Year 5: A Letter

Dear Norah,

You are five today. Five! I say this all the time, but I am not sure where the time is going. In ways I feel like you were just born, and in ways I feel like you have always been here. I don’t remember much of what life was like without you, and your constant enthusiasm and curiosity never leaves a dull moment. You are always observing, asking questions, and exploring anything you find that piques your interest. You never slow down, and nothing is beyond the scope of your imagination.

UntitledI can count on you to make me laugh, everyday and without fail. Every time I feel overwhelmed or disheartened or just exhausted (which is pretty much everyday in this season of our lives together), you find a way to show me the light. Unlike your brother and me, it is pretty rare that you are serious about anything for very long, but I think God knew what he was doing when he placed you in our household because your sunshine brightens the room and lightens my load, and I am forever grateful to you for that. I can’t stay discouraged for long when you are here to cheer me up and remind me to see the good and find the playful in any situation.
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Sometimes you and I are like oil and water. I look at you with frustration and wonder who this creature is and how she works because we are so different. But I think our differences are what make us work well together. I know I have a lot to teach you, but I think you have a lot to teach me, too. How to lighten up and laugh and say hello to strangers. How to ignore my best laid plans and be a little spontaneous sometimes. How to stay up late. How to laugh with your mouth wide open and touch frogs and worms without shuddering. People say we look alike, but in reality we are not mirrors at all. You are the yin to my yang, and sometimes I think you are a lot wiser than I am. Your demeanor always shows what you believe on the inside – that everything will be alright and that life is mostly good and fun and play. Grown-ups are quick to forget this, but I feel like with you I have this reminder every day.

Katie-13For all your fiery energy though, you are still sweet and gentle. Your teachers tell me when other kids fall on the playground, you are the first to check on them. You are kind and earnest. You are easily impressionable and want so badly to please those around you – your peers and your teachers and your brother included. The sibling bickering feels like it will kill me on most days. (Mom, he’s touching me!) But every once in a while, I get to see a glimpse of how it used to be before you guys reached this age of competition – and how I hope it will be again one day when you are grown. He doesn’t admit it often, but he loves you just as much as I do.
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This was a big year for you – you learned how to write your name and how to identify all your sounds and letters.  You sort your own toys in a way that makes no sense to me, but it does to you. You dress your dolls in their clothes and throw them on your hip when we walk in a store like you have a real baby. You create these ridiculous scenarios of imagination and ask me to participate… Mama, pretend your name is Millie and mine is Hallie and we are kids but we live by ourselves, okay? Pretend you are cooking for us now and we live in a treehouse and this doll is our baby sister. You have a whole world inside your own head, and it is my favorite thing about this age.

Last week you learned to swim. I decided that my nerves could not handle another summer of two non-swimmers, so I enrolled you and your brother in a week of private instruction. By day three, you were jumping off the diving board into 8 feet of water and swimming to the edge of the pool. I’ve seen you do it with my own eyes, and yet you panic now when we swim and the water reaches above your own head. So here I am again for the summer – not teaching you to swim but teaching you to believe that you can swim. If that isn’t one huge metaphor for what it’s like to exist in the world as a woman, I don’t know what is. (And you know your English teacher mama loves a good metaphor to teach me the lessons I need to learn.) So let’s make a deal now, okay? I will remind you who you really are and what you are capable of, and you do the same for me. We both have what it takes to swim, even when the water gets deep. Sometimes people are the last to recognize their own power, so I am telling you now that I see it already in you – when I watch you explore or listen to you talk or even just see you sleeping at night in your bed. I know that what lies in front of you in your own life may feel insurmountable in the moment. I know because I’ve been there.

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But I can also see so clearly that spark in you that tells me you can do anything you set your mind to. Five is just the beginning, and every day I find a new reason to love you. Happy Birthday, Norah.

Love,

Mama

 

** I write letters to my kids on their birthdays to give to them when they are older, and I post some of them on this blog. You can see past letters here.

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Year Four: A Letter

Norah,

You are four today. How did that happen this quickly? You are still my baby, but less so everyday. The shape of our family is changing as you walk tall beside me, and independence is your main objective when we go about our daily tasks. No, I’m doing it, Mama! is likely the most common phrase to come out of your mouth. I’m learning to back away and give you space. There’s so much value in the act of leaving space to learn and grow. I’m learning that lesson myself this year as well.

 

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You are so many things in your fourth year. You are bold and stubborn, and you exhaust me sometimes. But you are also kind and gentle and nurturing to your little dolls and any creature you can get your hands on. You surprise the neighborhood boys by collecting worms and slugs that they refuse to touch themselves. I’ll step on the back patio to see that you’ve collected insects in a jar and given them names, stuffing leaves in the top to feed them. You are a nurturer in the truest sense. For all of your fiery independence, you balance it with the sweetest spirit as well. I hope you hold onto both of those traits as you grow.

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You love your brother fiercely. But the two of you fight fiercely, too. And it can make me come completely unglued sometimes, to be honest. The sibling bickering always begins over something trivial, and I’ve learned to just walk away and let the two of you sort it out if I can. It will always be this way between you, I think. It’s the way of brothers and sisters. You know each other’s preferences and quirks, and you also know exactly how to push each other’s buttons to bring what feels like apocalyptic war sometimes. But when it counts, you are always in his corner. The two of you have only woven closer together in our past year, and I really hope you will always be that way.

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You and I have woven closer together this year, too. Having a daughter in the world we live in is a scary thing if I’m telling you the truth. You are a challenge, and I fear everyday that I’m messing it up. A few weeks ago you were making your way upstairs for bath time and purposely moving at the rate of a turtle. Always aware of the clock dictating our weeknights, I was frustrated and asked you to speed it up. You responded indignantly, I’m tired mama! I’m doing the best I can.

I laughed a little as I heard my own words echoed back to me. I’m doing the best I can is something I say to you so often. There are countless moments when I wish I could somehow clone myself to accomplish a few things at once or pause our conflicts to really think solidly about my action before proceeding, but my best is all I can manage. And I’m learning my best is good enough. I want you to see yourself in the same way. Your strongest efforts are good enough. You are enough, exactly as you are.

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You are fearless, and people recognize that in you. You don’t fear bugs or snakes or strangers. And I have to be persistent in watching you to be sure you don’t put yourself in danger. But for whatever reason, you will cuddle up on my side with your leg wrapped over my waist every night like a tiny monkey and squeeze and say Mama, I’m scared while we lie in the dark after your brother has fallen asleep and I’m trying to get you to do the same. Every night I say the same things to convince you that we are safe and cared for and protected. And yet every night, it’s the same ritual. It amazes me how brave you can be in the face of real danger but how easily frightened you are by the figures of your own imagination. Invisible things are always the scariest, aren’t they? And sometimes it is so hard to separate the real from the imagined.

 

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That’s always the challenge, I think. Fear is a natural condition of being human, and as women, we are especially taught to fear so many things. We fear looking in a mirror and not seeing what people tell us is beautiful. We fear bathing suits and first dates and walking in a dark parking deck. We fear we are failing at the immense and impossible standards of modern motherhood. We fear we are somehow not enough alone and that we need a man to validate us to others. We are taught to fear so many things.

But let me explain something to you, Norah. Once you see those fears for what they are, they seem like the imaginary monsters you whisper about every night in bed — ridiculous and limiting and born of our own mental constructs. In Wild, Cheryl Strayed explains, “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”

It took me a long time and a lot of hard lessons to learn to tell myself a different story. And so I tell you a different story every chance I get because I want you to grow up believing the opposite of what many of us are taught. You are brave and kind and smart and real. The rest is just noise.

I can’t wait to see where this year takes you. I love every piece of you. Happy Birthday, Norah.

Love,

Mama

 

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I write letters to each of my kids on their birthdays, and for now, I post them here on the blog as well. If you’d like to read the others from years past, click here.

Year Six: A Letter

Jude,

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

Love,

Mama

 

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** 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.

Year Three: A Letter

Norah,

You are three today, and as usual, I’m not sure how it happened. I blinked, and you are here. Potty-learning far behind us, talking clearly to anyone and everyone who will listen – including grocery store clerks, strangers in line with us, waiters in restaurants. You are three going on twenty-three lately.  When we leave for school each morning, you apply lipstick you steal from my bathroom, choose your own accessories, and grab a purse with a tiny toy cell phone and sunglasses.  You request Katy Perry and Taylor Swift on the radio, and your dancing never stops. For all the times I swore I’d never have a prissy girl, you are proving me wrong.  Determined to be your own person and reminding me everyday that you are an independent being separate from me and unlike anyone else I know.

Untitled I have a feeling I’m in for it, so to speak, when you enter adolescence. But in my view, my greatest goal is not to teach you obedience as your chief characteristic but to teach you how to really care for others in kindness and listen to your own voice above all the other noise. Your spunk is my favorite thing about you. It doesn’t always make our days easy, but if there is anything I’ve learned in the last year of my life, it’s that grit and determination will push you through the hardest trials. And though it pains me to say this to you now, there are hard things in your future. They are there for all of us, and the best you can do is plow through. For now though, I’m grateful to watch you enjoying the little things everyday, oblivious to the bitter or boring tasks of grown-up life. You have been such a comfort to me this year, food for my spirit even in my most exhausted moments.

Untitled Your joy is contagious, and your humor is unmatched of any other kid your age that I’ve known. You’re learning already how to time your jokes in a way that can make your brother laugh, and the two of you are a tight pair. Your possessive way of referring to him as “my Jude” makes me feel like I must be doing something right in my home. I worry a lot that I’ve been in such a mode of survival this year that I’ve forgotten about the art of mothering, so to speak. It’s been mostly just one foot in front of the other for me lately. But we’re emerging as quite the team, the three of us. There’s a lot of love here, and I’m grateful I get to watch you share it with us.

Untitled I’m not sure how much, if anything, you will remember about this time in your life, but I have no doubt that it still leaves an indelible mark. I’m trying to model for you the things I want you to know one day – perseverance and responsibility, honesty and vulnerability, love and loyalty, and most of all a joy that is not reliant on material things or outside circumstances. Happiness in the moment is fleeting, but true joy is something else entirely. You inspire that joy for me everyday, and I pray I can return that favor with the understanding and comfort that only a mom can give.

Tea Time You’ve grown up so much this year. You love school and are a social butterfly with your little friends. You are beginning to better understand abstract concepts, and you have an amazing memory that is very inconvenient sometimes. I’ve learned already that if I promise you something in the moment, you will not forget it.  Days or weeks can pass by, and you’ll still be reminding me I owe you something. It’s both impressive and frightening, and you don’t miss a thing. You have such sharp observations of the world around you, and your social awareness is extraordinary.  You are blooming in your own little way so different from your brother or anyone else. It’s incredible to watch it happen.


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You are honest in the most brutal ways these days, and though the usual toddler shouts or tantrums can wear me out, I feel good knowing that you feel enough safety and comfort with me to show when you are angry or upset or disappointed. I wish for us that it will always be this way – that you’ll tell me when you’re sad and why you’re angry and show me even the darker corners of your heart because some days they are there for all of us. There’s a lot of companionship to be had between mother and daughter, and I’m so lucky to have you. It’s tea parties and baby dolls and playgrounds for us now, but I know school worries and friend advice and broken hearts and all the hard stuff comes later. But know that our way of being together – my love and acceptance of you in your ugly toddler moments – that’s not going anywhere. Family is for helping each other move through even our ugliest times, and moms never stop catching you in those moments and feeling what you’re feeling.  This is hard when you are sad or angry and I feel it, too. But to witness your joy and feel your enthusiasm is the greatest gift of my life right now. Everything else suddenly feels a lot less complicated or overwhelming when I’m in the simplest of moments with your brother and you.

Untitled You are so many things in your third year – independent but still attached and cuddly, sweet and soft but with a backbone of steel and an unbendable will, carefully observant but active and curious. Above all, you are simply Norah – in all your quirks and qualities. And I cannot imagine life in my little family of three without you.  From the moment you arrived with such a special birth, you’ve been teaching me that I’m capable of hard things. You are doing that for me now as well. Any moment my confidence shakes or my spirit feels broken from life’s storms, your sweet smile reminds me why I’m here and how the simplest little moments can fulfill our divine purpose on any given day.

Untitled I love you, Norah. Life has great things in store for you. If there’s one thing I know for sure in all of life’s uncertainties, it’s that I was meant to be your mother. I’m so grateful your little soul made its way to my belly and through my body, and now I get the honor of watching you grow and move mountains in a way that only you are meant to do. Happy Birthday, big girl.

Love,

Mama

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I write birthday letters to each of my kids on their birthdays to give them when they are older. For now, I also post them here as well. You can read my others here.

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Year Five: A Letter

Dear Jude,

Five! I can hardly believe it. So many big things happen at five, and here you are. You are growing and learning, but the changes have slowed down a bit and are not as pronounced and obvious or as quick as they once were. So I have days – weeks even – when I lose track of how much you are learning until you say a reference or make a joke that seems far beyond your grasp of knowledge and humor.  Suddenly I am reminded that you are a little boy, a school kid. There is no toddler left.

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This has been such a fun year of watching your interests emerge and develop.  You are obsessed with Legos as your toy of choice, and superheroes are your favorite subject.  You create “projects” all the time – which, truth be told, are just bizarre creations of cut-up paper, glued on textures, and original drawings. But you see such stories and ideas in them, and I love to watch you create. At night you insist that we read three chapters from your books, and you call them “chapper books” instead of using the real word. “Chap” is a transitive verb for you, and you take pleasure in “chapping” the page by folding the corner down to mark your progress.  I know I should correct your error, but I can’t. There are so few remnants of the baby inside that I find myself holding on to a few fading mispronunciations and childish assumptions.  I know I’ll forget them one day, and that’s part of my reason for composing these letters for you. Most of all, I want you to know a little of what you were at these ages, but I want to remember these moments myself as well.

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You are always doing, always thinking, always exploring.  Your curiosity about the world around you, all corners of it, has me learning as well. You still don’t have a grasp on what it takes to go somewhere, so you’ll pause while brushing your teeth or putting on shoes to ask if we can go to Japan this weekend or visit Egypt soon.  It’s both hilarious and inspiring that you don’t see barriers on this planet for what they really are.  It’s a big wide world to you, and you share so much enthusiasm for other people’s landscapes and food and customs. Your curiosity motivates me to keep doing and dreaming and to stay curious myself.

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For all of your funny misconceptions and kid-centered assumptions, you have the kindest heart, and everyone around you notices.  You are one of the most energetic kids I’ve ever known, and you typically run at full speed – both literally and figuratively – at all hours of the day. But your outrageous energy is matched by such softness and kindness, and the contrast makes it all the sweeter. You consistently look out for your sister to be sure her voice is heard. And when I arrive to pick up the two of you from school, I usually find you both huddled at the fence that separates your two play areas, talking through the cracks and passing rocks and stickers back and forth.  I know you might reach an age one day when you are annoyed to have a sister meddling right behind you, but right now you guys are inseparable.

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Along with your kindness to Norah, you are still so affectionate to your Dad and me as well. You’ll huddle with him on weekend afternoons to watch a movie.  You hold our hands because you want to.  You hug like you mean it.  You say “I love you, mama” at least once everyday for no reason at all.  You won’t do these things forever, and it’s a gift every time.

In these past three weeks, I can’t help but notice that your age mirrors my own last days with my father, and it opens a new perspective for me.  I’m here and watching you grow, and the best is yet to come.  I feel so lucky just to have my feet hit the floor every morning, to wake up with the tasks of motherhood guiding my day, to have a healthy family and a list of mostly mundane worries.  One day you will move on to lots of moments I won’t share with you, and I can’t wait to hear your stories unfold. But for now, you are mine to have for a bit longer.

So here’s to more exploring and laughing, more dreaming and doing.  And to more special moments, even the little ones.  Happy five years, Jude!

Love,

Mama

Year Two: A Letter

Dear Norah,

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Love,
Mama

 

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*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.

 

Year Four: A Letter

Jude,

We begin your fourth year today, and I have spent the past few months watching all the baby melt away and the kid emerge.  It seems to be the magic age when so many baby struggles – sleep, potty learning, communication difficulties – have sailed away.  The label of “toddler” isn’t even one I can really use anymore.  You are a preschooler, a kid, a boy.

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You grew up this year in a big way.  And even though I thought I’d be weepy about that, it’s such a privilege to watch.  Your imagination and your way of playing is something I know only lasts for a little while.  I’m wanting to hit the pause button a lot these days, to freeze this moment in your life.   But I’ve said that before, and look what I would have missed if I’d been able to pause on those baby years?  So time marches on, and I know that somehow your future self will become something even more dear to me.  These last few months have turned a new page it seems.  We have real conversations.  You understand things around us; you walk tall beside me, and you have opinions.  Lots of them.   They don’t always match my own, and you know what?  This is just the beginning of that.  We’ve got a lot to learn from each other.

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In trying to explain to you what you were like at four, I can’t fail to mention your openness and honesty.  You tell me if you don’t like what I made for dinner.  You tell your sister if her diaper stinks or she is bothering you.  You emerge from the bathroom to loudly exclaim, “I wiped my butt, mama!”  It makes me squeeze your hand a little tighter and hold my breath a bit in public, hoping you don’t volunteer an assessment of a stranger.  But with this openness comes a lot of joy and amazement in your world, too.  Your joy is wide open for everyone to see.  It reminds me every day to find happiness in the smallest things and to share that delight with others.  I love you for that lesson and for a million more reasons.

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You’ve had so many changes imposed on you in the past twelve months.  We moved from the only home you’ve ever known.  I went back to work in the college classroom.  And your school routine demands a lot more of you than it did before.  To say you’ve embraced these changes doesn’t give you enough credit.  You’ve confronted these challenges with an acceptance and maturity that surprised all of us, and nothing makes me feel more at peace than to see you thrive so clearly in your current life.  Countless leaps have happened in the past few months with your speech, your ability to focus, and your capabilities in a number of areas.  You see tasks as your responsibility, your work.  And you attack activities with such enthusiastic focus that it leaves me excited for your future.  A sense of thoughtfulness and introspection is emerging in you, and it makes me proud to watch that happen.

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To say I love you seems somehow inadequate this year on your birthday. I’ve always loved you, of course. But now, as we test out new waters and new ways of relating to one another, I can say I respect you.  I see you, I hear you, and I value what you have to give to the world and what you are teaching me.  I’m seeing the whole person emerge as we turn the page to your fourth year.  Your curiosity, your kindness, your joy, your understanding – so many traits I’m grateful to watch emerging in you.  I can’t wait to see what this year brings for you.

Love,

Mama

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I write birthday letters to my kids on each of their birthdays.  You can see the others here.