It’s Monday. It’s late August and it’s rainy and dark outside. Your dad left for work too early this morning, and my to-do list is full. But still, we take this morning slow. It began sweetly, with giggles from your crib that let me know you were awake. You laugh at me as we turn off your nightlight together and toddle down the hallway to the stairs. We detour for my coffee before you descend the dim stairwell slowly, unsurely, but bravely, your tiny fingers a vice around mine. Some kids your age are just learning to walk and I’m a little too proud of your stair skills.
Breakfast is not my strong suit, so as I type you are eating an empty ice cream cone and a banana. I’m choosing to think that’s funny and quirky. You ask for more, finally using your sign language. It’s awkward and looks like clapping, but I know what you mean and I am beyond proud. I make a mental note to prioritize grocery shopping tomorrow.
And then, you sing.
Your songs right now do not have words. They have few notes. But they are so full. It takes little to inspire a song from you, and I encourage another and another. You rock back and forth, your tiny shoulders finding a rhythm that sprouts from a deep contentment. I know I don’t deserve you. I am not a worthy teacher to help you find your voice. But here we are: I am your mother and you are my little song bird.
I write because I cannot shake a thought for you this morning: you are light. My feeble mind races to simile when I am full of a thought. Your flickering candle of laughter yanks the coldest of grocery store clerks into your warmth. With every word you learn, the lightbulb above your head melts my own icy heart. Sometimes, when you are not satisfied, your light looks like an angry forest fire; I delight in your passion during these times. Sometimes in peace, you are a faint, friendly glow like a bed of coals beneath the stars, displaying the perfection of spent fire. When you test your limits with me, your eyes flash with uncertainty and daring like the crest of a mounting lake wave, catching a hot flicker of sun. And when you smile at me in adoration, it is like the diamonds that coat the new snowfall. It’s consuming purity, and I can’t look away.
I know that you and I will become more complicated as we get older. I know I will say the wrong thing, make bad choices. You will scream daggers at me. You will try to swing away from my love and you will swing back when you realize we cannot hate each other—that we can’t afford it. I am already sorry for my mistakes. At the same time, I can almost taste my success. To me, success means using your short time under my wing to refine your hope until it is a driving force beneath your decisions.
I want to use our time wisely, sinking the engine of hope deeper in you, layered under mindful protections, cooled by logic, fueled by the beauty of struggle so no one can take it away. I want to watch your skin grow thick and your mind grow agile.
I can only hope that when you are old, reflecting on a life well-lived, you can say, “I was strong because you showed me.”
I write to capture the feeling I had during your song this morning, as my throat tightened and my eyes misted in a rare display of unhinged pride. You are the best, purest thing I can imagine inhabiting this hateful world. I daily wrestle the guilt of bringing such an innocent soul into this entropic circus. But today, struggle faded for a moment and I was able to see only you, only the joy you bring, and only the songs you sing. Only hope. Only a tiny warrior of strength, justice, kindness, and light. Only my purpose inside your purpose. I know that when I am old, reflecting on a life well-lived, I will say, “I was strong because you showed me.”
I take a moment to savor this snapshot of toddlerhood and motherhood—two creatures enveloped in total naivety.