I burst into tears last night after Daisy’s anesthesia team came back to us saying her labs were problematic and they were concerned about surgery on Monday. It wasn’t the information itself – we have a plan, testing again tomorrow and things will likely be normal (and this is really a fairly routine surgery) – it was just the convergence of events in the day that got me. The slight suggestion that something could go wrong combined with the most delightful afternoon and evening with our sweet angel of a daughter was too much for my mother heart to handle. I ran upstairs because Daisy looked frightened that I was in tears.
As I stood over my bathroom sink trying to save my mascara, staring at my puffy, red, crazed-looking self in the mirror, I realized something. The love I feel for Daisy is the most intense, unrelenting, unconditional, deep love I have ever felt in my life. I think as an adult, you enter romantic relationships – even the best ones! – with a certain caution and logic. Our ability to experience love is not entirely 100% vulnerable because we as intelligent creatures know that sometimes relationships go awry, people get divorced, happy isn’t always forever. We love others, as adults, in a measured and calculated way. But the love you feel for your own child is different. There is no caution, no walls, no hesitation. I realized in that moment that if something ever happened to Daisy, I would truly never recover. A piece of my heart and soul would be ripped from me never to be replaced. It is both wonderful and terrifying to love something so much.
In the wake of all this emotion, I thought it was appropriate to pen a letter to this little soul who has captured my heart so completely – in honor of her second birthday.
I cannot believe that tomorrow you will be two years old. The past two years have been the most rewarding, joyful and love-filled adventure of my life.
From the second you learned to walk you have been an avid and fearless explorer, challenging yourself physically and mentally to achieve things well beyond your age and ability. You love to climb – stairs, furniture, ladders – and to jump off anything, anytime, anywhere. You seem vaguely aware of risk but undeterred. You have always loved to be outside, to feel the sun on your face and the breeze on those juicy cheeks of yours. You are fascinated by animals and seem to fall madly in love with every small creature you meet. I love watching your relationship with our dogs, Noni and Reno, unfold because you insist on a very careful balance of firm and loving: you enjoy telling them to “sit”, “come” and “go” (in a loud and rather commanding voice) but you almost always break off half of your afternoon snack to feed them when I’m “not looking”. You love to swim and to be in or near water whether it’s a bathtub, a pool, the ocean or a sprinkler – unsurprisingly you demonstrate no fear of going underwater, cold temperature or the waves of the sea. You are game for it all.
Since starting Montessori School in December, you have blossomed into a curious, confident, talkative, steadfast seeker of information. Despite being the youngest – and by far the smallest – student in the toddler classroom, you are one of the biggest personalities and most loved by your peers. You quickly learned how to choose a work from the classroom selection and engage independently at a your own table. You have learned how to pour and transfer and lift and put things away and draw and put your jacket on and take your shoes off. You have already tried to potty train yourself several times both at school and home - and if you weren’t about to spend ten weeks in a cast and diapers, we would’ve followed your lead because you are so headstrong and determined to get out of diapers and use the bathroom like an adult.
You have captured the hearts of every teacher at school. One of the assistant teachers told me how much she missed you when we traveled to New Orleans recently. Yesterday, your head teacher sent your Dad and I an email in which she mentioned that your language “has absolutely exploded!” and that you are “verbally communicating her needs and initiating conversation, which is quite remarkable, given her age.” The head of school even told us recently that the staff agrees they wish you could be cloned because you are so sweet, smart and cute.
At home, you test boundaries and deliver a little helping of sass now and then just as a child of your age should. You are always very interested in what your Dad and I are doing. Every time we try to leave you for even just a moment to get something done, you jump off the couch and say “I come”. In the kitchen, you want to taste everything, open every drawer, climb in every cabinet and understand the use for every utensil, pot and pan. You can now reach the knobs on the stove and you love to turn the gas on then run away – a thrilling game for your anxiety-prone mother. Your preoccupation with fitting in small spaces applies to the refrigerator as much as anything else – and I often find you hiding here just before bedtime. You seem to think if you turn your face and pull the door as closed as it will go, that we won’t see your little pajama-clad body peeking out of the fluorescent light.
You love being in our master bathroom, dressing yourself in my jewelry and applying various cosmetics you can get your hands on in the thirty seconds I’m preoccupied. Recently, you’ve become tired of us dressing and diapering you. You insist on choosing your own clothes and walk over to your closet, running your hands along the hanging clothes in contemplation as if you’re evaluating the weather, the occasion and your company. The only way to keep you still for a diaper change is to give you something to hold and to sing one of your favorite songs. Right now, Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus are your favorites.
We created a playspace for you in our new living room and it is a delight watching you move from activity to activity in your own space. You love to color at the easel my mom gave you for Christmas and you often tell us what you’re drawing as you scribble. Your favorite thing to draw is your dad and he usually ends up looking like a bird’s nest. You also love to “cook” with your plastic vegetables and pots and pans in the kitchen your Pops bought you. I sit cross-legged on the floor by you and wait for you to put your oven mitts on (you use these for everything – it makes me laugh) then stir some things and bring them to me triumphantly in a pot. You recently cooked me a box of cereal and delivered it to me in your plastic shopping cart before saying “bye mama!” and waddling away.
Out in the world you are just as much a bright light as you are at home and in school. We are the most anticipated weekend customers at the Trader Joes on Route 70 in Marlton, New Jersey because of you. Every single person on staff from the guy behind the sample counter to the store managers knows you by name and by your sweet smile and beautiful blue eyes. The staff fights over who can check us out at the register because they get a kick out of watching you try to sneak candy from the end caps and the way you try to “help” by pulling things from the cart behind you.
We recently spent an entire day at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in anticipation of your upcoming surgery and there, in various waiting rooms throughout the day, we encountered pediatric patients suffering from all sorts of challenges. You were unafraid of those who look, sound or act differently than you do. You put out your hand to a little girl about your age with some visible deformities and extended her a kind smile, then invited her to share your seat so you could play with a game together. In that moment, I’m quite sure my heart beamed so bright people could see rays of light coming out of my body.
Last night, I got a little teary worrying about the surgery that lies ahead of you on Monday. You took my face in both your hands and imitated a deep breath, encouraging me to do the same, then kissed my face all over. You have this wonderful, warm spirit and old soul that I love so fiercely I can't imagine a greater gift with all my imagination.
I cannot wait to watch another year of your life unfold and I could not possibly be prouder of the person you are becoming: kind, loving, affectionate, inquisitive, brave, headstrong and full of humor.
Happy birthday to the love of my life and the center of my universe.