Today, you are two.
Today, you have low pigtails, hair in your eyes and a gap between your teeth.
Today, you can say almost any word, with your garbled, expanding vocabulary.
Today, you will stay home from school; you will go to the zoo and make noises at the animals. Later, you will eat vegan pizza with your family as you shout, “Pizza! Pizza!” and play with your dusty ball of dough until they bring out your bubbling, heated pie.
Tomorrow, we will throw a small party and help you blow out your candles, two slim waxy lines.
Today, you have been alive for 730 days. You have cried, slept, ate, pooped, crawled, stood, walked, run, talked, learned and played.
Today, you are just beginning, yet you seem to have it all figured out. You know how to have a good day, how to be independent, how to make others smile and laugh and slow down. You know how to scream – so loud, my eardrums ring. You know without knowing, Sophie, which is the very best way to be.
These two years have not been easy. My resistance has been apparent in my quick temper and exhausted sighs. I’m not always the most patient or the most understanding, but neither are you. That’s what makes us alike. We are stubborn, you and I; we don’t have much patience because we want life to be as we see it: vibrant, clean and giving; passionate, complex and round. We see the world, and we want to inhale it like breakfast, not stopping to chew, because who has time for that?
We’ve got things to do. Waiting doesn’t exist for us.
But I won’t let you forget what it means to be young.
I will remind you to stand tall, to look up, to laugh when you want to laugh, to clutch tightly to your imagination. I will teach you to never stop playing or dreaming, even when the whole world tells you to stop, to grow up, to get a real job, to get married, to settle down, to stop messing around.
I will tell you to defy the odds, to play harder, to dream bigger, to laugh the loudest of anyone in the room.
One day soon, you won’t want to play with me. One day soon, you will be too big to cuddle, and I will wither a little from the memories of nibbling your toes and kissing the backs of your knees and cradling your elbows and burying my face in the smooth folds of your neck. I will cling to the memories of asking you for a kiss and feeling your perfect lips smack mine with a satisfied smile. I will miss running my fingers through your tangled hair and rocking you against my breast and watching your crazy legs run through our house as you squeal and squeal and squeal.
Please. Never stop squealing.
In a time of entrepreneurial, self-involved, self-serving parents who hover over their children like umbrellas, with our endless refrains of, “Don’t do that! Don’t eat that! Don’t touch that! Don’t move! Don’t breathe! Don’t think! Don’t talk! Did you wash your hands? Did I wash my hands? What do we say? What do you say? What did I just say? I’m giving you a warning! We don’t do that! Do you want a timeout? Do you want a spanking? I don’t even give spankings, but I’m going to give you a spanking! Is that gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, BPA free, joy-free? Is that (gasp) made in China?” – it can seem uncool to love your child in a simple world, because we’ve complicated it to no end.
But I love you more than I will ever love me.
Because loving you is free. Loving you is effortless. All this “junk” that goes along with it is just that: junk. You don’t have to go to the top school or get the newest toy or apply for preschool when you’re still in the womb. All you need is for us to trust you, to let you thrive, to back off.
To let you breathe and think and play.
To drown out the noise of expectation.
So, this is your mother speaking: You do what the fuck you want to. You be who you want to be.
If I’m being honest, I don’t want things to change. I don’t want to watch the innocence fall away to something else. I don’t want to watch your obsession with water and grass and sunshine shrink to an iPad held in your hands. I don’t want dolls and legos to ever seem uncool. I don’t want you to get a job when you’re thirteen. I don’t want kids to make fun of you. I don’t want you to feel stressed about school. I don’t want you to “grow up” the way everyone thinks you have to: school, job, marriage, babies, mortgage, taxes, retirement, death. There’s more to life than this.
There’s the in between, and that’s where I hope you live.
So choose laughter. Choose joy. Choose tantrums. Choose peanut butter. Choose friends and family. Choose rubber bands and bare feet. Choose to change your mind. Often. Choose obsession over balance.
Choose a life well lived.
It’s simple, really: Love what matters.
All the time. Constantly.
Live the life you want to live.