How do I write this to you knowing already, before I’ve barely begun, that it won’t come close to showing how much I love you? How do I make this mean something when you’ve already heard all the stories?
You know about the pain at the beginning: the six years of longing, the interminable weeks of waiting when you were overdue, the excruciating labor, but Maia, have I told you about the joy? I’m not sure I’ve told you enough about the incredible elation I felt when you emerged, all sticky and new, taking your first breaths on my chest. I don’t think I’ve focused enough on how your tiny body felt like touching magic; how you took my breath away; how it was instantly just the two of us; and how my capacity to love somehow expanded beyond anything I had dreamed it could be.
And then somehow you kept being magic. I got distracted trying to do so many things right – to cosleep or not, to make your food or buy it, to let you watch Baby Einstein or keep it from you, and on and on. But at the end of the day, when you were tucked into my armpit falling asleep at night, your very existence still felt like a miracle.
Quickly, the shape of our world changed and in many ways, became so much smaller: just me and you (and the Dyson). You’ve heard so many hard stories about that time period – about us being scrappy to get by, about living in a very rural small town feeling isolated from the world, about my long, hard road to divorce. I used to think of that time as being one of incredible scarcity for us, and yet now when I look back, that time with you feels like a gift. Several years ago, we were talking about that apartment and I sighed remembering how I had to beg the landlady to let us borrow a table she kept in the basement. But you, with your beautiful child perspective reminded me how much you loved that bedroom with walls we painted blue and around the entire circumference I had written, “My, my, my what a beautiful world.”
Maia, you came into this world as an old soul. I know we’ve known each other before, we’ve counted on one another, been comrades, read each other’s minds. We are inextricably linked forever throughout all time. It would be tempting to claim some kind of ownership over you, as if you’ve been mine all along – one of my greatest success stories. And yet, your path is separate from mine – just as every child’s is, from every parent.
You have stepped onto that path of finding yourself with courage and grace. Watching you grow and evolve has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I know there have been moments when you’ve stumbled, felt alone, felt crushed by the world’s heaviness, but rarely have I seen you be really unsure of who you are. I hope you know how phenomenal that actually is.
Maia, this entire time, I have been offering you a foundation: a little logic, access to emotion, some space to be sad/mad/proud, a bit of silliness, clear boundaries, real expectations. This foundation is meant to hold you as you step into more and more spaces without me. It has occurred to me that in so many ways, at this point, I have to trust that I’ve given you the basics so you can filter what the world has to offer. However, it’s now up to you to use those filters. No one tells you that so much of parenting is a series of endless leaps of faith and crossed fingers that you’re doing the right thing.
I’ve gotta be honest though. With you, it has felt sort of easy. You’re just a good person, Maia. You’re kind and thoughtful and self-aware way beyond your years. Your capacity for empathy, while maintaining boundaries is pretty mind-blowing, frankly. You keep lists of things you love, lists of quotes, lists of words you hate, lists of places you want to visit. You know how to access deep sorrow and you know how to climb out of it too. You use sarcasm as a tool and know how to create a mean playlist for any occasion. Your deepest intuition is your super power.
I know this past year has been extremely difficult. 2020 has hit us all right in the gut with its ability to isolate, separate, and create fear. I know you’ve felt sadness over missing out, missing friends, missing the life you should have had. But when I asked you if you would erase 2020 altogether if given the choice, your answer was a resounding no. You said you wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on the time we had together. And the thing is, I feel like I cheated the system somehow in getting this extra time with you. Every moment with you is a gift that I am lucky to have.
Maia, no matter how old you get and how many lifetimes pass us by, never forget that the basics are still true:
Baby, I’m here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
Stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
We’ll look at them together and we’ll take them apart
Adding up the total of a love that’s true
Multiply life by the power of two.
I love you more than you could ever imagine. Sixteen years later, I remain in awe.