Dearest Madeline, I will let you read this one when you are a parent, too. Then you will understand.
Tonight you fell asleep while I held you and sang you Ben Folds love songs. You looked so grown up, how I imagine your face might look 10 years from now, and I cried because I love you so much.
You are going through a phase. You've gotten unhappy faces at school all week for things like drawing on yourself with markers, taking off your shoes, running away from teachers instead of lining up, pulling up your shirt, and keeping your fingers in your mouth. The terms people keep using are "refusal behavior" and "attention-seeking behavior."
I've sighed a lot, and thought almost constantly about how I want to take you on a vacation - just the two of us. I want to hire a cook and a maid and a babysitter and spend all my time playing with you on the beach. I'm suddenly so aware of the weight of parenting - the way that I interact with you, the way that I discipline you and teach you communicates certain things.
Here are the things that I want to tell you with my parenting.
You are loved.
You are smart.
I like you. I am interested in you.
You matter; what you think is important.
Everything has consequenses. Some are immediate, some are not. Just because a consequense isn't immediate, doesn't mean it isn't.
Good choices beget good consequences. Bad choices beget bad consequences.
I want you to succeed.
I am in your corner, always.
I am not afraid to discipline you.
You do not run this household.
Being kind is part of being beautiful.
What you say matters.
There is room for grace.
I delight in showing you mercy.
You make me happy.
Just because something is difficult doesn't mean you can't. You can do hard things.
Growing up is a good thing.
Responsibility, freedom, and trust go hand in hand.
I will teach you things until you understand them. I will not give up on you.
I am proud of you.
You cannot out-stubborn your mother.
Whining does. not. work.
Respect for authority is mandatory. There will never be a moment in life when someone does not have authority over you. Be gracious.
I celebrate your individuality. I want to get to know the ever-changing person that is Madeline.
Your eyes are perfect just the way they are.
You are beautiful.
I will always tell you the truth.
I love you. I cannot stop loving you. I love every breath you take. I love you forever. I cannot get enough of you. I cannot get close enough to you. I am your Mommy and I am addicted to you. I love you.
It is a tall order, parenting. I don't know the best way to communicate these things to you, other than to tell you often. I pray a lot, and I try really hard. I want to speak these truths into your life with words and with my every action.
But back to tonight, tonight I simply couldn't sleep until I told you that I love you. Even if you don't read this for twenty years, you'll know eventually that, when you were little, I cried as I watched you sleep because the size of my love for you absolutely flattened me and took my breath away.
You are three. You are wild and smart and ambitious and non-stop yammering from the moment you open your eyes until your head hits the pillow at night. And I get to have you for a little while.
I am the luckiest.