Let’s talk baby books. You know what I’m going to say: My first-born has an almost completed baby book. My second-born has an empty baby book. What each of these baby books has in common, though, is a little lonely envelope labeled “Write a Letter to Your Child.”
You’d think this would be no problem, er, considering a make a living writing. And yet, there the envelopes sit – vacant, unfilled – like my heart must be for not giving my babies this simple gift of words.
My reasons (excuses?) for not writing the letters vary. First and foremost, we haven’t had a working printer in our home for approximately four years. Seriously. Sure, I realize I could write a letter in cursive with a, what’s that called? Oh, a pen. But, and prepare yourself if you haven’t heard, but they aren’t teaching cursive in most public schools anymore. So, my kids probably won’t be able to read it.
My real problem is what to write about. When I get started in my head, I can’t come up with a non-cliché way to gush about my indescribable and unending love for them. I mean, I don’t want to write what all the other moms are writing. “Your life fills me with joy. I never knew love until I held you.” Yeah, that’s true. But by the time they’re old enough to read these letters, they will have heard that 100 times before – from other grown ups talking about parenting. You can’t really grasp parental love, at all, until you are a parent anyway, and you drag your exhausted body up the stairs for the fifth time at 3 a.m. and beg the creature you created to please, please go to sleep while simultaneously weeping over his beautiful face. So why waste the ink in my printer – you know, if I had a printer?
I could prepare them for their own eventual parenthood by listing all the ways they’ve turned me from an educated, professional, well-groomed woman into an almost-crazy, unshowered zombie lady. What’s coming for you, my darlings, if there is a God, are two-hour tantrums; dark circles; children who eat Styrofoam stomp rocket toys; a boy who vanishes from the park on his bike (That story’s here: http://www.mamasagainstdrama.com/2011/11/the-day-my-son-went-unruly/); and a daughter who screams bloody freakin’ murder EVERY time you comb her hair. Every. Time. Like it’s the comb of death. But, no one told me about that really fun stuff. So, why should I ruin it for them?
Ultimately, writing a letter for my kids meant for them to read later in life seems morbid – or at the very least wrenching. Maybe that’s because, as a grown woman, I have a letter from my 58-year-old father that he wrote on his deathbed. (Deathbed? How’s that for morbid? But it’s true.) And despite its loving words, when I hold it to my heart, it’s a tangible piece of evidence that none of us are together here forever. A piece of paper that symbolizes a parting. Perhaps not yet a parting by death, but no matter what, the natural parting that comes when a mom lets her kids fly the nest. Of course, flying away is the point of all of this. But do I really have to be reminded by writing it down? Repress, repress: That’s my emotional motto.
So, I prefer to think that when my kids are old enough to want to know more about their infant, toddler and elementary years, that I will still be around to tell them out loud. So they can hear my words, not just read them. So they can see me laugh and feel my arms around them – like they do every day.
And if, in some solemn twist of fate, I’m ever not here to assure them of my wild, permanent love for them, there are always the archives of Mamas Against Drama. And, of course, every memory we’ve ever made, every good night kiss we’ve ever shared, every prayer we’ve ever prayed. Every day of life we’ve lived. I hope our life together is my living letter of love. And I just can’t cram that in an envelope.
Brooke Bernard is a freelance editor and writer who works from her glamorous home dining room office – or Starbucks.
Brooke Bernard writes most Wednesdays for http://www.mamasagainstdrama.com.
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