I am lying here, snuggled up next to you in your tiny toddler bed. My giant belly and bent legs take up most of the mattress space, but you have graciously rolled into the corner so we can share. Lately I have been letting you fall asleep on your own for naps and at bed-time, in an effort to help you increase your independence before Baby Sister comes. But not today.
I lie here and watch you, cuddled up in your sparkly, mint fairy dress, as your breathing grows deeper. We breathe together, my arm draped across you, your dimpled hand resting on mine. And I feel struck, suddenly, by the utter impermanence of childhood.
In a number of days or hours your life will change dramatically. With the arrival of your little sister, you will no longer be mama’s baby. Another body will constantly fill that familiar spot on my lap, which has shrunk in recent months with my growing belly. She will take over your morning snuggle space when she nurses in my bed each day and will monopolize my time and attention. I know this will be hard for you. You will adjust well, spend even more time playing with your older brother. You will find many ways to help and new roles to fill.
Yet some part of me wishes that we could freeze our relationship right here, right now. That this little, magical Eden we’ve created around you could continue to exist forever. As I watch you peacefully sleep, surrounded by pink gingham in a room of Peter rabbit books and stuffed animal friends, I reflect on the miracle of your child world. So unencumbered, so safe.
I think about how this baby will arrive and you will grow up a bit faster now. You will be full-time big girl and big sister. And that growing up will only continue to accelerate from this moment on. What, I wonder, will you experience in the years of life that stretch before you?
Learning, exploration, friendships and myriad experiences I cannot offer you surely will fill your life and your vibrant spirit will meet these with enthusiasm. You will give and receive, follow and lead, and learn to sort through, accept and reject the constant messages that others will send you. You will nurture and comfort, fight and stand up when needed, share and love always. These are things that you already do.
My girl, you are a beautiful child and your physical beauty will affect your life experience. I think about how boys and men will treat you because of your beauty. How girls and women will treat you because of your beauty. Know that your appearance does not define you and says nothing of your worth. Your true beauty, the beauty of your soul, is surpassing. It is breathtaking and cannot be confined to your body alone. Let that true beauty be your guide. It will always guide you to goodness.
Someday, daughter, you will experience deep pain – something you have been sheltered from thus far in your life. You will learn that others live in sickness, fear, starvation, suffering and violence. I hope that your life does not lead you through such experiences. But I know, in the helpless mother place inside of me, that I will not always be able to control the environment around you.
As you grow and experience more of the light and darkness that make up this world, I pray that your experiences will move you to compassion. That you will choose to counter cynicism with optimism. That you will constantly seek out the one on the fringes, the person you needs you. That you will always be strong, but never hardened.
Daughter, I hope you know that the magical time we have together right now, this world we have created that protects and nourishes you, will continue to exist. I know that it always will. It will live inside of you and inside of me and continue to nurture, protect and strengthen us in the years to come. This home-place will give you power to make the world a little kinder, a little safer, a little calmer. And the light that you shine will draw on it for energy when you feel weak. As I look at the baffling world around me, I know that this home-place inside is all that I can offer you to strengthen you in times ahead.
As you enter a new phase of life this week and as your childhood world begins to dim in the coming years, know this: the home-place inside you is real. It is vibrant and indestructible and can sustain you in ways that you may not be aware of. Let this place live. Let it be an eternal reminder of my great love for you.
I love you,
*Photo credit: Let Me See You Sparkle Photography