My little love…. It has been a year. It has been a year full of ups and downs and lessons learned – for both of us.
You see, my darling, for the first two years of your life, you were a relatively quiet little baby girl. You were observant and concentrated on nearly everything that crossed your sight, but you never really made too much noise. You didn’t cry often or even really babble a lot. And you didn’t really have much interest in talking.
It seemed that most of your mind was consumed with absorbing and processing information; you listened to everyone, you watched the world around you curiously, you focused intently on objects. You let it all sink in and sit in your growing little mind for some time while you found a place to put all of this new information.
You also spent a significant amount of time learning how to move. You crawled and walked so effortlessly and with impressive agility for a one-year-old. As an outsider to your working mind, it seemed that so much of you was learning how to move and receive the messages coming to you from the world, that you hadn’t quite yet teetered into the world of expression.
And then you turned two.
On your second birthday, it was almost as though the stars shifted in the sky and your universe was rocked hard. And, my sweet girl, so was mine.
I thought having a newborn was hard…but then I had a toddler AND a newborn at the same time and I honestly felt feelings I had never experienced before in my life. I was so lost at how to help you navigate the world that was existing around you while simultaneously taking care of a brand new baby… your brother.
Because of your calmness and quietness up to that point in your life, I suppose I gravely underestimated the effect a sibling was going to have on your life. Of course I read about the possible changes that may occur, but your easy-going personality led me to believe that you’d welcome him in without much adversity…
And you did. You were quite loving and warm towards him. You wanted to help change him and feed him and sit with him whenever you could. You smiled at him when he made a funny noise and you giggled when he made a silly face.
But, in many other ways, things were different. It depended on the day, but generally speaking…
You didn’t want to take naps anymore.
You didn’t want to go to bed anymore.
You didn’t want to eat the food you’d been eating anymore.
You didn’t want to put clothes on anymore.
You didn’t want to leave the house anymore.
You didn’t want to take baths anymore.
You didn’t want to see other people very much anymore.
You didn’t want to let me help you very much anymore.
You didn’t want your lovey right away when you got upset anymore.
You didn’t even attempt to say your brother’s name out loud for the first six months of his life.
For so many months, you were so incredibly frustrated by not being able to just tell me what you were thinking and feeling and it broke my heart not to be able to jump right in and make everything better for you. And honey, even if I could have jumped right in, you wouldn’t even have let me make it better for you; you didn’t want me to make all of your feelings go away- you just wanted me to let you get them out.
I knew that you were finding your way to communicate with me.
I knew that you were finding your way to express yourself.
I knew that you were testing limits and pushing boundaries to see how I would react.
I knew that you were figuring out what would make you feel better.
I knew that you were feeling a whole range of emotions that were new to you: frustration, fear, jealousy, disappointment, even anger.
I also knew that I had to find a way to tolerate all of those feelings – to hold a space for you to experiment with your emotions and to begin to understand how they affect your actions and relationships. It didn’t make me feel good when you were feeling bad and it was not easy to see, but I knew that giving you safety, security, and space was what you needed to learn that I will be here loving you and supporting you no matter what.
I wanted you to get through these periods of change- of language acquisition, of grief over the life you had when you were a single child, of the shifting schema of what your family life is now, of the life demands that occur with growing pains- with the comfort of knowing that in our family, you are allowed to feel all the feel and you won’t be shamed for doing so.
And that was hard. It still is hard. But it is getting better and now, a whole year later, I think we are starting to see the fruits of our labor together, my love.
You see, I say that I “knew” all of these things, but honestly, I was learning and experimenting all the while beside you. I tested different strategies out as well but it wasn’t until I finally turned inside for the answers that I started to see the light.
My anxiety often made my vision hazy and sometimes the thoughts and worries about the future would consume my mind; I would wonder how what I was doing or not doing would effect you far down the road and I’d lose sight of my own instinct, my own gut feeling on how to support you. Oh, and I was sleep deprived because, well, at any given point in a 24-hour period for a few months there was a child awake in our house.
But then, the baby started sleeping a little more and with more rest came more clarity.
I began to see that every cry, every no, every hit, every throw, every tantrum and every meltdown – they were all cries for help.
And when I cry for help, I just want someone- usually your grandmother- to be with me, to hug me, to tell me that my feelings are valid and that there is enough room in the universe for all of them.
I want someone to just let me be with those feelings for some time without diminishing them, distracting me from them, taking them away, making me feel bad for having them, or sending me away.
I want someone to model for me how to handle my feelings, my words, and my body in a more effective way when I am calm and better able to rationalize and learn again.
I want someone to make me feel safe and I want someone to acknowledge me in a meaningful way.
I want someone to show me what it looks like to repair broken communication.
I want someone to show me that I am worthy of love – even when I am falling apart.
So, that is what I did. I leaned in to you.
I leaned into the hugs when you pulled away.
I leaned into the quiet when you grew loud.
I leaned into the compassion when you were cold.
I leaned into the structure when you were chaotic.
I leaned into the calm when you were tumultuous.
I leaned into the color when all you saw was dark.
I leaned into the soft when you felt hardened.
I leaned into strength when you were weak.
I leaned into patience when you were resistant.
I leaned into deep breaths when you couldn’t catch any air.
I leaned into you because, in your own 2-year-old way, you were leaning into me.
So now a year after our journey on this curvy blessed road we’ve ventured down together since you turned two, I can’t help but be so very proud of you and our growing relationship together. You are a happy, strong-willed, curious, intelligent, and empathetic almost-three-year-old little girl. You are many wonderful things, my love, but I think one of the most incredible things about you right now that you are already learning to trust your own intuition and letting that guide you.
My daughter, on your third birthday, know that you are ready for whatever life throws your way this year, and so am I. Together, we will continue to learn and grow, ebb and flow, push and pull…and we will become better versions of ourselves in doing so.
I love you, my peanut. Forever and always, no matter what.