The truth is, I’ve avoided writing this letter, because I knew it would make me cry. Not bad tears, not sad ones — just mama tears. That combination of love and pride and joy and nostalgia that makes mama hearts swell. The tears of being so proud and so in love with our children that we feel our hearts will burst, just looking at our children, doing something innocuous, mundane — eating soft serve, ice cream dribbling down chins, chasing fireflies at dusk, just a laugh — the purest, most joyful laugh.
I see glimpses, still.
It’s in the way you turn your head up at night, in your Spiderman sheets and your red nightgown that matches Marmee’s, 400 stuffed animals wedged in around you.
Something about your upturned chin, your little nose — for a moment, I see your tiny infant self again, you little elfin changeling child — and then, snap, it’s gone again. You are my big girl again, with full cheeks and long lashes, your gangly limbs and your impish grin.
I would say there’s something unrecognizable about your independence — except it came so naturally. I woke up one morning and realized, every morning, you’d been getting yourself up out of bed, opening the door to your room, and running into mine. Somehow, you’re big enough to take off your nighttime Pull-up, find the iPad and climb into bed with me to watch something until I wake up fully. It happened so subtly, one step at a time, that I barely notice. But I think back to year ago, and realize how different our mornings were.
I wonder what you will remember about this year, as you grow older. I wonder if this whole 2020 dumpster fire of a year will seem normal to you, who has grown up in it — when to your Papa and me, this feels so strange. You’ve taken it all in stride, resilient in a way kids can manage to be, when we adults get too caught up in the worries and anxieties. I never expected to be putting a mask on you even to enter the gas station or the chiropractor. I didn’t expect to be taking you to Black Lives Matter protests at three-almost-four, and yet all of this has been so necessary. If it’s going to be happening, I’m going to be teaching you about it. I had this moment of sheer clarity, at a Breonna Taylor memorial protest — wearing you on my back in a carrier, masks on our faces, marching down Washington Street, shouting in union, despite the June humidity, I thought, this unlike anything I have ever done before. This is the kind of parenting no one prepares you for.
And yet, despite the wildness in the world, and the ever shifting priorities of worries — we have managed some sense of normalcy. Covid and quarantine gave us such an unexpected gift — all this time together, as a family. Time together in a way I craved, and didn’t expect to get again. We’ve gotten to share those slow mornings, cuddling in the bed until we’re ready to greet the day — instead of me running out the door feeling regretful that I’m so rushed with you. I take my breaks from my little office in the garret, and I get to play Legos with you, pretend to be a kitty mommy and a kitty baby, get to chalk on the sidewalk or blow bubbles on the lawn.
I’ve gotten to hear your sweet little voice, all day. I hear your sweet voice on another rousing round of Into the Unknown, or Down by the Bay with increasing intensity each repetition. I hear your dreams and observations, and I try and answer your many questions. I’ve gotten to expand open this emotional intimacy we have, this understanding that although you’re not a little baby dependent on me for food and constancy — we are still connected in that special way. I love how you’ve become so affectionate again. That time from 2-3 years old, you were — as Marmee used to describe me — a little tiger cub, so busy and so fiercely independent, you rarely had time for cuddles. Now, you are affectionate, loving — your love language might just be touch — at the very least, it’s comforting to you. Our favorite way to watch TV is you in my lap, right in between my knees, my legs locked around you so you can lean back on my chest. On the nights you crawl into bed with me, there’s a very specific routine to our co-sleeping — you order my arm into one position, the other in another. You must tuck your little feet under me. We are wrapped together like spoons, and we can sleep all night like that.
We walk hand in hand, not as much out of safety anymore, but because we enjoy it. I honestly don’t know if there’s much I enjoy more than walking down a sidewalk, or into a store, with you holding my hand. You’re my little best friend, my little buddy — I love to hear you laugh, I love to make you laugh — although no one will ever make you laugh harder than Papa. I love the way your joy is so present and palpable. I love hearing your shrieks wind through the yard and up to the porch where I’m watching you. I love the way your eyes light up with glee and excitement. I love how you seem to be an embodiment of all the good things in the world, at a time when the world feels darkest. This is a really good day, is the best thing you can say to me, and you do, often.
The kindness of your heart is obvious and abundant. I see it now, unprovoked and unprompted. One evening, we played on the porch while the summer rain pounded down around us. You asked for a toy I remembered was on the back stoop, and I ran for it. As I did, I heard a big crack of thunder, and hightailed it back to the porch — you’re scared of thunder, you don’t like loud noises, and I didn’t want you scared. As I rounded the corner, I saw — you, gently petting Fiddle Kitty, in the porch with us. It’s OK, I heard you coo, it’s all right, it’s just thunder, you’re OK. Your big heart, your instinct to look after things smaller than you, even when you’re scared. I feel those mama tears again. I just want to help people, you’ve told me more than once. It’s brought you to tears, before, the intensity of your emotion in your little body (don’t I know the feeling) — I want to help people. Your goodness and silliness and big, big, loving heart are the greatest gifts, and your papa and I are grateful for you, every single day.
We love you. We cherish you. We look forward to every new day with you, and celebrate every new year.
All my love,