To Will, from Mom, on your 2nd birthday

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Dear Will,

I simply can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I wrote to you on your very first birthday. Everything I said still holds true. In that regard, not much has changed. I still feel connected to you in a way far beyond any expectations I ever had. You continue to nuzzle your way deeper and deeper into our hearts with each passing day, and my heart is glad to entertain a dear friend who still feels long-lost, as if we’ve been together always. And I still pray the same prayer for you, little Bear.

But much has change. I find myself struggling more these days because of the brilliant little person you’re becoming. The more you learn, the more I must, and it’s simultaneously exhilarating and tiresome. It is high and low. Triumph and frustration. What works one day, fails the next. These contradictions confound me and I’m sure, in your own 2-year-old way, they do the same for you.

Your fingernails are grimier this year because you’ve learned that sometimes in life, you have to get your hands dirty to have any fun. Your face is perpetually sticky and crusty – side effects of fork and spoon mastery. Your legs are still smooth and soft, but covered in tiny scratches and bruises where you’ve fallen, scraped, and bumped your way to the only speed you know these days: full speed.

I don’t mind. The dirt etched into the creases of your sweaty little palms smells like summer and stale peanut butter, and I love it when they touch my face, or the arms attached to them wrap around my neck. You’ve gotten so good at hugging that you’re starting to become aware of the power your hugs have in getting you out of a pickle, especially when you’re in trouble and sent to the naughty step. Your sticky face is still warm and soft, and although it’s yucky sometimes, I can’t help but watch you – to notice how you scrunch your eyes closed right before you take a bite, half of which always ends up on the floor or in your lap, or the way you bop your head to a beat I can’t hear, while gibbering in a language I’m starting to understand more and more as you form real sentences. Your legs are still adorable, scratches and all (when they’re not kicking me), because they are taking you on a journey with every step, and I love them for that.

But that speed – that “full-speed-ahead” speed. That’s hard. Because it means faster. And I don’t want faster. I want life to slow down so I can savor everything about the scrappy, ridiculous, independent, giggly, tantrum-prone person who is turning 2 years old tomorrow. I want to savor him today. And yesterday. And last week.

Fast, fast, fast, running, jumping, climbing.

You are so difficult. Did I mention that? I’m in a constant state of disorientation as I juggle your sensitive feelings in the most mundane of tasks. (Do you want your socks off? Ok. No? You don’t want your socks off? Ok. Wait. I thought you wanted you socks on? Oh, no…don’t cry! It’s ok! They’re only socks!) You absolutely insist on doing every conceivable thing you shouldn’t be doing, not to mention that you refuse any assistance or involvement from me. I’m only trying to help you.

You poop like clockwork the minute we’re late leaving in the morning, and I fruitlessly try to convey to you that Mommy will be late for work if you don’t let her change your diaper. You run away anyways, disregarding my frantic plea. And let’s not even talk about your refusal to have your teeth properly brushed before bed, let alone going to bed altogether. Oh, and there was that trip to the E.R… You really should reconsider running near dining room chairs, little man.

The truth is, the difficulty lies with me. You’re growing so fast that I fail to keep up, so my composure cracks because I haven’t learned how to deal with it. Your difficulties are merely a testament to your development and are just as they should be, yet they try my patience because I have not grown fast enough with you. I must constantly remind myself that it’s not personal. I’m working on myself and trying to be better for you, but sometimes I fail and both our feelings end up hurt.

Sometimes I feel immense guilt that I don’t spend enough time with you. I squeeze every ounce out of our time together until all the drops are gone and it’s time for bed, or time to start a new work week. I do take pride in the fact that we don’t waste our time together on T.V. – we go for walks, play in the yard, and read books. I hate that you’re in this magnificent stage, and people who I only know on the surface are in charge of your care and development three days a week. I hate it. Please know that I want to spend all of my time with you.

The world is amazing. But the world is scary too. Now that you are starting to find your footing in a meaningful way, I think more about the scary and less about the amazing. I worry and feel like breaking when I think about the day you learn about war and genocide – when you learn that some people hurt others, and that unthinkable atrocities happen to human beings every day – people just like us. And then I force myself to stop thinking about it, because I can’t bear the thought of you ever being hurt or scared or alone.

So this year, I’ll add to my prayer. This year I pray that your heart and mind find strength in the frustrations you’re sure to endure as you turn from a 2-year-old, dipping your toe into uncharted waters, to a 3-year-old who is sure to cannon ball into the lake, regardless of whether you can see the bottom.  I pray that your shoulders, that seem so puny, begin to broaden ever so slightly in preparation for life’s burdens, however small, and that those burdens pass you by altogether.

And this year I pray for myself – that I remember that this journey is more about you than me, and that poise, restraint, and patience go a long way in shaping you into the person I hope you’ll become. I pray that my worry doesn’t poison the moments we have together, when I should just be experiencing life with you. And rather than pray for time to stand still, I will cherish the time we spend together this year, clutching the best moments to my heart.

I love you so very much, my little Bubbalooshki. My heart aches collectively with anxiety and hope for your future. You shine so brightly! How did this happen so fast?! I fear that one day I’ll blink and we’ll be picking out your first backpack. But for now, I’ll shake the thought from my mind and instead focus all of my efforts on receiving sticky hugs that smell like you.

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One thought on “To Will, from Mom, on your 2nd birthday

  1. Another great blog, Chris. This one made me cry, remembering all those moments you speak of so adroitly. You always have the knack of taking me instantly back to when my own children were at the stage you are speaking about. Sometimes it makes me laugh, sometimes cry and always makes my heart ache for those days….wishing I could have just a few more moments of when they were young….sitting on my lap, reading a book with their sweet laughs and tiny voices. Take pride that you are doing the hardest job on earth extremely well. Take pride that you DO spend quality time (I hate that expression) with Will. Take pride that you are a mom who tries to stay in touch with how he’s feeling, how he’s learning and what comes ahead. That is the sign of a great mom. You ARE a great mom besides being an outstanding writer. Thanks for the joy you bring me in your every blog and thanks for your great insight into what it takes to be an incredulous mom!!

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