I want you to know most of all that I love you. I have always loved you. That second day of your life when I cuddled you by my side, too exhausted in my hospital bed to do anything else, and murmured, “anything for you, baby…” – there were two things that struck me, even in that crazy moment: how little I knew you and how thoroughly I meant it.
I know you quite a bit better now, since that night I stayed up tracing and memorizing the lines of your face, too anxious to sleep. And with this knowledge, my love has grown alongside you. I love you now as a distinct person—not just as my little person, but as your own self. That silly, giggly, and conversely serious and thoughtful self who currently loves bugs and construction trucks. The girl who jumps on you when she’s bored. The girl who can negotiate a good deal for herself, who still prefers cuddling to sleep, and who watches television with quiet reverence.
I admire you for your strength and determination. I know that the same qualities that challenge me as your Momma will take you far in life. You follow your heart. You have an unflinching vision of how things should be. You stand up for what you believe in. You don’t quit. You are not carefree, but you are brave, which is even better. Carefree is a disposition; bravery is a decision that I see you make in different ways every day. As your Momma, I want to help you articulate your vision, recognize values worth standing up for, manage risk with wisdom, and (here’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way!) make room for others in your process.
You have gone through so much in the last year! When you turned three, you were still my baby—the only child, not quite finished nursing, not quite out of diapers. You were the center of my universe, and you relished your spot there. Then, my lovey creature of habit, your world shifted. You became a big sister. We moved out of our house and into the upstairs room at Nona’s house, and suddenly Momma and the new baby left for long trips to the tile store. The rocking chair, which had been our sanctuary all your life, was more crowded and less cozy. Still, to watch you welcome that new love into your life in spite of everything made my heart soar. And we had our ways of coping and compensating. Do you remember our first trip to the ice cream store, just you and me again? Do you remember how we filled baby’s nap times with drawing? Dogs saving the day—so many dogs bringing medicine to the sick kids. Drawing Thomas the Train from many angles. It wasn’t always pretty, but I let you know that was ok. We’re practicing. What a microcosm of our life at the time, and it still is.
I want to remind you to practice. Did you know that practice is an act of bravery? To do something even though you may fall short of your vision, get it wrong, make it ugly… But there is nearly always a next time to do better.
Except, perhaps, when it comes to being your Momma. You’re getting older and more independent every day. As you grow up, there are things that have come between us. Your sister who needs her share of my love and attention, your independent life at school. This is just the beginning, and even though it is completely natural, this new distance makes me a bit sad. I know you now—everything about you. We share the same language, the same references. As you grow and our time and interests diverge, I want us to share the same closeness. I hope we continue to understand and listen to each other. You’re not the type to run up and tell me about your day. I will get the missing pieces of your life in small doses, at bedtime or in the car, or just by watching you play. I will read your concerns between the lines of the questions you ask. Where does the caterpillar go when it becomes a butterfly?
I have practiced being your mom for four years now. I’m still not perfect. But I have a vision and I’m determined to be brave. And I love you. You inspire me every day to rise to the challenge of being your Momma.