How do I love you? A valentine for my daughter

Julie Maclellan


This valentine is for you, baby girl.

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I can call you that because you can’t read yet. If you could, I know what you’d say: “I’m not a baby, I’m a BIG GIRL!”  - with a defiant stomp of your big-girl feet.

I know you’re not a baby, really, all three-and-a-half years and twenty-eight pounds of you. You’re a fully fledged human in your own right.

And I’m writing this to you right now to save for when we both need it. For some hopefully distant far-off date when you’re an angry teenager who hates her mother and we both need to be reminded that we really do love each other.

So I’ll let you in on a secret, tiny valentine of mine.

I’m still as head over heels about you as I was way back in July of 2012, when those six pounds eight ounces of newly formed personhood first arrived in my arms.

Oh sure, you make me crazy, especially at this time of night (I’ll remind you, later in your life, of how you used to drive me to the brink of insanity every bedtime).

But with the capacity for infinite aggravation comes the capacity for infinite astonishment at the wondrous little being that you are.

I can’t even begin to count the ways I love you.

I love the way you giggle when you hide from Daddy and he searches everywhere for you, always leaving the lump of blankets on the couch for last. I love the way you still think you’re hiding when you talk to Daddy while he searches.

I love the way you sing for no reason, everywhere you go. I love it when you change up the words to a familiar song and crack yourself up with your cleverness. (You won’t remember it later, but ask me sometime about the day you laughed and laughed and laughed because you changed “I’m blue, da ba dee da ba dee” into “I’m purple, da ba dee da ba dee.”)

I love that you love the rain. That you can’t wait to put on your boots and run outside to find puddles to splash in – the deeper the better.

I love that you want to twirl. Anytime. Anywhere. Just because.

I love that you love knowledge. That you need to know who, what, why, when, where, how, all the time. Especially why.  I love that you can’t read a story or watch a video without needing to examine the psychological motivations of every single character’s actions. (I especially love that you managed to commit to memory Mommy’s flippant answer about why a witch was being bad, and that you now decree that “poor parenting” is the cause of all bad behaviour.)

I love that you like to “teach” me things – the alphabet or the names of plants or the kinds of animals that hibernate in the winter. I love it when you ask me questions and I give you silly answers and you give me that patient look and say, ever so encouragingly, “No, Mommy, think in your head first.”

I love that you love language. I love when you use words that seem disproportionately large for your tiny size – and then when, in the next breath, you remind me of how little you still are when you say “aminal” for animal and tell me you’re “free-and-a-half” years old.

I love that Daddy is your BEST FRIEND. (For the record, you think Mommy is pretty nice too.)

I love that you love to create. That picking up a paintbrush seems to satisfy some need inside of you. That markers and stickers and stamps and glue and glitter and crayons and paper can lead to endless hours of making art. I even love that I can’t sit down anywhere in the house without getting glitter stuck to me somewhere.

I love that three Smarties are still a big treat. I love that you think I don’t notice when you sneak a fourth one into your bowl.

I love that you’re independent. I love that you have to pick your own clothes and put on your own pyjamas, even when they get twisted and you’re so tired you can’t figure it out but you’ll be damned if you’ll let Mommy help you.

I love that you dole out affection like a cat: in small doses and on your own time.

I love that sometimes the world is just too much for you and you need to just step away from it and so you drag your pillow and your blanket to your bedroom and lie there alone until you’re calm again. (“I just need to wait till my tears dry, Mommy,” you say.)

I love that you’re so many things. Silly. Solemn. Moody. Exuberant. Bossy. Shy. Determined. Curious. Joyful. I love that you’re so much more than all of that, so much more than words or labels can ever sum up because, after all, you’re one amazing, original, irreplaceable, unstoppable little human being.

I love that you’re you.

Happy belated Valentine's, baby girl. Yes, I know you’re a big girl. But here’s the thing, small person of mine: However old you are, you’ll always be my baby.



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