My dear girls,
This month marks three whole years of getting to love each other. A thousand days of crazy and imperfection, much of which was more than likely my own. No one else has seen my weakness quite the way that you have. No one has seen me more confused, more impatient, more angry, more fearful—except Craig, perhaps (bless him). I’ve known for awhile now that this chapter of us was winding down, and I have been searching everywhere for the just right words to say. There’s a line in the last song of Hamilton where Eliza asks herself if when her time is up, she will have done enough—it is a question I find myself asking all the time, because who can really say when their time will run out?
We were sitting in traffic again the other day, late as usual despite my best efforts, on our way to your swimming lessons across town. I was beginning to think all sorts of cranky thoughts when the Holy Spirit whispered, they will learn how to be patient by watching you, and they will focus on what you focus on. So I decided to start telling you about how hard they were working to fix the road and keep us safe. And remember when you begged to take your beanie baby to preschool and it got put away with the rest of the toys while you were on the playground? You cried and cried that it had been lost, and I crossed my fingers when I said “it’s okay, your toy isn’t really lost—Jesus knows where it is, and we can ask him to help us find it.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief when you came bounding out to the pick up line the next day with your beloved stuffed animal in hand. They will learn that Jesus is trustworthy by watching you trust him.
I can only hope that you’ll remember the times I tried so hard to get it right more than you’ll remember all the times I crashed and burned. I’m sure I only crashed and burned about seven hundred times a day. I wonder constantly about the people you will grow up to be and if I have done enough with this handful of days you have been mine. I wonder if I have been someone worthy of watching.
I have so many friends who are honest about the messy days of mothering. For some reason, I have always felt guilty when talking about the hard days with you. The days where we manage to get on each other’s last nerve before ten in the morning. The days when I forget to check all my crazy at the door so I can get down to see our miraculous world at your level. The days when I pick all the wrong battles and end up dying on the most ridiculous hills. The days when I have felt so painfully unqualified. The days when I have to apologize for not getting it right. The days when I go home wondering if I have managed to teach you anything about kindness or taking turns or how to put your shoes on the right feet.
Every day, I worry that I have managed to pass my weaknesses onto you through osmosis. I wonder if you will be afraid to go down the tall slide because you know it makes my heart skip about half a dozen beats every time you go near it. I know, I know, you are big enough. I just don’t know if I am big enough. Maybe all of this parenting (or nannying) gig is just wondering if we are big enough and brave enough to survive our hearts running around outside of our bodies, skinning their knees on every other surface they touch.
So I try to tell you who you are every time life hands you a tall slide or new opportunity to be kind. I say in my most confident voice (because I am talking to the both of us) that you, my darling, are a very brave and smart and kind girl. All you have to do is decide to be yourself, because you already have everything that you need. It is okay if you don’t get it right the first time you try, and it is okay if you see someone doing it better than you. All that matters is that you keep being your brave and smart and kind self. The rest will just take some practice, and trust me, you’ll be practicing your whole life. Don’t be ashamed about that, because it is exactly how it should be.
That is what you have taught me, dear girls: agreeing with who God says I already am is the single most powerful lesson we can ever learn. Maybe I would have learned that eventually, even if our paths had never crossed and I had never gotten to love you. I’d like to think I would have learned it, anyway. Since being a human is all about practicing, God gives us lots of tries. But the fact that he decided to make you my teachers is something that I will always, always, always be grateful for.
Your mama told me the other day that she wishes she had more pictures of us so that she can tell you about all the fun we had later. I laughed to keep from crying and said “I’m not dying!” I reminded her that you are still one-third mine, and that means that I am coming to every softball game and dance recital and birthday and Christmas program and graduation you have for the rest of forever, because not only are you mine, but I am yours. I will be there with balloons and flowers and big homemade signs cheering you on (while also embarrassing you with my insane amount of love, which I will take great pleasure in). We belong to each other for keeps. And when baby brother gets here, there will be more to celebrate and love.
This might feel like an ending right now, but the truth is, we are just turning a page. All we have to know is that we are brave and kind and smart enough already. We have everything we need because we have each other. I want you to know that I will always be here. When you need to talk about bras and boys, I’ll be here. When you need help with your English assignment, I will be here. I won’t be any help with math, except to have a pint of ice cream ready for when you fail your trigonometry test (this is the very best that I can offer you in this department). When you dent your daddy’s car in the Target parking lot, you can always come over to my house. There will always, always, always be room for you.
Thanks for growing up with me. I love you endlessly.