in the kitchen preparing to feed the masses turning up for a special little girl's first birthday (November 23).

We're on a tight deadline because we also need to get a 3-year-old to the Santa Parade so the kitchen will be running like a professional organisation today.

I've written before about milestones and new parents' perception of time. It starts with the focus being on four-hour blocks before moving on to day growth and achievements, then weeks and eventually months. Now we've hit that first year milestone.

The first birthday party isn't for the one marking her birth day. Sure, Piper will be the focus of all the attention for the day but she has no idea what's going on. Nope, this one, at least as far as I'm concerned, is all about the parents and what we've endured/ achieved in the past 365 days.

The past 12 months have probably been the most hectic and challenging we've ever had. Juggling a newborn and a toddler with work expectations, finances, the prospect of redundancy, health issues and the need for some form of social interaction without children (for sanity reasons), has been . . . interesting.

I don't think Suz and I have got the balance right just yet between work, children and ourselves, but we're aware of this and are adamant 2014 will be easier.

But, for most of the year, it's been worth it. I love my daughter more than I could have imagined. I love it when she sees me, crawls over as fast as she can and then nudges my leg with her head, indicating she'd liked picked up.

I love it that she doesn't say 'daddy', 'dad' or even 'da' - instead she thinks it's a great joke to say 'mama' many times and laugh.

I love it that the day after I tell you that she hates being thrown up in the air - and caught - that I try it again and she's all toothy grins.

I love it that she's seeking out big cuddles and squeezes from her dad.

I love it that when she's not well or wakes up upset, I can give her cuddles and put her back to sleep, that she's not reliant just on her mum doing that.

I love that her and Zach are getting along better every week and soon they'll be great mates.

And I love that soon I'll get to hold her little hand in my big mitt while we walk down the street. That soon she will say daddy and it will mean so much more. That we'll soon be able to steal our little moments away on our own and she can tell me important girl things. And I love it that she's going to grow up with the support and unconditional love of a positive and encouraging male in her life, which will help her more than she'll ever know. Happy birthday Piper.

* Mark Hotton is a fulltime journalist/fulltime dad/part-time cake maker who is well aware his little angel will soon not only work out how to melt and break his heart but how to use that to her advantage.

The Southland Times