An Open Love Letter to My 2-Year-Old Daughter

Dear Alison,

I love you so much it hurts. I want you to be happy so badly, I would do anything to make it so. Intellectually I know I want to teach you resilience but in my heart, my guts, the fibers that hold this body of mine together, I just want to roar like the mama bear that I am and touch wherever it hurts and make the pain go away, make you sing with ebullience. I want to show you every beautiful thing. I am falling in love with you all over again, so hard, and when I see sadness creep into your eyes, when you tell me you were sad at daycare, when you are confused and think that daddy and I are going on another trip without you, when you call for grandma and she isn’t there, I am not prepared to be this heartbroken, *I* am not resilient enough, *I* need a mama bear to sweep in and erase my pain with her love.

I look at pictures of you when you were a tiny baby and you were so pure, and you still are, but I feel like every day you’re in this world you are a little less innocent, I remember when you were just born and we took you to a bar in our neighborhood and sat on the patio blinking in the sunlight and I couldn’t wear you in a sling because you just pecked at my chest, asking to nurse, so daddy held you in the sling, and you were so small it was hard to tell there was anything even in there, and I was stricken, blinking there in the sunlight, feeling urgently and all-consumingly that I needed to take you immediately to a place more pure than this…away from this pollution and traffic and bullshit and noise, somewhere upstate in the woods by a beautiful stream, somewhere as pure as you were.

And yet when I think with any seriousness about leaving Brooklyn there is a deep part of me that says, “No, Ali is a Brooklyn girl.” You are of this place. I hope I do not corrupt you by keeping you from the quiet stream. Tonight you pulled the Humans of New York book down from the shelf and I protested but you insisted and I thought, “I’ll show her pictures of children and dogs,” I wanted to protect you from pictures of things that were strange or potentially scary, and you loved the book so much, you said, “Yay, people!” and laughed as we looked for “doogies” and you were so soft next to me in the big chair in your room, YOUR room, Ali, we created that space for you, we created so much space for you in our lives, and now I say to you, “Take more, take all I have.”

And then there was a picture of a woman with tattoos and cherry red hair with black roots standing against a wall covered in graffiti and you said, “Sad page.” And then you were done with the book, and wanted to read Knuffle Bunny, where the sad look in Trixie’s illustrated baby eyes is easier to process than the sad look of the photograph of the grown woman, and I am steeling myself for the sad look in your eyes, I will help you be resilient, baby, I promise, and to always look for light after the storm, to see beauty in sadness, I will hold space for whatever you are feeling and we will honor it and we will find so much joy together, I will do whatever I can to bring as much joy into your world as I possibly can.

I love you so much, Alison, to the point where sometimes I feel sick to my stomach when you aren’t here, I am lovesick, I am once again like a teenager in the full rush of new love, I haven’t fallen in love before since I fell in love with your daddy when I was 17 years old, I am an old woman now by comparison, and your soft precious face, and you are a sponge, Ali, soaking so much in, remembering so many things, I sing something and you say “Grandma Gina sings that,” and she hasn’t sung it to you in ages, but you remember. You remember. And last night half awake when daddy and I came to you when you were coughing in your crib and we spoke to you and you said, “mommy and daddy here, mommy and daddy back from work trip,” and you must have been dreaming that we were away, and the thought that anything I would ever do would cause you fear or pain just breaks me open, but I know I can’t hold you in my womb forever, I know I need to help you discover this world we live in, it’s just that I thought I was going to be YOUR tour guide, Alison, and it turns out, it’s the other way around.

Sometimes I want so much to hold you in that sling, to get to have you as a baby all over again, to get to be your mother twice, to get to savor each stage with the wisdom of the one that follows, and maybe that’s why some people have two children, Ali, but I don’t want another child, I want you.

I love you, and I will love you forever, no matter what. You don’t need to do anything other than be you, and I will love you forever, I will scale mountains for you, I will climb through the sky.

You and daddy are my favorite humans of New York, or anywhere.

Your mommy 


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