My love for you began when you were just a thought in my mind. It grew with every movement you made in my belly, with every smile that lit up your face and spread to mine, with every kiss and every story we have shared together. It’s a love with no condition and no end. It will surpass even the time I spend with you on this earth.

Because even after I’m gone, my love will live inside of you, just as you once lived inside of me.

You are the most rewarding, challenging, and worthwhile part of my life. For you, I would do it all again. I would give up my nights of rest, my hair lost from all the stress, my once-skinny belly, my life without worry, my aspiring career, and all I had to leave behind.
 
You are my most important job, and you have paid me in the form of a million sloppy kisses and cozy cuddles. There have also been a million mealtime messes, bubble baths, stroller rides, park playdates, songs sung, books read, and itsy-bitsy spiders going up the waterspout.

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Now, as you are growing up and my name is suddenly shortening to the three-lettered Mom, I find myself already missing the sweet embrace of your babyhood.

You need me a little less every day and your need for privacy becomes ever more apparent.

That’s exactly as it should be, but oh, how I’ll miss the sound of your footsteps in the morning, the excitement of Christmastime, and your grand, tooth fairy discoveries, the run to see me after a long school day, the misspelled notes, the shoes on the wrong feet, the artwork covering my refrigerator, the curls in your hair, and the dimples in your tiny, chubby hands that always find their way under the bathroom door, reaching out for me.
 
Eventually, I will once again use the potty in privacy, eat a treat in open view, quietly watch a movie, take an easy picture, or maybe just sit still. I’ll say goodbye to all of the diapers and pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups, high chairs and carseats.

I’ll lose sleep waiting on a teenager rather than by watching your chest rise and fall in your crib. I’ll dance at your wedding instead of on bended knee in the living room. I’ll hold your baby in the same chair that once rocked you, always singing, “You Are My Sunshine.”

But even now, I know too well I should have enjoyed these years more, just as so many have warned.

Still, it can be hard in the midst of all the tantrums, transitions, tummy aches, and toys galore. My lap is never big enough, your fun time never long enough, a sibling never nice enough, and life is just never quite fair enough. The hairbrush hurts, the food is yucky, the clothes are scratchy, the seatbelt is stuck, the coat will not zip, everything is the wrong color, and the bumps at the end of the socks are just plain annoying.

Yet in the depths of my exhaustion during these little years, I found a love I never knew existed.

For it was often you who comforted me the most, picked me up when I fell down, and gave me plenty of reason to carry on. I’ll never regret the sacrifices I made so you could shine. And, my, how you have shined.

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You are strong, talented, determined, and beautiful. But never forget, most beautiful of all is your heart. It’s a gift you have shared with me, and it’s been my most precious of all. You are–and always will be–the pride in my soul, the beat in my heart, the joy in my step, and one of the greatest loves in my life.
 
I can’t wait to watch you change the world in your own little way. I know you have learned your colors and shapes, your ABCs and 123s, but even more, I hope you have learned your manners and your values, your confidence, and your humility.

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Just remember as you spread your wings, your roots will always stay. Because even after your fingerprints clear from the windows and your spills fade from the floors, a piece of you will remain in my home and in my heart. For it was in these walls that you first crawled and in my arms that you first slept.
 
Every first is a memory I can’t forget but it’s the lasts that have escaped me. If only I knew it was the last time I carried you, I would have hung on a little tighter and walked a little longer. If I could go back, I would not have minded just one more drink or snuggle at bedtime. I would have kept your baby voice and contagious giggle wrapped up in my ears. For they were the sweetest sounds I’ve ever known–a soundtrack to our days of playing and painting, dancing and dreaming, laughing and living.
 
I have loved every one of these little years with you, tiresome and demanding as they have been. Even more, I have loved you, little one. And no matter how big you grow or how far you go, that is one thing that will never change.
 

Amber Backus

I am a journalist turned stay-at-home mommy to four children, three sons and one daughter. These days, naptime is the perfect time to return to my first love of writing.