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Monday, August 17, 2015

Bittersweet

Dear Elle,

Today is bittersweet. Do you know what that word means, baby girl? It's kind of a funny word, but it's the perfect choice for your first day of kindergarten.

Bittersweet means that parts of today are bitter like a lemon - a little bit yucky and hard to swallow - and other parts are sweet like candy - sugary and delicious and something we want to have again and again. It was so hard to let you go this morning. I know that you have grown up a lot, but you are still my little girl. Today everything changes and that makes me sad because part of me wants things to stay the same. 

Today was also very sweet - watching you go out into a slightly bigger part of this very big world makes me so proud. I know you are ready for kindergarten and capable of anything. Today everything changes and that makes me happy because part of me can't wait to watch you continue to grow.

This morning you walked into the same building that mama did exactly 30 years ago - I remember being as nervous and excited to start kindergarten as you were today. It is so incredibly surreal to share such an indelible experience with you. 

So alike, yet so different. 

Bittersweet. 

Things that mean the most in life are charged with uncertainty and mixed emotion. There is nothing worth having in this world that isn't a combination of both good and bad. When we put our full hearts and souls into matters of the heart - when we believe in something completely and profoundly - it is always bittersweet. When we are lucky enough to be filled with joy and fervor and love, we simply have more to lose.

Baby, you must understand that family, friends, school, work, play - it is all a combination of good and bad, happy and sad, up and down, right and wrong. And when you grow up to be old like me, and if you choose to become a mommy yourself, you will find that watching your children grow is the most bittersweet thing of all. Which is why today is so powerfully exciting and sorrowful at the same time.

It's why mommy smiled the biggest smile through the biggest tears. When you are five years old, bittersweet can be confusing. But, just know it is the absolute best of both worlds. That watching you walk into your new school this morning was one of the proudest moments of my life.

On the day that you were born, you shot into the world with a purpose. It only took three pushes and 15 minutes - daddy said you looked like a dolphin twirling out of the sea. You knew who you were and what you wanted from the moment you arrived. So alert and insistent you were - fiercely independent and curious, you always kept us on our toes. I realized when you were 16-months old that your intelligence would far succeed mine. 

You are strong-willed and determined and have an insatiable need to be heard. You remind me of myself in many ways. We both enjoy the spoken word and love to make up stories and pretend. We like to act crazy and sing and dance, although I sometimes fear that I have lost my spark in this high-stress job of parenting. I sometimes wonder if you will remember the times I was my true, silly self or simply resent the moments I was a frazzled caricature of a yelling mother.  

Either way, your spirit moves me, sweet girl. Even when I am at my worst, I can still see the best in you. You evoke the uninhibited girl I once was and the carefree adult I can still be. 

We share a lot of fun traits, baby girl, but there are so many ways we are different, too. How can I possibly explain this to you? Honey, you are the kindest, most compassionate child in the world. How do you - at the young age of five - so uncannily and honestly understand the concepts of generosity and tenderness? I spend a lot of time worrying that you've seen and heard too much. I know that your little brother's leukemia touched you in ways that neither of us fully understand and gave you a perspective on illness, life and death that is far too broad for an adult - much less a young child - to comprehend. But it sank into your bones and your soul, baby girl. It gave you the intuition and sensitivity that you wear proudly like a medallion. It also gave you the uncertainty and worry that hides beneath your satiny nightgown and floral blanket each night. 

Bittersweet, baby. Life is all so bittersweet.

I have taught you to question everything - even me. I have never spoken to you like a child - I don't avoid most topics and I use big words. Sometimes it's only when you say, "what does that mean?" that I remember you are only five. Maybe I expect too much from you, but when I see the potential behind those gray-blue eyes, I can't help but push you to be all that I know you are. Do I push too much? Am I pushing you away? I agonize about those things at night, wrapped in my own blanket of worry and fear. 

Every day you inquire about life. You ask questions from the moment you wake up to the moment you (finally) fall asleep. Some of them kill me. "Mama, why do I have to do this and Reid doesn't?" "Why do we always do what Reid wants to do?" 

You are simultaneously oblivious to the constant effort of raising your brother and utterly cognizant of the fact that he is our unique and beloved gift. You are the best big sister and sometimes I foolishly worry that you may feel lonely in our home. At times I become preoccupied with my thoughts and long for the two of you to be more like other five and almost-three year olds - able to build towers and engage in imaginative play together. I know it will come in due time, but I sometimes imprudently and briefly wish that the two of you could communicate like "normal" siblings. It's usually right at that moment that I hear two little trills of laughter coming from another room. I quietly go to find that you have accommodated one another and found your own way to play. You have your own games and your own language, which is equal parts words, sign language, wrestling and kissing. Once again, your gentleness and perception come shining through. You love your brother fiercely and in a world that so desperately needs it, I know your love will convey into kindness, compassion and humanity - at school and beyond. 

High expectations and underestimations are peppered into constant feelings of pride, love and devotion for you kids. But as I watched you today, I realized that despite my fears and worries, despite the things I may have gotten wrong, there must be a whole lot we got right. Today, you walked into a room full of strangers and smiled. You were nervous but you were eager. You were shy, friendly, apprehensive and certain all at the same time

You were brave.

You held my hand, but you also let it go. Today I watched you have enormous courage and with one lionhearted smile, you gave me the power to do the same. 

Life is complicated and full of conflicting thoughts and feelings and today that is truer than ever. I remind myself that the hard parts must exist because life simply can't be easy all the time. 

It's bittersweet.

Elle, thank you for making me a mother. I will always be there to hold your hand and I will always be there to let it go. My love for you will never waver because it's a scary, exciting, heart-pounding, gut-wrenching, all-encompassing, completely unconditional love. It's a love I never knew existed until you came soaring into this world like a dolphin. 

Never stop soaring, baby girl. 

I love you,
Mama





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