We’re getting ready to move from where you and your older sister were born and so-far bred. And though she’ll remember something of this time, you probably won’t. This is not a comfortable thought for me: that little to nothing from your entire two-year-old life so far has made it into conscious, long-term memory.
Now, this a truth too near for you to see, but your father and I comprise your whole world, kid. We conceived, built, and carried your body. We delivered you into the world and named you. And yet, if we were to vanish from the face of the Earth right now, you would not, within maybe a year and for the rest of your life, even remember us.
That’s disconcerting. In part because it makes what has also comprised our entire world during these years seem so ephemeral. It would seem to negate the literal blood, sweat, and tears poured into those first years of parenthood (not to mention other bodily fluids). Perhaps this little thought especially rattles a stay-at-home-mom like me, who chose to rearrange her entire life to attend to your constant and ever-changing needs.
You can’t fathom the simple fact that our lives preceded yours. And that, each time a literal new person grew inside me, core pillars of my previous personhood began to wobble. Deciding to stay home, first with your sister then immediately again with you, have further eroded my social life, grooming habits, and above all professional activities. Your sister could not have understood the unmediated panic I felt the day she announced, “Mommas don’t go to work! Mommas stay home.” She didn’t know, of course, that as we awaited her debut I effectively paused the career I’d so avidly built.
With luck, your pops and I will not disappear off the face of the Earth anytime soon. Instead we’ll move into a new life, and I’ll go back to work. I’ve even scored a few gigs in the meantime. But those activities have trickled along so quietly and intermittently compared to the professional current that preceded you and your sister. I’m more likely now to return to fewer hours, reduced income potential, and an all-around lower advancement trajectory.
And I’ve potentially given up so much for something that you won’t even remember?
Not to mention that you and your sister are a rough charge. You are tiny conduits of pure entropy. You whirl past, leaving everything you touch a bit more stained, disheveled, and stickier than before. After 29 years of chasing personal fulfillment, I’ve spent the last four chasing you goobers, and learning how to deny, restrain, and redirect my own urges (like sleeping, or screaming), while accepting previously intolerable levels of chaos, exhaustion, and self-doubt.
And, you know what?
I mean it. Because you really have taught me resilience. Thank you for frustrating my goals and for slowing me down. Thank you for showing me the value of true patience, despite (well, because of) it’s scarcity. And for showing me the impact of my love. In how you curl in close when I pick you up out of sleep. In how you unexpectedly sobbed and clung to me today when I dropped you off at morning daycare, distracting me from literally everything I planned to accomplish this morning aside from thinking about (and writing to) you. In the beaming grin I’ll get to see in exactly 26 minutes, when you spot me through the window, coming back to you.
I’ve given up a lot, and I’ve given myself to you. But you and your sister have given me back better than before: at once stronger and more supple. And while, I admit, sometimes I view service to the small as an endless meter of drudgery, other times I feel it as the very pulse of my life. Feeding and expanding me ever since I first heard your quick heartbeats fluttering under my skin.
So while some opportunities receded, so too has their appeal. Because in the meantime, I have witnessed virtually every first and been complicit in most. For most of your life, I’ve nursed you in my arms. Your father and I have woken you up and kissed you goodnight for every Earth’s spin you’ve ridden. We remain the only ones who can reliably interpret your pidgin of English, Dutch, animal sounds, and toddler babble. We are your first mirrors.
And though you may not retain these memories for later viewing, I hope/fear this: that these early reflections may help lay the first foundations of your very person: how you will behave, feel, and love for the rest of your life. We’re showing you you, my little love.
Thank you for returning the favor.