Posts Tagged ‘happiness’


Two-year-old Dot

February 1, 2012

Dearest Dot,

Today, you are two years old. I wanted to write you this letter so that, some day, you can look back and read it and see how amazing you were when you were two. Because, my darling, you take my breath away every day with your amazingness.

Two years ago, we saw you for the first time, held you for the first time. I kissed you and kissed you and breathed in your new-baby smell and laughed in delight at the fierce brightness of your dark and knowing eyes. You were such an intense little person.

You still are, but now that you can run and climb and talk and grab things and laugh and cry, so you have more outlets for your feelings; they aren’t all bottled up in a tiny little bundle, and I think that allows your feelings to diffuse a little.  I get the sense that this is a real relief for you. It’s certainly fun for us to watch you learning and growing and changing. I marvel at how you constantly change while always retaining the character you had when you were just a few days old. You are more you every day.

Right now, you like – Steve Martin’s banjo rendition of King Tut, ice cream “in a spoon,” our cats, playing on the “shaky bridge” at your school playground, bubble baths, Old MacDonald, Rapunzel, broccoli, pretending to work in your office alongside Daddy, drawing “tangles,” apple  sauce-ah, trips to the library, “driving” the kids cart at the grocery store, dancing, pretending to fly, jumping and hopping, reading in our laps and also by yourself, the big blanket on our bed, your snowman and elephant pajamas, looking at photos of your cousins on Mommy’s phone, looking at videos of you and Daddy swimming, climbing the futon, climbing on top of your play table to watch us do dishes, trying to put shoes on by yourself, sitting on the toilet and pretending to go potty, pretending to be a dragon, pretending to be a “little baby,” making “soup” by putting various crackers or veggies into your water cup, and any number from a musical that features “dancing dresses.”

Today, for your birthday, I made a mostly successful attempt at a  pony tail, and you went proudly to school with your pony tail and two barrettes. You picked the barrettes out yourself. They are purple.

Four days ago, you woke up, looked at me, and said, “You should go make some coffee for Daddy.” You were, of course, right about that.

You are fair. You will wait your turn and seem to have a good understanding that waiting your turn is important. You also make sure, almost all the time, that Mommy and Daddy both get equal numbers of kisses and hugs from you when we’re all together.

You say no a lot, my dear one. I think it’s part of being a toddler. You say it with such emphasis that I’m still sometimes amazed that you can’t bend the universe (and us) to your will. That’s probably a good thing in the long run, but I can tell that it’s really frustrating right now. It gets a little better, not being able to shape the universe to your will, and then, some day, it will probably get worse. I hope it doesn’t. I hope that, if it does, we’re here to help you through it.

You’ve started saying “sweet dreams” at night. It’s usually the last thing you say before you fall asleep. And here’s the thing of it, my little love. You really mean it. You really want me and Daddy (and yourself, and, I think, the whole world) to have sweet dreams. It melts my heart every time.

You are asserting your independence. If we try to hug or hold or lift you against your will, you yell, “My own body!” I love that you are already claiming your own space, taking charge of your dear little self. I hope you keep this belief that your body is your own your whole life. I hope you insist on the right to be safe and comfortable.

You are smart, so smart that I worry about our ability to parent you once you figure out a few more things. Last month, when your daddy told you to stop drinking the bathwater, you stopped to consider, then looked at Daddy and said “turn around,” so that you could gulp down some water when he wasn’t looking.

You are fast. If we turn around you can be two-thirds of the way up a staircase, or in another room, or across the park. I hope we can keep up with you!

You are very interested in siblings right now, though you seem to think they should all be named William, even the sisters. I wish I could tell you about your brother Teddy. The day will come when I will. I know that talking about him is really hard for your daddy, but I think you would like to know about your brother and it’s hard for me to keep this secret from you even now, when you’re only two. I think you already have some idea that something is going on there.

We knew we would love you, but we didn’t know how funny and smart and strong and perceptive and fast and sweet and sometimes-exhaustingly brilliant you would be.

It’s such a privilege to be your mom. I’m looking forward to seeing all that you do with two.

Happy birthday, little Dot.


Double Agents

August 6, 2010

It’s Dot’s first concert in the park.  Performing is Victor Johnson, very much a local celebrity, and with him is an absolutely brilliant fiddle player who reminds me of how much I wanted to learn to play the fiddle (not the violin, the fiddle) when I was growing up.  The music is lovely – guitar and fiddle and tunes that, even when they are completely new to me are imbued with the sense of the familiar.  There’s a baby mosh pit up in front of the musicians, with children ranging from very tiny to pre-teens, and they’re all spinning and hopping and dancing with the abandon and energy of the very young.

We’ve walked here, pushing our stroller, and Dot is very glad to get out, to be held up to look around the park.  She is so interested in things now, and the noises and bright colors and sounds make her eyes grow wide.  N dances with her, lifting her over his head, moving to the rhythm of the music, and she smiles the beautiful, gummy smile that makes my heart plop right out of my chest and dissolve into adoring goo.  Other parents see us and smile, probably remembering when their own kids were so small.

We are surrounded by parents.  We are part of a large group of parents.  We are part of a large group of people I went out of my way to avoid not too long ago.  And here’s the second strangest thing: we look like we fit in. The strangest thing?  For this moment, surrounded by music and life and good will, we feel like we fit in. We are happy to be here, happy to be a part of this.  The part of my brain that used to look forward to the future suddenly jerks to life and says, next year, she’ll probably want to join the baby mosh pit.

Then he goes into “You are My Sunshine,” and Dot starts to wiggle – she knows this one, you see, from all of the times I’ve sung it to her.  This sweet, sad song is one my grandfather taught all of his children and grandchildren.  After his funeral, we held hands and sang it around his grave.  As the first verse goes into, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” tears well up in my eyes and even though I should be used to it by now, to the way that a wave of sadness can hit me out of the blue, I’m almost indignant. We’re still dancing; Dot’s still happily kicking and wiggling.  I know what’s coming next and try to brace for it, and then –

The other night, Dear,
As I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, Dear,
I was mistaken,
So I hugged my head and I cried.

I look at N, and see the knowledge in his eyes, too.  We look like we belong here, but we’re misfits, marked with grief that can be brought to the surface so easily.  We are achingly aware of our missing almost-two-year-old.  The sunshine and general air of happiness, our joy at being able to do this with our beautiful and vibrantly alive daughter – these are wonderful things, and part of who we are.  But the fact that grief lies just below the surface and can be easily whistled up – that’s part of us, too.

We leave before the concert is completely over.  We’ve enjoyed it, we’ve enjoyed pretending and not-quite-pretending to belong to the throng of families, even though we know we’re double agents and will have to report back to Grief and Wailing headquarters before the summer is over.

I look over my shoulder before we make the turn that will hide the park from view and wonder how many more of us double agents are there.


Just because

April 22, 2010


Stroller season

August 31, 2009

Campus is full of people again, and the strollers are back.  Babies where I’d never noticed them before, until last year.  Babies in sun hats, outside on the mall, babies in slings and backpacks, inside the libraries, the food court, the administration buildings.

It hurts less than last year, but still, some days, ouch.

My SIL posts pictures of our adorable nephew, getting hugged by his older cousin, my adorable niece.  They make me smile, these photos, but – oh! – they make me want.  I should have photos like this of Teddy.  He should know his cousins.

N’s sister is due in September, and two coworkers are due in the early spring, around the same time I’ll be due.  I’m surrounded by babies, in strollers and in-utero.

I’m handling it well, but only because I’m hoping to join them.  Otherwise I’d be an envious wreck, or more of one, anyway.  As it is, having recently told people at work about this pregnancy, I’m back in all the right clubs.  It’s safe to talk to me about babies again, and people are enjoying being happy for me.  But I still miss him.  And I’m not sure I belong in the right clubs, with my sad post-pregnancy belly being pushed out by my new pregnancy belly, with my precarious balance, my scars, and my tendency to say “hopefully” every time I talk about my life now.

I don’t begrudge people for wanting to see me happy; I want to be happy for me, too.  But the relief in their happiness for me – I don’t know how to take that.  It’s too much of a burden to be other people’s story of a happy ending when happiness is so uncertain.

If I’m out next year, in the beautiful autumn stroller season, with a living baby in a stroller (hopefully, hopefully), I’ll be delighted and grateful and humbled by my good fortune, but I’m still likely to say ouch. Even if my life is all smooth sailing from here on out (and what are the chances, really?) I don’t get to be only happy, not only happy ever again.

Ah, well.  Who does?  All of the fairy tales I love leave things unsaid about happy endings.  What about all the healing and forgiving and grieving and growing that still has to be done once you escape abuse and neglect, reclaim your lost child, your lost limbs, your lost love?  Happy endings aren’t only happy, either.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.