Tomorrow, you'll be two. In preparation for this monumental event and before I could sit down to write this letter, I went back and read what I said last year. What words of wisdom did Mama have when you turned one? Not much, it would seem. Mama was a living, breathing metaphor. Mama was still working to get her head on straight. Mama was still fighting a bit for normal.
And oh, my sweet girl, have we found it.
The second year of your life was...great. So encouraging and humbling and inspiring and funny and yes, hard. But normal hard. "I don't understand this sleep regression" hard. "Why won't my kid just eat?" hard. "Do we really have to take this much crap on vacation?" hard. "My kid has had the daycare sniffles for three months" hard. It was not "painfully" hard or "cry in the shower" hard. It was regular old "raising a human" hard.
And for that, I am so grateful.
Because Ellerie! You're amazing. And since I was no longer drowning, I was able to really watch and see you develop your personality.
You are empathetic. Which, I admit, is a strange word to use to describe a two year old. But you feel bad for the little monkeys in your book who have bumped their head. You worry about Anna when Elsa can't get that snow tower built fast enough. You feel genuinely upset when Daniel Tiger loses his watch. Once, Grandpa Frank was singing Les Miserables and you went over to pat his shoulder, concerned he was crying. (He wasn't.) This week I was yelling at the ikea step stool I was building and you came over to give me a hug. As if to say "Mama, we've gotten through worse stuff than this."
It's so heart-warming and heart-breaking to see you making these connections. You acknowledging the feelings of others and reacting to things outside of yourself is sort of what life is all about. I can imagine the years ahead of us as the problems and struggles grow. I cannot imagine how much you will learn and how much you will teach me about what it means to care.
You are also adventurous. If there was a cement staircase to the moon you'd have climbed it by now. I'm sort of glad we don't watch the news so you are, as of yet, unaware about the Mars Mission because no doubt you'd have signed up. When we were in Hawaii you learned how to go down the big slide. On the first day, it took three people to facilitate your play: one to help you up, one to meet you at the top, one to catch you at the bottom. By the end of the week you could handle the whole thing by yourself. Up the ladder, down the slide, again and again and again. Seeing you grow and tackle new tasks is the best part of this whole adventure. I feel myself relaxing as you learn how to do each new trick.
You know much more than I think you do. Almost daily, I am shocked by something new, some antic or word you've picked up. Part of this is you're a sponge and part of this is you go to daycare three days a week and learn from other adults and kiddos that are not me and Papa. I LOVE THIS. When I pick you up at the end of the day it's with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. "What will she know now?!" "What did she learn today?!" I admit I glow with pride as I listen to your teachers tell me about your day. Then into the car we go, you with paint covered clothes and a bag of snacks and me with smile on my face.
Because it's all so "normal." We've found it. We've got it.
Being your mama is the greatest joy of my life, Ellerie. You are kind, brave, smart and beautiful. You are a light in our family and it's been a privilege to witness your life and help you along this past year. I cannot wait to see what you'll do next.
I love you, Ellerie Eve. Happy Birthday.