Dear Girl, What I Want You to Know on Your Third Birthday

Dear Millie-girl,

You’re asleep in a big girl bed down the hall and I’ve got my feet propped up, your baby brother kickin’ against my ribs.

It is pure joy being your mama, watching you grow and learn. If you were to watch videos of your mama as a little girl you would see yourself in them. You’re me. You have your daddy’s eyes, but the personality? That’s all your mama with your own original spin.

Literally, sometimes you are spinning. That’s where I come in. I wrangle you and we do the dance between joy and tantrum. We’re both usually pretty worn out by the end of the day from it all.

This morning we sat in the car while the car heated up in the January freeze. You were dressed in your Halloween costume- because I’m that mom- and you were pretending to be looking at a funny monster on a fake cell-phone with your own fake toddler version of instagram.

You giggled and laughed and showed me the blank screen. I laughed at your crazy imagination. You rattled off gibberish that sounded like a prayer and I only caught a brief word spoken for Ursula the Sea Witch. I must inform you it will take more than prayer for her.

That’s my life with you most every day. A wonderful mix of laughter, nonsense and strangely poignant moments.

I’ll admit. I’m nervous about what three years old holds for you. April will bring you a new baby brother and I know you’re going to love him with arms wide open and possibly a little too much. Hopefully he’s made of tough stuff.

I’m more worried about my own ability to love well and fully. You need to know that I’m going to screw this mama thing up a lot. I will. We all do.

You also need to know that I’m going to lean on grace to ask forgiveness a lot also.

One thing I’ve learned in life is the greatest damage can be done by pride. Our reluctance to bend the knee and the heart to admit we were wrong can leave us living shallow, empty lives. By God’s grace I’m going to give you more.

By now you know how much I love music- how much we love music. It was the same with my own mother and we’d listen loud to the Doobie Brothers and sing rounds of “Rejoice in the Lord Always” in the car. Now we do the same. We’ve been listening to Christa Wells on repeat and so these words seem right in this moment.

I worry that you’ll take the lie/That tastes like truth without the bite/That you’ll believe that love is something easy// I will stand by in case you need reminding/I’ll leave the porch light always on for you/And when you need me, you’ll know where to find me/You can’t make me love you any less,/Love you anymore than I do/

~Christa Wells, Feed Your Soul Album, “For My Child”

My porch light here in this swirling online world is on, but there is no light that shines brighter than for you.

Still, I will mess it up. I’ll hold back love at some point when I should give. I’ll complain about something you’ve done when I should be gracious. You’ll slam a door and I’ll slam my fist on the table. It won’t always be perfect.

What I’ve come to realize is if I want to see good things in your life then I have to be giving you good things with my own life.

The other night you brought tears to my eyes. I was lying on the couch late in the day when you walked over and nose to nose with me asked me where Grandma Peggy was. I don’t know what made you ask. I don’t know why a not-three-yet little girl thinks to ask her mama about her dead grandmother, but you did.

I cried and you told me not to and of course I cried harder.  You found the tender part of my heart as you so often do. The part that still deeply longs to be mothered and has been translated into all kinds of beauty by becoming your mama. Because I need you to know that I learned so much about being your mama from my twelve years with my own mama. We learn so much more than how to sort lights from darks and load a dishwasher from our mothers. We learn how to live.

My commitment to you is to mother you with a heart believing I can teach you how to live even if I die. Those are scary words to pen from the heart of a motherless daughter. The thought leaves me breathless because I want to be here to bounce my great-grandchildren on my knee.

We live on through the things we’ve done. If I hand you bitterness, steel tongued pride, and hardness of heart it will outlive me. If I hand you tenderness, gentleness, firm love it to will fill our family history with riches beyond measure.

What I want you to know on your third birthday and every day is a promise. This promise is to always hand you a bit more of Christ every day. When I mess up I will lean on Jesus for forgiveness and wisdom to say the hard sorry. When I fail you I will not beat myself up, but rather I’ll take it to the Cross, lay it down and pick you up to love you better.

I won’t always get this right in the moment, but by grace I will get it right at some moment. Always.

Your Mama