A Love Letter to My 18-Month-Old Daughter and to My Husband, Her Father

She is hysterical. Inconsolable. About everything. She wants the book, she doesn’t want the book, she asks for a snack but hurls the snack to the floor. 

Maybe it’s the after effects of the shots she got this morning, vaccinations at her 18-month checkup. At the time, she was stoic, so brave, as they stuck those needles into her little legs, those beautiful little legs — she didn’t shed a single tear. My brave girl. But sometimes, even when we’re brave at the time, we crumble later. I know that. Not to mention, shots can give kids a fever, or just make them feel sick overall. It could be that.

Or maybe she’s hysterical because for the first time ever, she didn’t like her dinner — she was clearly hungry, but she didn’t want anything on offer. And she’s expecting me to offer her grapes, or cheese, or one of her other standbys, but the doctor has advised that this just encourages picky eating, so Jordan and I are sticking to our guns: We decide what’s on offer at any given meal, and she decides whether or how much of it to eat. If you don’t want the pasta or the white beans or the vegetables, that’s fine, but we aren’t going to start offering a whole bunch of alternatives. 

She wants an alternative. And oh, I want to offer her one, but I know I shouldn’t. I know that this is like sleep training: Being firm now can save us so many headaches down the line. I know she isn’t going to starve if she misses a meal, but it makes me feel like Judas, to see my little girl lost in a miserable fit, and know I have what it takes to make it better, and yet, to let her suffer.

Maybe she’s feeling sick from the shot, and that’s why she doesn’t like the food, or maybe she’s just exhausted. Maybe the moon is in the something-or-other. Maybe this just happens, sometimes.

She’s asleep.

Maybe now her poor little body can rest, after exhausting itself with all those tears. Maybe now, whatever it was that caused her to be so upset is dissolving away like chalk on the sidewalk in the rain. 

“I need a shot,” I say to Jordan, and make a beeline for the liquor (Ali and I will both have shots today – haha), but then I think, “Ugh, I’ll get a headache,” so I eat my feelings instead, in the form of a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin. It’s weird to eat your feelings and be completely aware of what you’re doing. It kind of robs the eating of pleasure, and yet… it does the trick. I am sated.

I’m sated, but I’m sad. Sad that I couldn’t make it better. Sad that there will be so many other moments in her life when that is the case.

In the middle of the hour or so she spent upset before relenting into sleep, Jordan briefly made her happy by turning on our laser light machine, which projects constellations onto the ceiling. He held her in his arms and helped her reach up to touch the stars. 

She smiled, and her face lit up, and for a moment, everything was ok.

I am grateful that she has Jordan as a father, and that I have him as a partner in this journey called parenthood — and that together, while we can’t bat away all the sad moments, we can fully savor the happy ones. 

…And the happy ones, well — they’re too many to name. 

My girl is brave. She is an independent explorer, and a jolly elf, and silly, and serious, with a BS detector that stretches for miles. She is an absolute joy to discover and spend time with every single day, and I will love her until the end of time and then some, no matter whether she’s happy or sad, sweet or sour. It doesn’t matter. No matter what she is, she will always be my Ali.

Happy 18-month birthday, baby.

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