I was destined to have a spirited child; I was one myself. When my tiny newborn girl was placed in my arms four short years ago, I saw myself. I knew her. She proclaimed her presence proudly to that hospital floor; she was earth-side, and she had a lot to say. She was given a 9 out of 10 on the Apgar scale. I thought “if this is a 9, what on earth does a 10 look like?”
Despite our similarities, like many new mom and baby pairs, we struggled to get in-step. We knew one another well, and yet, we still had to learn to coexist. I came into mothering her slightly broken; combining that with feeding struggles made the first weeks blurry.
Sleepless in Massachusetts, that was us.
And now, present-day, as we enter our fourth year together: my spirited child, I am speaking to you. You can’t read this yet, but someday, I hope you will. I want you to know what you to expect if you eventually have a baby, and when the nurse hands you that baby, you feel like you’ve met before.
I can clearly identify four things I’ve taken from the beginning years of your effervescent existence.
I learned how to be really late. I will never be early because you stop to smell every flower. I was sometimes late before you were born, but I am really late for everything now. Every detail of the world is something to be savored, and you drink every bit in. No penny goes unturned, no sticker is refused, no lost bead on the ground is neglected. No surprise in life is too small to elicit joy. You seek out the detail of the day, and you appreciate everything you find.
I learned how to talk for hours. I am continually speaking while I am awake because you continuously yearn to learn. You question each detail of your reality: you ask why and how, where and when, and you ask me for answers because we are always together.
In this, I do my best to respond, but honestly, I don’t always know how. I don’t know offhand why worms come out when it rains. I do know for sure that cats don’t play dress up. I try and be honest with you about what I know and what I don’t. It doesn’t really seem to matter though; you don’t always aim for accuracy. You just love to hypothesize.
I learned how to listen. I used to think I was a good listener, but listening as a mom is different. It’s hard to always understand someone who is just learning to express herself. For example, your skin doesn’t really hurt, you are just achy because you have a fever.
And as much I am working to decipher what is said, am continually working on listening to what is not mentioned. I am working to figure out the tantrums that don’t make sense. Is it really about wanting water at night? Or is it just that you don’t want us to go? Listening better involves working on teaching you to say what you mean, give you the words, but not speak for you. Motherhood requires reading between the lines, even when you don’t know where the lines are.
I learned how to freestyle. I bought every parenting book when you wouldn’t sleep, eat, use the potty… every single one. But I can’t read books to figure you out because you aren’t in them. Every child is unique, and you are no exception. Your spirit carries you, and for the life of me, you are not in any of the books.
And the inability to precisely define you is a point of pride for me because uniqueness is not something that can be developed. Every child is an individual, and each little facet should be celebrated. What is uncommon and unique about our kids should be shouted from the rooftops.
You don’t want to use the potty; you are too busy. You don’t want to eat that food yet, but you’ll eat buckets of black beans. You slept terribly as a baby, but we bonded over that, and now you sleep through anything. No programs, no model, just loosely taking advice and watching you grow. Following your lead, that’s how we get through.
I may have imagined motherhood to be easier than this, but also not nearly as exciting. The best things in life don’t come easy. You break every mold, test every barrier, walk the thinnest of lines, but you are the sweetest of souls.
You stand up for what you know is right, even though your voice is small. You regret your mistakes. You always try harder. You’re too smart for your own good, and that’s not your fault.
You see, sweet girl, you are a spirited child. I vow to teach you to channel your strengths for good, to offer you the words you are searching for, and to model grace so you can use all your best gifts to reach your generation.
I have accepted that parenting doesn’t ever get easier at any magic age; it’s just a white lie to get to bedtime. And when bedtime finally comes, I finally shut the door and walk away…I miss you.
You ask me why I love you? It’s because you are you. You can never know how much you were wanted, my beautiful child.
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