It’s four days before your second birthday and I wanted to write you a letter.
A letter of thanks, a letter to paint a picture of this time that we might be able to revisit some day in the future, a letter of admission, frustration, and hope.
Thank you for being such a good big brother. You’ve been an encouragement and a source of laughter to your Dad and me during hard times – you kept me from nervousness in the waiting room during Hayes’ recent surgery and your voluntary acts of love and possessive care towards Hayes continually surprise and please me. Admittedly, I completely underestimated your capacity for ‘big brotherhood’ when your life changed at 15 months of age – you won’t remember your life before Hayes but nevertheless, I think you’ve taken on this role naturally and easily. You have it different than most siblings: you watch while your brother has many visitors who come to play with him and bring him toys because of a condition you can’t understand yet, and you don’t get too jealous or act out too much, and we appreciate that.
You’re a great playmate and I’m excited about the years to come when I’ll hear you and Hayes giggling from a closed room- I’m sure it will make my heart race to wonder what chaos and destruction you’ve both caused within, but I’m looking forward to it. Right now you’re playing in a fort that Dad made for you, narrating his and your every move, and calling it ‘MY FORK’. You’re so intelligent and creative it’s disarming. And I’m not just saying that because I’m your mom. It’s true.
But you’re also coming upon a hard age, and I’ll admit most days there are times (moments, minutes, hours) of frustration. You’re recently overcoming tonsillitis and I don’t mind telling you that we called you The Minion for a few days during that episode of illness. When you were a little baby I can remember holding you and looking at your face and being COMPLETELY unable to imagine us ever disagreeing. About anything. Now we disagree on everything. I give you the wrong color cup 90% of the time. I am incorrect about your wishes for what should be done in the toilet. Sometimes I sit on the couch wrong or stand in the kitchen wrong or sing at the wrong times.
If you can’t tell (and I hope you can’t, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion toddlers can sense these things), I have essentially no idea what I’m doing. I probably should have read the books or something. On a daily basis it feels like I’m throwing up a Hail Mary in the game of Mommyhood. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are days it’s like my only playbook is the list of things I said I’d never do. I’m ashamed to admit that I told you I’d give you money the other day if you’d just sit on the toilet. You’re not even two. You’ve eaten at McDonald’s about 600 more times than the zero times I’d always haughtily told people we’d ever go… so there’s that. You scream “NO” in public, you are loud in church, you watch more television than I’ll readily admit, and there are times I’m sure I’m doing every thing the wrong way.
We’ll get through it. There will be other times when we look back at this letter and wish we were still fighting over the color of your drinking cup or whether or not I will let you run on the wet porch, instead of the flying skateboard I won’t let you buy or the friends I think are ‘the wrong sort’. We’ll get through that, too. My greatest hope is that eventually we’ll look back and laugh at the fact that we ever argued at all.
Toddlerhood is volatile, an unpredictable time of extremes. Your vocal chords are at this point capable of the sweetest sounds – there is nothing so treasured as how small and soft your voice can be in the morning when you’re telling me you want to visit the park because it’s fun, or during your nightly prayers, or the gut-wrenching, heartstring-yanking way you’ll call out for Daddy or me in the night… AND YET you can also manipulate those chords to whine and scream and yell like a Green Street Hooligan. I guess you’re just becoming yourself – it’s thrilling and slightly terrifying to watch. How much influence and control do I really have? How much has been in you since birth and how much have you learned because of your surroundings? Even now, what am I doing or not doing that could possibly benefit or cripple your future self? What proverbial baggage am I packing that you’ll carry in relationships to come?
Whether or not it’s been a day that’s seen me sitting on your chest and pinning your arms to your sides to pry antibiotics into your screeching mouth, bribes of Sour Patch kids to go in the toilet, or arguments about whether or not you can watch your 72nd episode of Curious George, I sleep better at night because I think you can feel the love Koby and I have for you. Sometimes that love comes in the form of discipline, and sometimes it’s in the form of just trying over and over again despite lots of failure, but it’s there and real and big, so just know that. When you’re two, when you’re 15, when you’re 37 and forever. It will always be there.