S., our Food Friend, works in a sub-group of our county’s family services office. Every month there is a support group for the parents of these “fussy babies.” Because it is the holiday season, the November and December meetings are combined and this meeting’s theme is thanksgiving. The “homework” was to write a letter to my child, a letter of thanksgiving, to be saved for her to open at some later date. Because I can’t seem to get all my paper grading, house cleaning, sick-baby tending (is it asthma? is it a cold? is it teething? who can say?), blog updating, and letter writing done this week, I am combining my letter writing and blog updating tasks.
Here is the draft of the letter I will have to read out loud on Friday this week:
I could start this letter of thanksgiving with a bullet list, but I am trying to resist it. It’s hard to resist because there are a million things I want to thank you for. Thank you for coming along so easily, thank you for all your tumbly gymnastics in my belly starting exactly at 7:40 every night, and thank you for cooperating with chance by lying on your umbilical cord at just the right moment so the doctor could see the trouble you were in at our check up and get you out of my belly before tragedy happened. Thank you for surviving and thank god you never were in serious danger, not even once you were out.
But that is a bullet list, almost, and I didn’t want to write one. I want to write about the things you have brought to my life that has made it, in a word, awesome. Okay, yeah, sure, we use this word all the time, you use this word all the time, and it does mean “something great,” but it is much more than that.
When I was in college, I spent a summer working as an advisor in a Japanese Student Exchange program. For five weeks, I lived on campus with Japanese students, worked with them on their school projects, entertained them, and helped teach them about Americans. I don’t know how much of it I actually accomplished with any value, but I still vividly remember driving along the roads of west Michigan. I’m not sure where it happened, but my eyes opened to my own surroundings. I began to see familiar things from an outsider’s perspective. I saw trees and electrical lines and traffic signs and seat belts and storefronts and houses and fences and cattle and land and plants and sky, but mostly I saw how I had never really seen these things before. At the time I marveled in it, but I never imagined I would repeat it, and then you came along and this heady experience is a daily one now.
How does the world look to you? I don’t know. I can’t begin to imagine, but it must be big. There must be a lot of it because when we do something we’ve never done or haven’t done in a while, I watch the wheels turn in your mind, sorting, measuring, guessing, imagining, and deciding what to be curious about first. Sometimes you look to me, not as much now as before, but when you do, you already know what your first move will be. Would it be my first move as well? You are excited to discover “oh, how it works” or “what is it, oh, I know.”
But that is not specific enough. This letter needs to be more specific if it is going to mean much a decade or more from now.
Okay, how about this. Thank you for all of the singing. You are a child who loves music, so we sing. A lot. And you sing a lot too, sometimes mimicking my musical narration. “I am making a sandwich, I am getting the jelly, it is gonna be yummy, yummy in my tummy.” And when you join in, sometimes even hitting harmonies, I can hear your dad’s heart singing along from across the room.
Here’s another jewel: This past Saturday morning, you stunned your dad and me by repeating something I had said and using it in perfect context. Fortunately, it was not a swear word. (That was the week before last.) No, this morning your dad refused to leave on errands until I added up the ATM deposit for him. It was only two checks, so why he couldn’t do it at the machine, I have no idea, so I said, “You, mister, are ON MY LIST.” He replied, “Yay! I’m on Mommy’s list!” Without looking up, I said, “It is not a ‘Yay’ list.”
My love, we haven’t used language like “on my list” much since before you were born, and I’ve never said “not a ‘Yay’ list” before in my life, so you can imagine my delight at what followed that dialogue. Ten minutes later your dad asked you if you wanted to be on Mommy’s list, and you looked him in the face and very seriously replied, “It is not a ‘Yay’.” Oh, you totally made my day.
Tot, every single day is like this. Okay, maybe not every single one, but very close to it. You talk, you learn, you do, you don’t, you grow every single day. And it amazes me. It amazes me that in spite of every choice I make in a day, good or poor, you improve. Lately, it’s been your body awareness and coordination and self-esteem I see blossoming and it’s all you, baby. Sunday, you tumbled off your trike in the driveway and only hesitated long enough for me to say “Wow, you sure were going fast” before getting back on and bulleting off. When I read the note the babysitter sent home in your bag last week, asking me if you insist on sitting on top of the coffee table at home too, I laughed at first. Then I wondered if I had the wrong bag. Then I realized that I had the right bag; it was my child that was changing. Wow. You’re doing it, tot. You’re instigating and innovating and insisting. You have power and you are taking it, and it is awesome.
Of course I will miss my littlest girl the way I often miss my baby girl, but I love all my girls, all my tots. It is a cliche Mom thing to say, but I have to say it: I can’t say that I knew how to love any thing or any one before you, and this is the greatest lesson you’ve given me, the one I am most thankful for. Thank you for teaching me what a mother’s love can be. Thank you for throwing your whole body into mine when you hug me and for gently patting my shoulder to tell me to pat your back while I hug you. Thank you for squealing and running to greet me or your dad when we come home from work and thank you for shoehorning yourself into every hug your dad and I ever have in your sight, saying with us, “Everyone gets a hug.” Thank you for showing me without words what a child’s love looks like.
Every person’s life should have at least one love story. Thank you, tot, for being my best one.