Today you turn six, and this has been a huge year for you. Growing, learning, changing everyday. I wake every morning to realize there is a little person in my house. This might seem like a ridiculous observation to make, but when you are a parent one day, you will see. There is a transition that happens when you begin having real conversations with your child and see him through new eyes. You are your very own person with your own wishes and ideas. I love your independent spirit.
Though you are unique in your own ways, I see so much of myself in you. We understand each other in the easiest way, you and me. Hearing your teacher’s comments on how you approach school work and social settings, watching you interact with other kids, hearing your observations and insights – it all echoes memories for me and strikes a chord of familiarity. I sometimes wonder how I survived 28 years on this planet without you. We get each other without effort and understand each other even without words and explanation. There are different ways to love and relate to people, but I feel incredibly lucky that my firstborn has a soul that mirrors mine so closely.
I try to listen to you as intently as I can when you speak to me. This year has been the craziest one imaginable, and I’m haunted a little by the closing of my last letter to you when I described my gratitude for the simple, mundane worries that filled my day. In the weeks that followed that letter, our world exploded, and my worries have been anything but mundane this year. But weirdly enough, I am finding gratitude in this experience, too. It has brought us closer together, and I see you finding so much comfort these past few months as we sink into life in our household of three. I’m here to listen and to guide and mostly just to love you as the unique little person you are becoming.
I am the first to tell you – now and always – that I have nothing figured out. I am far from perfect and certain about next to nothing. But I know that I love you, and I am doing the very best I can. I’m finally realizing that one action alone is enough. There’s so much love between the three of us, and it kept us afloat even in the roughest waters this year. It will always be that way, no matter what lies ahead for us. That’s really the only thing I know for sure.
You have so many traits I love and admire: a persistent curiosity, an unfiltered joy, a generous heart, and such a fire for intellectual inquiry. You are a seeker in every way. Always looking to know more and to do more and to create something new everyday. Your teachers see this fire in you, and I can’t wait to see where it takes you. We talk a lot with the lights off as I get you and Norah to sleep at night, and you ask me big questions that have no solid answers. — Why does God make bad people, Mama? Where does imagination come from? How do we know we are safe from scary things? What if we aren’t? — Truthfully, I am horribly unprepared to answer these things, so we just talk it out as we lie there in the dark with your long arm thrown across me and your chin on my shoulder. There are some questions that simply don’t have any solid answers, and unlike most kids, you are okay with the ambiguity. You’re a little thinker in the biggest way. I pray you keep seeking and retain your introspective nature. It leads you to truth and beauty eventually, and our inner lives guide us when we let them.
It’s hard sometimes – when you tell me that someone hurt your feelings or I see ways the world seems way too harsh for your little spirit. I want so badly to somehow shield you from all of it, the future disappointment or heartache or the waking up to harsh realities you don’t yet understand. But I’m trying to remember that it is not my job to toughen you up for a hard world but to show you how to stay soft in spite of it.
I think the thing that keeps surprising me about motherhood is that it keeps giving back to me ten times over what I ever expected. You opened that door for me six years ago when you left my own body to join the rest of us, and it just keeps getting richer. This year especially, you have reminded me each day that I am enough as I am. That loving you and holding space for both of us to feel what we feel without judgment is the only thing I have to do to create the threads that bind our little family. We have years and years ahead of us, Jude. I just hope to continue doing the same thing as time rolls by – giving you space to grow and learn and emerge as your own person. I’ve watched that happen a bit this year with the new world of kindergarten in front of you. This is the year that you walked bravely forward to a whole new chapter. I feel lucky that I’ve got you beside me as I do the very same thing.
Happy birthday, Jude! Keep questioning, keep learning, keep growing.
** As most of my readers know, I write letters for my kids on their birthdays to give them when they are older. This will likely change one day soon as they grow and my letters become more specific when their lives grow more complex and private. But for now, I also post the letters here.