My dear one,
Today you are three years old. Happy anniversary of your life, of your trips around the sun, of our adventures in the great cosmic experience that is mothering and daughter-ing. You are sweet and gentle yet also inspiringly stubborn. You live your moments as they come without concern, and I think that is a gift. I hope it stays with you longer than is practical. Because practicality is overrated.
Your transition from two to three was not graceful, sorry but that’s the truth and truth is what you get in these letters. While I have cherished much of it, this year marked your journey from a happy and easy going toddler to a fierce force of childhood.
You weren’t talking. I began to notice how many of your peers had started talking and I was still waiting to hear from you. I knew that I should give you time, but while you weren’t talking you were screaming. You were screaming at me, and your dad, and your sister. You were crying in frustration for us to understand you and we just didn’t. Couldn’t. It broke my heart.
Then came the speech therapist, and the occupational therapist, and the testing, and the evaluations, and the beginning of trying to solve your puzzle. Yet again you did that thing where you help our whole family just by existing. Just by being yourself and being here. Because while you were being tested and evaluated, I began to realize that it wasn’t just you that needed help. That your sister who couldn’t go to the library without covering her ears with her hands, who wouldn’t wear anything but rain boots or a specific type of pants, who would bounce off the walls literally and climb all the furniture. Your sister who cries easily and hyperventilates when she is overwhelmed and shrinks in a crowd was actually in need of help too. Then came the realization that these things I thought were just a phase were not, and the diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. And so began our year of weekly therapies, with multiple therapists for each of you.
I felt so dumb. All this time had gone by and the two of you needed things that I couldn’t offer. Things I wasn’t capable of recognizing. What kind of mother doesn’t recognize when her kids need help? What kind of mother was I?
The funny thing is, in spite of all the guilt that I will likely carry to my grave, it opened my heart. It created a dynamic shift in my parenting. All the sudden I didn’t have daughters who I couldn’t figure out and it wasn’t just a frustrating phase that I needed to get through. I realized that I have daughters with unique needs, girls who can be directed and empowered in untraditional ways. I realized that it was ok to be a different parent than the one I thought I had to be. It seems silly to me now that even before all of this that I didn’t think like this. That I didn’t approach you as having your own formula for success just feels completely bonkers. In our culture we get so accustomed to peer driven success and I was definitely caught up in that as a mother.
So now you are a little behind in your speech, but we still talk about a lot. You don’t scream as much, and neither do I. I think we are all happier for it. You grew and we all grew. One day when you are 10, or 12, or 20 I hope you will listen to my stories about how revolutionary being your mom was for me as an individual. I will give you the hardest longest hug and remind you of this day.