Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dear Will - Two Years Old

Dear Will,

I wrote this letter on the day that you turned two. But as it sometimes happens, life intervened. It was Fourth of July weekend and there was family to be with and pools to jump in and popsicles to eat and a birthday party to plan, and publishing this somehow got lost in the shuffle. Yesterday you turned two and a half and it's snowy and cold outside and miles away from that steaming hot summer day when you walked around all day in your blue bathing suit telling everyone who would listen, "Will is two." But six months late is better than not at all, so this is for you, my not so little anymore baby boy, exactly as I wrote it then.


You are two years old today.

It's 6:40am and you are still sleeping as I write this. I can hear you stirring and I know that in a few minutes you'll be wide awake and calling for me. And I'll come scoop you out of your crib and you'll ask for milk and two pancakes and your blue iPad and I'll give them to you. And we'll sit on the couch together for awhile before anyone else wakes up and before I go downstairs to start working, you with your breakfast and YouTube videos and me with coffee and maybe a book. An ordinary day, celebrating a day two years ago that was decidedly less so.

You were born early, early in the morning. It was a Tuesday. The sky had just started to lighten when a nurse handed you to me for the first time. You were all wrapped up and so tiny that I had to pull the blanket down to get a good look at you. The room we were in was filled with a buzzy energy as doctors and nurses bustled around doing all the things that doctors and nurses do right after a baby is born, but none of it seemed to bother you. You laid there with me and looked around at things you couldn't really see yet with eyes that were already blue, occasionally fidgeting around in your blanket, barely making a sound as you got yourself acquainted with your new surroundings, closed your eyes for a quick rest, and repeat. Barely five minutes old and you were already a cool customer.

And I was tired. I think I was the most tired I have ever been in my entire life and I wasn't entirely sure that I wouldn't just fall asleep right there, my eyes drifting closed right along with yours. But even though every part of me was exhausted I couldn't stop looking at you, trying to see if I could see myself stamped on your face somewhere, wondering who you were exactly. Who you would be. Who I would be now that you were here.

It's been a two years since that early morning in the hospital, and we're no longer new at this, you and I. Our lives have long since settled into a routine, and it's been awhile since I thought about those blurry and chaotic early days. But two nights ago, I did. 

It was 6:00. You bounced up from the little table where you eat dinner now, your highchair retired, unused, to the corner of the dining room. You came running into the kitchen where I was loading the dishwasher and demanded a "possible" which is your word for "popsicle." I asked you what color you wanted and you said "orange. no, red. red possible." We went outside so you could drip that popsicle all over the place with abandon and run around for awhile before bed. You got busy right away lining up all the toys in the water table, running up and down the deck stairs into the yard, asking to go jump in the big pool, pressing the doorbell on your new playhouse to hear all of the different sounds, and examining all of the rocks in the fire pit. We spun in circles, and sang songs, and talked about how you were about to be two, and you decided you had enough of your red popsicle and asked for an orange one instead. And I gave it to you even though it was almost 7 because you asked and it's summer and sometimes being a mom means breaking the rules and staying outside to play and eat treats on a gorgeous night long after you should really be sleeping. And it seemed impossible that the newborn baby and this inexhaustible toddler running around in front of me could be the same person.

This is you, absolutely, at two years old. Bright and smiley, funny and curious, adventurous and brave and absolutely fearless. A lover of music and books and TV and veggie straws and absolutely anything with sugar. Full of fierce concentration when you're doing something that is important to you and delighted with yourself and with the world in general. Never walking anywhere when you can run, talking up a storm, and making us laugh every day with your sense of fun and your brand new observations on everything you see.

Last night, on your very last night of being 1, I put you to sleep, the same way I have almost every night of your two years. After you finished drinking your milk we sang some songs like we always do and then I put you in your crib. You jumped around for awhile and then laid your head down and we talked about your dreams - our routine since you really started talking a few months ago. Last night you told me you wanted to dream about colors and you rolled onto your back and started listing all the colors that you know and then you grinned up at me and said "hi mommy." And like it sometimes happens in those quiet moments while I'm putting you to sleep, the enormous gratitude - that you're here, that you're mine, that you're healthy and happy and silly and fun - reached up and grabbed me by the throat.

Since the day you were born I've always understood that it's the ordinary moments - and the quietest ones - that I'll always be the most grateful for. The moments I have time to stop and absorb, to know that I'll always be able to look back and remember how it was when you were small. Because even now, looking down at you in the crib you love so much, fresh from the bath and snuggled up with your beloved "Poppy blankey," I know that it won't always be like this. That one day you won't want to sing silly songs and talk about dreams and ask me a million questions so that I'll stay with you in your room just a little bit longer. This is the natural way of things, and that makes me happy and sad all at the same time and I wouldn't have it any other way. Motherhood is funny like that.

Happy second birthday my sweet Will. I love watching your grow, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

With love as big as the sky,


Previous Letters:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

This is Thirty-Four

This morning, when my alarm went off at 6, I felt like I had just gone to sleep. I got out of bed into a quiet house, and went downstairs to finish packing bags for work and daycare, then I got into the shower and by the time I got out, my 18 month old was wide awake and yelling "mommy" from his crib, and my house was quiet no more. He drank some milk while I got dressed, then I got him dressed, got him his beloved morning Kix, and we were out the door. He insisted on listening to ABCs on repeat in the car all the way to daycare, and threw a serious tantrum when it was time for me to leave. I got some coffee, and made it just in time to catch my train. In the quiet car I started a new book, and read my way into Manhattan.

This, I think, is thirty-four. Being a mom. Having a full-time job. In the thick of family life with an opinionated and fiercely independent toddler, always just a little bit tired, addicted to schedules, and grabbing moments of quiet whenever and wherever I can find them.

Thirty-four is eighteen months into this parenting gig. It is being more confident, and less afraid. It is not being freaked out by fevers anymore, and not running to the phone to call the pediatrician for every little rash or runny nose. It is looking at my toddler with something like disbelief that he could possibly have grown so much and learned so many things in such a short time. It is getting a little thrill every time he says "mommy" because it took him so damn long to learn how to say it. It is toddler babbles turning into actual words and dancing to ring around the rosy in the kitchen and reading Llama, Llama Red Pajama six times in a row.

Thirty-four is trying hard to remember that sometimes the best thing I can do for my little guy is to step back and trust him to be who he is. To stop worrying about whether he is eating or drinking or playing enough, or if he is watching too much TV. To stop comparing him to other kids and counting the hours he sleeps in a day and obsessing over whether he's hitting his milestones on time. It's understanding that for the most part, my job is to give him confidence and love and fun and room to grow, and meals and snacks when he's supposed to have them, and the rest will just take care of itself. It is knowing that this stepping back and letting go happens more often and more dramatically as the years pass, and trying to be here now as much as I can in this brief moment in time when he is small and needs me more than he ever will.

Thirty-four is no longer being shocked at how much a baby changes everything. My friendships, my family, my career, my house, my entire life - all of these things look different when they are covered in a layer of toys, sippy cups, diapers, schedules, and a toddler who suddenly has opinions about everything. It is realizing that trying to act like nothing has changed is exhausting, and that it is absurdly freeing to let go and accept the fact that I'm different than I used to be, that I'll never be exactly the person I was, and that's ok.

Thirty-four is leaning more heavily on my friends - both in person and online - who are also moms for their experience, and for the solidarity, and for feeling less alone on this parenting road. Because what I know that I didn't know before is that even though every kid is different, some parts of being a mom are universal, and no matter how much you think you can do it all, it really does take a village.

But thirty-four is also clinging to my old friends - the ones who knew me when my house was clean for longer than eleven seconds at a time and when I didn't have to schedule nights out around bedtimes and early morning wake-ups. Because for as much as I have changed over the past year and a half, I'm still the same french fry eating, pop-culture junkie, obsessive TV watcher, lover and collector of romance novels that I used to be, and sometimes I need a reminder of that part of me too.

Thirty-four is making a major career change I didn't even know I needed. It is realizing that at this time in my life, I don't need or even really want a high powered job in a fancy office that requires suits and heels and an utterly inflexible schedule. What I need is to do good and fulfilling work with good people, and then go home hug my baby. And I feel so lucky that the right opportunity found me at just the right time, and I am happier in my career than I have ever been. I've been in this long enough to know that the elusive "having it all" doesn't actually exist in real life, but I feel like, at thirty-four, I am as close to it as anyone ever gets to be.

Thirty-four is a lot of wondering. Wondering if I'm doing all the things I'm supposed to be doing. Wondering if I'll ever start feeling like an adult or if maybe this is what an adult feels like. Wondering if I'm being a good enough parent, a good enough partner, a good enough employee, a good enough friend, sister, daughter, woman. Wondering if I'll ever be able to fit properly into my pre-pregnancy jeans or whether I even really care about that. Wondering if there will ever be a time when I have all the laundry simultaneously clean, folded, and put away. Wondering if maybe it's time to start figuring out things like eye cream and anti-aging whatevers and the proper way to apply under-eye concealer. And it's a lot, all of this wondering,

But thirty-four is realizing every night when I put my thriving, happy baby to sleep and sit on the couch with my man in the quiet of my house after a day filled with noise, that I am doing as good a job as I know how to do with all of it, and really, that's the most that any of us can ask of ourselves. And after a difficult year in this country and for the world, and with an uncertain future looming, I understand now more than ever that I have a life that's goodI think that for all of the messiness and the exhaustion and the worry and the details that come with motherhood and with life, thirty-four is kind of a miracle. Because I get to be here with the people I love and who love me and because thirty-four is old enough to know that none of this is a given. None of us know how much time we'll have or how much time the ones we love will have, so I take what I've been given and use it the best way I can. By spending it doing the things I love most, surrounded by my people, with little boy giggles in the background.