“No river is too wide or too deep for me to swim to you. Come whatever, I’ll be the shelter that won’t let the rain come through. Your love, it is my truth, and I will always love you. ” Adele, Remedy
My dearest Declan Thomas,
I meant to write this letter on your first birthday. But as it so often does, especially since we welcomed you into the world, time simply got away from me. I wanted to find a moment to sit down and tell you all the things I felt during my first year as a mom, but I couldn’t seem to find a spare moment to do it. You were walking- running, really- by the time your first birthday rolled around, and it was all I could do to keep up with you. See kid, I’m going to share a little secret with you that you’ll figure out soon enough on your own- mommy’s old. Not like OLD old- just older than the average mom of such a young child. And I know you don’t know any different but once you go to school, you’ll see that most of the mommies are a little younger than yours. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing- it’s just the way it worked out for us. And we’re doing more than okay so far, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem.
Anyway, now that you know mommy is old, maybe you’ll appreciate what a game-changer bringing you home was. I had lived nearly 40 years not having to be responsible for so much as a pet, and here you were, tiny, adorable, completely and utterly dependent upon me for everything. And I’m not going to lie- it was terrifying. Don’t get me wrong- I adored you from the second I laid eyes on you (before, even, but it didn’t really get real until you were handed to me) but I was so afraid that I wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to do with you. And at first, I didn’t. I think I did a pretty good job of faking it, but even when you started to actually sleep long stretches, I couldn’t, though I can’t remember ever being as tired as I was in those early days. I was always getting up to check that you were breathing, or lying awake thinking of all the things I was likely doing wrong or even just staring at you while you slept because I couldn’t believe I had created something so perfect. Not that it wasn’t tough; I won’t sugarcoat it, the first 4-6 weeks of being a mom was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was hormonal, exhausted, recovering from a C-section and you ate CONSTANTLY. There were days when I didn’t know why I even bothered wearing a shirt because you were nursing around the clock, but once we both got the hang of that, things got a lot easier. And it was nobody’s fault, kid- we were both just learning. But after the first 6 weeks or so, I started to become more confident in my ability to actually do this job because you really flourished and I couldn’t help but feel like I had at least a little something to do with that. And I know everyone thinks their kid is a genius, but you started doing things way before the age you were “supposed” to; things like smiling, laughing, rolling over. You’ve always been way ahead of the curve, D, and even though you are only three, I don’t see that changing any time soon.
So the first year came and went, and soon, you were no longer a baby, but a toddler. And you talked so early (just before you were seven months you said “mama.” Your second word was “giraffe.” I think “dada” was third, and even if it wasn’t, let’s just say it was) that you were always able to communicate well with me. And as the days wore on, you got taller, and more handsome, and you were so smart and charming and I fell deeper and deeper in love with you every passing moment. I’m not sure that will ever change; just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you more, somehow I do. To me, you are the most perfect little person to ever walk the earth and nothing can ever change that.
And now, here we are, three years in, and now I am lucky enough to be able to spend all day of every day with you and it’s far and away the best job I’ve ever had. There are challenging days, for sure, because you are a remarkable kid, so of course you’re going to challenge me. But I can already see so many qualities in you that will serve you well in the future- your kindness and compassion (you’ve always HATED to see any other kid upset), your ability to share fairly well, (especially considering that you’re an only child), your humor and wit, your elephant-like memory and your unbelievable curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. At your 2 year checkup, your pediatrician lavished praise on me for teaching you so much and I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it really wasn’t me. That’s all you, kid. I think you could count to 20 long before you turned two (yet you still say “five teen” instead of fifteen and I think it’s so cute that I don’t have the heart to correct you) and you learned all of your letters by watching a few episodes of Sesame Street. And song lyrics? Forget about it. I’m of the opinion that one truly hasn’t lived until they see you sing Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” but you do a pretty mean “Yellow Submarine” too.
You’re just growing up so damn fast. Every day, I want to remind myself to freeze at least a moment of the day in my memory for future reference, so that one day, I will still be able to remember what it felt like when you sat on my lap just because you wanted to cuddle or what your little 3-year-old voice sounded like as you talked to me excitedly about dinosaurs at the dinner table or how the top of your little head smelled when you climbed into bed with me at 2 AM after a bad dream. I look at you now- all tall, blonde and handsome- and I feel like I can already see what you’re going to look like at 10, 16, 25, 40… And as excited I am to see who you’re going to become, there will always be a part of me that will miss this time we have right now- the first three years, before school, and friends, and sports and all the rest of it- when your mommy truly was your best friend. And don’t get me wrong, kid, I’m looking forward to seeing how all of it plays out. I think you’re going to do some incredible things in this lifetime and I can’t wait to see them. But to me, you will always be my Sweet Baby D, even though you’ll likely be taller than me by the time you’re 10.
So here’s what I wish for you; I hope that you’ll always try to be kind to others, and based on your compassionate nature now, I think you’ll mostly gravitate that way naturally. I hope that you’ll always make good decisions, which of course I know you won’t, but I hope that your bad decisions will be the easy kind of mistakes to work through and not the really bad ones that change the entire trajectory of your life. I hope that the self-confidence you have now doesn’t dim too much in the tougher years of your adolescence, even though I know that can be a hard one to hold on to. I hope you experience just enough heart break and rejection to keep you humble and work harder, but not so much that you just give up trying altogether. And I hope you allow yourself to be open enough to feel things deeply, but guarded enough to choose the right kind of friends and relationships. And I know I can’t do anything to save you from the things that are all part of growing up, but I hope that I can always make sure you know how very loved you are, and that you can always tell me anything. I know the day will come when mommy isn’t your best friend anymore, but I hope that as you grow, we can always find some common ground that unites us- a book we both love, a movie that makes us laugh, a song that we both sing out loud in the car, just as we do now. Mostly, sweet boy, my only wish is for you to be happy, today and every other day. And I know that’s not possible- nobody is happy every day- but I hope your good days outnumber your bad. Just know that no matter what, even on the toughest days, there is someone who thinks you are the most incredible person in the entire world, and I always will. Love and kisses to you on your birthday, my sweet. Mommy loves you.