Letter to my daughter on her 5th birthday

On each of my kids’ birthdays I compose a letter. My plan is to one day hand over a book of heartfelt letters, proving to an ornery teenager that I do, in fact, know and love him/her, and that my goals as a mother go beyond ruining his/her social life.

Dear Sally,

Today you turn five! Happy birthday! You have a big year ahead of you. I hope that you find as much happiness, wonder, and adventure in five as you found in four. I’m confident you will because that’s the kind of person you are.

Being your mom is one of my life’s greatest joys. You’re such a phenomenally fun kid, and so different from me in so many ways, that I know I’d love and admire you even if you weren’t my daughter. But I’m lucky, because I get to be your mother. I get to revel in messy-haired good morning snuggles, remind you to keep eating during a million and one silly mealtime distractions, and marvel at your laid-back, easy cheer.

I know you’re going to thrive in kindergarten this year. You’re endlessly curious, determined, and not afraid of hard work. These traits have you biking and swimming and doggedly trying to figure out reading, which you’re going to love. I can’t express how proud of you I am when I see you working on something over and over again, trying to master a new skill, wanting to keep up with your big brother. The truth is that you impress me. And it’s a strange feeling for a grown-up to be so impressed by a little kid.

kite

A big part of me wants you to stay little forever. I love your hugs and kisses, your riotous giggles, your little-kid-ness. You’re my baby and always will be.

cuddles

The rest of me is so excited to watch you grow up, see the person you become, watch you stride confidently into the world relying on yourself more and more.

As a four-year-old you’ve been talkative and giggly, independent and creative, intrepid and athletic. On any given day you’ll sing dozens of songs, (or the same song dozens of times, usually from Frozen,) draw some pictures, run around with your brother until you’re sweaty and exhausted, talk to your toys, put your dolls (and random objects) to bed, and tell me a hundred stories, usually starting with, “Did you know…” You make all of us laugh. You can reduce your brother to a pile of gasping giggles at any time with your unique brand of ridiculous humor. As a five-year-old, I hope you continue in all of this, and surprise us with a few new things along the way.

You’re in school now and with that comes some hard work and a new set of social norms and challenges. I’d like to protect you from so many of the difficulties that you’ll face as you go through school, but I can’t. All I can do is offer my listening ear and open arms, help you when you need help, and love you no matter what. I hope that your spirit and confidence only grow as you navigate the new world of school. I hope that you remain unapologetically yourself, unembarrassed and sure.

I’ll miss all of our time at home together now that you’re in school. You have always been so good at entertaining yourself, and you are ever the engaging (if silly) companion. I might be working at my computer only to look up and find this at any given moment:

Dress up

Your flair for dress isn’t limited to when you’re at home.

Fashion Sense

You’re going to grow up a lot this year. It’s probably time to stop accidentally biting your own fingers so often when you eat. And it’s definitely time to drop the baby act. (Please don’t immediately replace it with eye-rolling.) It’s your crutch, and you don’t need it. I want you to always know that no matter how adorably cute you are, and no matter how often that’s the only thing people comment on, you are so much more than that. You have my admiration not because of your smallness or cuteness, but because of your cleverness, kindness, and pluck.

I love you absurdly much, my sweet, whimsical, brave, charming, tenacious, and silly girl. I hope you have the happiest birthday and a wonderful year ahead!

Love, Mom

Summer, I say “UNCLE!”

With the kids around all the time I’m going to seed. I haven’t been working out, eating well, or, you know, showering on the regular. And my hair? It’s gotten bad. It’s been so long since I colored it, that I’m no longer on the root touch-up regimen but in desperate need of an all over do over. Also, I pair my monthly at-home hair coloring with deep cleaning the upstairs bathrooms and bedrooms. I couldn’t possibly just sit and relax for the 30 minutes I have dye in my hair, so I do a speed deep clean. In this way we avoid living in complete upstairs squalor and I have nice hair to boot.

I probably don’t have to tell you, but we’ve been living in complete upstairs squalor.

One look at myself in the dirty mirror this morning and I decided that today had to be the day. After breakfast and some outdoor play time, I gave the kids second breakfast and put on a movie.

“I’m going upstairs to shower. Don’t touch each other or do anything generally terrible.” (It’s best if they don’t know just how much unsupervised time they’re actually going to have.)

Hair dyed, tubs scrubbed, and bedrooms picked up I return downstairs. Before I reach the living room, Sally comes running to me.

“Mommy, can we paint?”
“Are you asking because you want to paint, or have you already been painting?”
“Ummmmm.”
“Not in the living room! Tell me you aren’t painting in the living room!”
“Ummmmm.”

I round the corner. Sure enough, the paints are open; wet painted papers are strewn everywhere; water-logged paint pallets overflow; and there’s a huge puddle of water-color water on the stainable wood of the coffee table.

“NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”
“It was Sally’s idea to paint.”
“Was not! You got the paints down!”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
“Come on, Sally. Let’s go play outside.”

I turn on them. Full of fury.

“What were you THINKING? When have I EVER let you paint in the living room? You both should have known better! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING? NO! NO! NO!”

I continued random nos, and should have known betters, as I sopped up the water with paper towels. I’m pretty sure there was a visible swirling cloud of expletive symbols circling my head. $#%@#!! The kids stand nearby, possibly paralyzed with fear.

“You know, this table might be stained forever!”

And if I didn’t already feel like killing the little buggers, Luke says in a calm sweet voice, while holding his sister’s damned hand,

“Mom, aren’t people more important than things? Aren’t we, your children, more important than the coffee table?”

Are you freaking kidding me with this, you manipulative little shit?!

“Not right now you’re not! GAH!!! I don’t really mean that BUT I’M REALLY MAD so I’m about to say it again! NOT RIGHT NOW YOU’RE NOT! GAH!!!! AGH! NOW GO OUTSIDE BEFORE I SAY EVEN WORSE THINGS TO YOU!”

And that’s how I lost at parenting today. You?

UNCLE

A Startling Development

Something strange keeps happening around here. On multiple occasions lately, my husband and I notice ourselves having fun. Actual fun WITH OUR KIDS! Not, “oh it’s fun to watch my toddler feed a goat” fun, I mean genuine fun. The kind we generally only have without our kids.

This is incredible news, people!

We like our children!

I think that the ratio of Needy Little Buggers to Funny Little People is starting to tip in favor of the latter. And thank God for it!

We just returned from a mini beach vacation. The water was a balmy 58 degrees, so I can’t attribute our good time to the restorative nature of warm salt water. I guess it could be the restorative nature of cold salt water, but I’m going to take a leap and give credit to the kids. They are becoming less and less unpleasant.

Occasionally anyway. I wouldn’t want them to be perfect. If they were, I never could take pictures like this:

time out with a view

We enjoyed catching crabs, finding starfish, flying kites, building sandcastles, and jumping in the freezing waves together. We had full 20-minute stretches where my husband and I could talk to each other while watching our kids play adorably together! We could fit all this in between snacks and sunscreen reapplications thanks to our growing kids’ larger stomachs and willingness to wear sun hats.

Sure, we had a couple of meltdowns and a few instances of sibling assholery, but the good outweighed the bad, by far, despite overly long car rides, less than ideal sleep situations, and that special brand of exhaustion born from full summer days spent outside.

I didn’t know if I’d ever get to this point. Our baby and toddler years felt long and punishing. Gone are cute pudgy legs and wet baby kisses, diapers and colic, and inflexible toddlers made more impossible when naps are disturbed. I feel the heart-squeeze of nostalgia, but mostly I feel lightened by relief. Here are my long-limbed, capable, humorous, adventuring huge personalities, who can almost wait five minutes until dinner. Hallelujah!