For Clara at 18 months:
I trip over you all the time because lately you don’t leave my side. All day every day, you carry toys from room to room as you follow me, setting play dishes and dollies (or tiny bottles of lotion, a favorite toy right now) at my feet while I fold laundry or cook dinner or nurse your brother. You don’t even need me to play with you, really, you just want me near you. And you have this heart-bursting habit of drive-by kissing our legs. You stand about thigh-height at the moment and every time you pass me or your daddy, you pause and wrap your arms around our legs and smooch away. My knees are covered in your kisses by the end of the day. And so is my left arm, because that’s the one you grab and cover in kisses whenever I change your diaper, tiny little kissy face touches all the way up and down my arm which makes me feel like a queen. And you say “Mama!” while you do it, like you haven’t seen me in years.
And I have to say, you are sort of a princess around here. Every morning you have firmly chosen a set of accessories to wear before I even enter your bedroom to get you out of bed, and you shout out some combination of “hat!” or “bow!” or a sweater or a necklace or purse or maybe all of the above, and sometimes you even need a certain pair of shoes. This seems like a lot of opinion for an 18 month old but I cater to your requests because I like that kind of certainty in my girl.
You run everywhere. You are small, so short, and the literal pitter patter of your tiny feet on the hardwood makes me swoon, it honestly does. You are the embodiment of my dreams, a real life daughter who is all mine and who runs through my house with a spark in her eye and a used tube of lip loss in her hand. The looks you give keep us in stitches, so naughty and funny and smart. It’s difficult to discipline you because you are just so funny.
You talk all the live-long day, endless streams of babble along with hand gestures followed by a questioning look, waiting for us to respond to your stories. I play along even though I don’t speak your language, Smoochie, because our lack of understanding does not inhibit your hilarity. Then you’ll toss in the occasional full English sentence like “I see it,” or “help please mama” and it shocks me every single time. Even your baby brother loves to watch you, his eyes following your every move as you flit about the house. Your love for your brother is insatiable, and you always need to know his location. “Brudder?” you ask me, your head tilted in distrust, because you never believe that I know where he is. You kiss him in sets of 5 or 6 and then always go back for a few more right on his mouth, just for good measure. You like to look through his clothes and make big messes tossing them out of his dresser drawers, which drives me crazy. But you also love to help do chores, so putting them back is no big deal to you. The vacuum and the broom bring you great joy, as does unloading the dishwasher with me. I stand you on the counter and hand you plates and bowls, which you set in their cupboards with smug satisfaction. You are not afraid to be smug.
You are afraid to leave me and dad, however. After we brought home baby Sam and I started staying home with you guys, you do not like to be away from us. We do leave you sometimes, with your aunts or your grandparents, but we always regret it later. Because you’re fine while you’re there, playing with cousins and eating snacks, but you never want to sleep at home later that night. Those are sad nights, when you cry out my name and weep as you hold your stuffed puppies close, fear rising in your cries. Ever since we spent a week in the hospital with the baby and you were home without us, there is a real fear in your bedtime tears. It makes me cry whenever it happens, and I start wondering all these crazy wonders about your heart being hurt or your trust being broken. Some of it is crazy mom stuff and some of it is real. We can’t be together forever. I know you are growing up so fast, baby girl, and our relationship will change with each new age. You are less baby every second and more toddler than ever. That’s good, of course, and healthy, but I have to admit:
You are everything. You made us a mom and dad. A ‘mama’ and a ‘dada.’ We repeat phrases you made up, we miss you when you’re gone, we watch your baby videos when you are napping…we are big puddles of Clara love and we just can’t help ourselves. You are our trail-blazer, as your Nona likes to say, our oldest child, tromping through our life and our hearts and teaching us how to be parents. We make mistakes every day and we question ourselves and our decisions, but we never ever question our love for you. I want to give you more siblings because I know what a gift you will be in their lives, but I also know how insane I would be with only two kids to love. We’ve gotta spread some of this around, doll baby, or you’re gonna get weird, you know what I mean?
You are sunshine and rain and the wind in the leaves, Clara Noelle, and it is a pleasure to be your mama.