Dear Miss M,
Tomorrow you are 8. Eight! In eight more years, I’ll be teaching you to drive (every time I get on I-85 I think about that, and my stomach is in knots). Eight years ago today, I was begging doctors to take you out of me…so done with being a body host for another human being. Three weeks before that, we toured the labor and delivery center of the Emory hospital you were born in, and I remember them asking me what my detailed birth plan for you was. Birth plan? Birth plan?! My plan for bringing you forth was: get her out of me with the least amount of pain possible and make sure we’re both still alive at the end.
And honestly that’s a great plan, if I do say so myself. Because it’s pretty much been what I’ve been doing as I raise you to become a productive, nice adult. Particularly over the last year and a half: get her out of my house with the least amount of pain as possible and make sure we’re both still alive at the end.
When they pulled you out of me, I remember you were instantly hungry. You sucked on your fist and cried as if you were dying of thirst and it had the Earth’s last drop of water. You have always been like this: intense and insistent and really, really indignant when you can’t get what you want. I understand you instinctively, viscerally, intensely, and deeply myself. We are so much alike inside, you and I, in how we feel the world.
And yet you’re so different from me. You love people. You draw your energy from being around others. You look for the fun in everything we do, and if you can’t find it, you become annoyed – everything needs to have something fun about it or you’re not interested. You won’t sit quietly with a book for hours; you prefer to have loud music and dance and sing and dress crazy and put on tons of make up to create looks that are entirely inappropriate for an 8 year old.
You love to sing and dance and create dramatic stories that involve imaginary boys who refuse to marry you. You had a vocal teacher until recently, because we stopped taking you – you wouldn’t practice, the lessons were super expensive, you weren’t taking it that serious, and your dad wanted you to do sports again – but your vocal teacher said you were the first child she’d met with an ability to mimic voices and musical phrases. She wanted me to know you have a talent, a natural gift, but that you may not realize it until you’re much older (like her). She said if you mature a bit and decide it’s something you’re truly interested in, to invest in lessons again because you have amazing potential.
You get on orange most days of the week in 2nd grade because you talk, and nothing we say or do to bribe you into being quiet really works. You get frustrated when I ask you, “What can I offer you to stay on green for Ms. J?” Because you can’t not talk. I know you’re asleep because you’ve stopped moving and talking and it’s quiet. You have a YouTube addiction and now know more at 8 than I knew at 12. The swear words are my fault (road rage) but all the other stuff is YouTube. (Okay fine, that’s probably my fault too, because for about a year after I separated from your dad I kinda checked out as a mommy.)
I carry a lot of worry in my heart about you. You’re a happy girl, but your heart breaks easily and every part of me wants to keep it whole. I worry about how much you desperately want a sibling (you will never ever have a blood sibling, my love; you will have to make friend-siblings) and I feel guilty that you won’t have a brother like your Uncle Chad. Yesterday, you asked when you’d get to have a niece, and the answer is…well technically, never. But one day, you may be an adopted aunt for someone. This part is hard and foreign for me – raising an only child. So is single motherhood and being divorced. I still feel like a child in a lot of ways myself on the inside, and being responsible for everything is a lot. I hope I’m doing okay and not putting too much onto you. Because I want you to have a magical childhood, one you can look back on in spite of the darker parts and say: that was magical, I was loved.
Oh my sweet girl, you are surrounded by blessings. You have a Grammy and a Grandpa Harry who took you on a magical trip to Disney World in April and love you so deeply. And an aunt and uncle who include you as much as possible on all their family trips, and your cousins are like almost-siblings. And there’s Miss Robin and Mr. Jeff, Zach and Becca, family-like friends. You have family in Indiana who don’t see you as much but love you as deeply as if they did every day – you melt your Grandpa Charles’ heart every time you’ve visited him. You have a mommy and a daddy who can’t live together anymore but are working hard to be friends in spite of their differences and give you the very best they can so you can grow up into the very best person you can be. You are at a really good school with really good teachers. You have a little burgeoning BFF in your dad’s neighborhood who you like a lot. You have so much other children don’t get to have, and you are so blessed. If I had to pick one word to define your life, it would be: blessed. A blessed blessing.
I love your intense, angry little heart a lot. We have arguments all the time. Some days I’m sure I’m already raising a pre-teen/pre-pubescent – slamming doors and huffing off and we constantly have to talk about snotty tone of voice vs respectful. You are a sneaky little problem solver; this makes me both exasperated and full of admiration. You are fearless about talking to strangers; this makes me both happy and fearful for you. We talk all the time about how the world is a big, beautiful place with lots and lots of good, kind people in it; but it’s also full of tricksters and villains and has dark and scary corners to it. At 44 years old, I’m still learning how to navigate it and still recovering from run-ins with its murkier parts. You’re fearful of the dark; you still won’t sleep in your own bed. My goal for the next year and beyond as your mom is to help you learn how to face your fears bravely, and let you try to battle your fears on your own. When you have and you’ve won, I can see how your confidence builds and how much bigger you become. You are a metaphor for my own life, and we learn from each other every day.
Every night as you fall asleep or right before, I kiss you and tell you you’re my biggest, best blessing. Because you are. And not only that, you are one of my best, loveliest works of Art: a beautiful mess with an intense, kind, creative heart. I love every single bit of that heart, that heart that once beat inside of me. I love it whether it’s angry or happy, sad or bitter, nervous or brave, mean or nice, sassy or sweet. My whole heart loves your whole heart, as is, with all of me. There is literally nothing you could ever do that will make me stop. Happy 8th birthday, sweet Melissa.