This is the letter my daughter can’t write yet. I wrote it on her behalf - and on behalf of your kids, too. Dedicated with love to all the flawed and human mamas (and daddies) out there.
I know you’re tired today. I saw you yawning this morning. I know you’re tired because I didn’t want to go to bed and I know that makes you grumpy. I don’t mean to make you grumpy, Mommy. So I just thought maybe you needed to be reminded how simple it really is to look after me.
I don’t need much, really.
I just need you to listen. I need you to understand that I have opinions. Like, a lot of opinions. And strong ones. Even if they’re about things that seem small to you, like which pyjamas I should be wearing or whether I sleep next to Pengy the Penguin or Betty the baby doll, they are opinions that matter to me. So I need you to acknowledge that you’ve heard me and that you respect my opinions, even if you overrule me on the stuff you say is just not gonna work (like that bit where I believe I should stay up with you and Daddy). It’s OK. I can handle you not agreeing with me. But I can’t handle you not hearing me. So please, listen to me, even when (especially when) I’m making you a little nutty.
I need you to find the funny side. I love it when we giggle together. I love it when you make up silly songs and use your monster voice to sing them to me. I love when you chase me around and around pretending to be a polar bear or a dinosaur. I love it when you’ll watch my videos with me and read my books with me and laugh at the things that make me laugh, even if you don’t get why they’re funny. I love when bedtime includes lots of giggling. It’s a lot more fun than crying.
But sometimes I’ll cry too, and I need you to be there. I need to know that, when I am lonely or sad or angry or frustrated, you will be beside me. I need to know you will help me cope with these huge things I’m feeling. It’s hard sometimes being small and not having the words to explain why I feel miserable or angry or sad or overstimulated. Sometimes I don’t even know myself. I don’t need you to ask me why or even to figure out what to do about it. I just need to know you’re there.
I need you to hold me. I know I don’t always act like it, but I still need to know your arms and hands and lap are there for me like they were when I was tiny. I still need kisses and hugs and snuggles and cuddles. Sometimes all I may let you do is stroke my hair or rub my back. Sometimes I’ll squirm away and say, “no kisses” or “don’t touch me.” But I need you to keep trying. I still love being your “baby,” Mommy. I will always love being your baby.
I need you to stop. I need you to not care if the dishes are done or lunch is packed or clothes are laid out for tomorrow or if the bath is run. I need you to take an extra minute and play with my farm animals, check out my Lego tower, spin in circles with me, sing songs with me. I need you to just get down on the floor with me and paint and draw. Or just watch me and ask me about what I’m painting or what my farm animals are doing or where my Little People are going on their next adventure. I have a lot to tell you. You just have to slow down to hear it.
I need you to let it go, just like Queen Elsa said. I need you to not get upset if I spill my milk or if my paint doesn’t stay on the paper or if I get marker on the ottoman. I need you to not worry if the laundry is folded or the dishwasher is loaded when I’d rather be outside playing or walking in the park. I need you to not care if I don’t want to wear my raincoat when we dance in the puddles in the backyard. Sometimes I just like to feel how it feels to get wet everywhere. Sometimes I’m just being stubborn about wearing my coat. It doesn’t matter, Mommy. I’ll get dry later. Let it go.
I need you to appreciate me. I need you to see when I’m trying and when I achieve something. I need you to know how proud I was when I found that beautiful daffodil in the ravine for Daddy and when I drew that lovely picture for you at school. I need you to acknowledge my efforts when I get dressed all by myself, even if it takes a lot longer than when I let you help me. I need you to see what a big girl I am becoming and how excited I am about what I can do.
But you don’t have to love everything I do, Mommy. I need boundaries, too. I will push against them sometimes because that’s what you do when you’re three (or four, or six, or ten, or fourteen …). But I need you to give me rules, to give me guidelines, to help me navigate how to be a person in this big and sometimes confusing world. I need to know that you care enough to set out those boundaries for me and that you’ll be right there with me while I figure out how to live with them.
And really, in the end, I just need one thing.
I need to know you love me. I need to know you love me when you’re tired, when you’re frustrated, when you’re busy, when you’re angry, when you’re stressed, when you’re grumpy. I need to see you having feelings, too, but I need to know that those feelings aren’t going to stop you from loving me. That just because I don’t always cooperate at bedtime doesn’t make me any less your beloved baby girl. And that just because sometimes we cry together doesn’t mean we love each other any less. That, in fact, those tears just make us love each other more.
Because I really, really love you, Mommy. I don’t always say that – or act like it. But it’s always true.
So please, Mommy, don’t be grumpy. I know it isn’t easy to be the parent of a three-year-old. But think about it from where I sit, Mommy. It’s not all that easy being three, either – and I need a big strong Mommy to help me do it.
It’s okay if you cry, Mommy. Crying is good for both of us. But I’m pretty sure we can make space for a giggle and a cuddle at bedtime tonight, can't we?
Right after I pick the exact right pair of pyjamas, put them on all by myself, painstakingly arrange all my stuffies in the exact right order and ask for the blankets to be fixed for the twenty-sixth time.