Somehow you are two today, and my baby doesn’t feel like such a little one anymore. This year has been monumental for you in so many ways. You run steadily rather than toddle. You use words we are beginning to understand. You process the world around you faster than we’d like sometimes. Your knowing eyes are firm, your gaze is insistent, and you have a mind of your own. I find that this is such a weird age – so big yet so little at the same time. But I guess I could say that about you every year from now on. As I grow older and as I watch you do the same, my perspective changes. It’s my favorite thing about being a mom – new eyes all the time.
I have to laugh a little as I think back on what we were doing two years ago and how you came into this world. The days that followed your entrance were so quiet and peaceful. I had relatives ask in the early weeks if you had ever cried before because they were genuinely concerned that there could be a medical reason for your silence. And in hindsight, I don’t know when you crossed that line as you became more comfortable in your own skin, but quiet is not exactly the word I would use to describe you most of the time. Happy? Sad? Angry? Excited? You tell the world, loud and clear.
You’ve found your voice, and you aren’t afraid to use it. Much of it is minimally understood by the general public right now, of course. But those of us who live with you have learned Norah-speak. We have no choice but to listen. You’ll sit (or “disss”) on the couch and yell “babink!” louder and louder and LOUDER until someone brings you the blanket you want. Same with your morning demand for water in a very particular cup (never the easily reachable one at the front of the cabinet) or the million other requests and orders you shout at us all day. Persistence, my dear. I will never have to teach you that one. But it is a trait that will serve you well, and I love that you assert your ideas and wishes already.
When I think about you as my daughter and what that means, it makes me a little nervous. I worry about the same societal pressures that have been apparent for generations but just keep getting stronger with time, it seems. But for every demand of yours to put on a fluffy dress, you request Jude’s Thor costume and have acquired a pretty convincing use of its hammer. For every time you say “princess,” you also yell “Batman!” and put on a superhero cape. You are feisty but gentle. Content but persistent. Shy but opinionated. Energetic but observant. What is it Louisa May Alcott says? You can be “a great many things.” Hold onto that idea as you grow and change. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can only be one thing. You are way more than that, and we see it already.
You have taught me so much in these months. You lead me to question my long-held assumptions about girlhood and independence and attachment and my expectations of what it means to be a mother. You have an independent streak I don’t recall seeing in your brother at this age, and though you love to be held, you wave goodbye when you want to without looking back. I know one day you’ll do this on a much bigger scale when you cross highways and continents and all kinds of symbolic thresholds without me. For now, this is hard enough. I welcome a little longer with you safely in my nest.
It’s hard for me to visualize what life will be like as you get older, especially knowing you are likely the last baby in our home. You’ll tie your own shoes one day. Grab your own snacks from the fridge. Brush your own hair. These simple tasks that fill my moments will disappear. Your interests will move far beyond me and our life together, and your dreams will get bigger and bolder. When I consider all that waits, I don’t mind your insistent hands and grunting voice reaching for me when I’m making dinner. Having done this before with your brother ahead of you, I know we are looking at your last year as such a portable little sidekick. Let’s enjoy it.
You want to be bigger, older, stronger, and I want to tell you to hold off and stay right here for a while, but I know it doesn’t do any good to wish time could pause – not now and not when you are ten or sixteen or twenty, or in my case thirty-three. So for the moment, I just take these mental photographs and try my hardest to remember every detail as you are now – still soft and squishy and compact for a little while longer. We have a lot to do together before you leave my grip.
To my mischievous, spirited, perceptive, tenacious daughter: thank you for entertaining me, for keeping me on my toes, for reminding me to pay attention and see the joy in everyday life. I love you.
Happy Birthday, Norah.
____________________*Photos snapped on my iPhone or taken during our session with Atlanta photographer Andrew Thomas Lee. *** I write letters to my kids on their birthdays. You can see Norah’s previous ones here and here. And you can read Jude’s first, second, third, and fourth letters here.