Oh, Little V., I have been meaning to get here, to put down all that is amazing about you as we spend our days together. Most days we are just keeping up by living it, girl. You go with the flow in such admirable ways as we follow your big sister around. You still prefer to take your naps on me (and let’s be honest, I prefer it, too). It means I get less done at the end of the day. It means at the end of my life, I won’t have traded these moments for anything. Let’s take one and remember everything about right now:
You just turned ONE! You say “dadada” and “mmmmaaaaamm” and your first official words have been a greeting (“ay” with your squeeze of a wave) and a command (“up”). You sign for “more” and “milk.” Your most favorite new trick is putting a toy in your mouth and flipping it up over your nose. You have the best giggle, getting so excited when I am about to pick you up or my nose is about to nuzzle yours that you nearly go hoarse. Those are the moments I try to put on a loop because I never want to forget that feeling, that funneling of the world down to just you and me.
You eat and drink everything I’ve offered you, and while one of our goals as parents is not to compare our children, this is such a different path than the illuminating one I’m on with your sister that it leaves me astounded. And I want you to know how special it is to learn something new as you do, to have your trust, feet-kicking enthusiasm, and eager hums. You use your left hand almost exclusively. Your sister is curious, too, in you. The teaching flows both ways I am seeing.
For a few months now you have had such a determined drive to stand, to explore your vertical as much as your horizontal space. You climb stairs. You scale the couch to see the world outside the window. You cruise. You often balance yourself against something with just one little hand. And for a few seconds lately you let go and stand all on your own. Do you realize how brave you already are? To let go like that? Just as I see your drive, I sense your sweetness. You burrow into my neck now, you grip my shoulders, and my heart flips. You are asleep on me as I type this, your arms flung out at helicopter angles, your breath a metronome, your top tuft of hair grazing my chin.
There is feistiness in you too, kid. Whenever you protest, you fling your head back and your whole arching body follows. You’ve had to protest a few things with a big sister around. But do you know how much she loves you?! She gives you the biggest hugs and tells me which toys are too small for you. She tries so hard to hold your hand in the car, reaching across the seat with all her three-year-old might. And when she isn’t in the car, I see you looking around for her. How amazing that you are a sister from the get-go. H. was too, but in such a different way. From day one, my littlest child, you have a best friend. You’re old enough now to really play together. And as an only child myself, yours are among the most fascinating exchanges I’ve ever witnessed. She can make you giggle, too. Please know how lucky I feel to have this time with the two of you. Our days, even if we don’t travel far, are epic. And as the sunset is often the sky’s sweetest moment, I sense myself holding on.
I know it won’t always be like this. I will need to leave you and your sister for longer. It is time to step back into the running waters of my career. I don’t know what that will look like yet, but I can sense all that I hope it will hold for us, for me apart from you and your sister, for all I can offer when I return. I honestly haven’t a clue how people do it all—the dual careers and the schools and the sports and the dinners and all the drop-offs and all the pick-ups and the homework and the screens and the stopping to breathe and take it all in, this life together.
These moments right before transition test us. They give us the most freedom in some ways, but we want to choose wisely. We don’t want to regret. As I heard a dear mama—who works full-time and will soon go on leave with her second child—put it recently, “I’m having a hard time being a woman.” She is struggling with how to leave work for that long, which will be a short time with her baby. I am struggling on the other end, figuring out how to re-emerge powerfully after “all” this time with my children, during which I wrote a memoir, re-launched my website, and published many essays, during which I had very little help. During which I grieved.
But not to worry. The rest will come. “We’ll figure it out,” as your dadada is fond of saying. Right now, the words are about you. You are my baby and you are already emerging from your babyhood. The answers are changing as you learn and re-learn to sleep on your own, as we wean, as you reach higher and higher and look back at me and grin. You have six teeth. You have been to California and marched on Washington. This is your second spring, my little flower girl. You are precious and you are joy.