I taught high school before I had my children. During the course of a day, I saw maybe 150 students, some of them studying World History, others American Lit, and some singing in choirs and ensembles. At the end of my third year of teaching, I got it into my head to write a letter to each of my students.
It wasn’t anything special, nothing grand or extravagant. The letters were brief, the first paragraph giving a personal message and the second a general one. I used cheap white paper. There were no envelopes. Yet in the years since I left my teaching job, I have heard from students and parents again and again about the impact of those letters. I wrote a measly three or four sentences to tell each young man and woman that I saw him or her apart from the whole, as someone worthy of notice, and many of those students keep their ratty old letters in places of honor.
If those simple letters, from a teacher, had such a lasting impact, imagine the impact of a mother’s words on her children. Imagine how much a daughter hungers to know that she is lovely, not because of the shape of her body or the texture of her hair, but because of who she is. Imagine how she longs to know that she is loved even when she disobeys, even when she is difficult. Think how desperately she needs to hear that she is seen and known, delightful and delighted in. It is impossible to overestimate the power of such words, whether they’re printed on plain, white paper or scrawled in messy cursive on the pages of a little purple journal.
February 3, 2014
Last night you slept in a red frilly skirt, over pants and a play shirt. You love hats and shoes, and you love to say, “Chase you!” and take off running around the dining table. Lately, you’ve been peeling the paper off the crayons, bit by bit, shouting “Piece!” triumphantly whenever you hold a scrap in the air.
I look at you and smile. It’s hard to do anything else. Except when you’re fighting for your life against getting dressed or having your diaper changed. Still, when you run off with your little bare bottom shining, it’s too precious not to bring a grin right back to my face.
You are a light and a blessing, a joyful, luminous part of our family.
I’m so very grateful to be your mother.
March 12, 2014
You’re so lovely when you’re falling asleep. Your soft cheeks rest against the pillow with the rainbow hearts. Your long, thick eyelashes flutter down and your hands draw in close.
“Whoa-oa, Mommy,” you say. And I sing the chorus of Gungor’s “I Am Mountain.”
As soon as I finish, you say, “Rosty, Mommy.” And I sing “Frosty the Snowman.”
“Rainbow, Mommy,” you say. And I sing the rainbow song from the downtown library story time.
Then I kiss your hair and tell you good night.
Dream of beautiful things, my girl.
You are loved.
July 31, 2014
The other day I was watering the garden, and you and Silas stripped off your clothes so you could run through the spray of water shooting out of the hole in the hose. After a while, Silas went in, and I told you to come in, too. You refused, screaming and pushing me away, so I went to the house to leave you alone for a while.
But you weren’t dressed, and you’d gone to the very back of the yard by the fence where I couldn’t see you, so I went outside to check on you. I couldn’t believe it. I found you lying on your back on the grass in the shade of the big tulip tree, your toes by the fence and your knees pulled up. You were watching the leaves rustling in the trees, the clouds skidding across the sky.
I came and sat down on the grass beside you. “I needa sit here,” you said. I understood perfectly. I can’t tell you how much I loved you in that moment.
May 17, 2015
You’re playing school and doing performances these days. We gather in your room for the shows, and you insist that we clean up first. The stage (rug) has to be clear. We set out some chairs and sit down to wait for the performance. Sometimes you go up and do a dance and sing a song. Usually the princesses are performing with you. I wish you could see yourself in your fancy purple dress and “dancing shoes,” spinning around, leaning over and raising one leg in the air, or singing softly and intently and lifting your arms in a dramatic closing gesture as your song nears its end. You’re marvelous.
February 6, 2016
You’re very independent. I like that about you. I’m very independent, too, so I understand it. But I love it when you let me brush your hair or braid it. I love it when you let me zip up whatever fancy dress you’ve put on. I love it when you ask me to help you draw a picture.
I love it, too, when you make me a picture, then slide it into an envelope (to make it official), seal it, and write “ILFU” on the front.
ILFU, too, my girl.
October 10, 2016
You were so brave in Maine. We hiked three and a half miles around Jordan Pond, and you led the way…in pink pants. You never slowed down. We climbed to the fire tower on Beech Mountain, and you scrambled up the rocky slopes like a pro. You helped Silas build a fire, collected crab shells and seashells and pretty rocks. You jumped in the waves at Sand Beach, played Jenga and Uno, and sang to yourself all the while. It’s something I love about you, that constant, joyful song on your heart and on your lips. We listened to Sandra’s new album at least twenty times on the trip, but you never got enough. You’d wake up humming the tunes; you’d hum as you played, as we drove around town, as you fell asleep. At home, it’s the same. It drives Silas nuts, but I like it. Your joy is contagious.
I love you, Lorelei.
Photo courtesy of Kristen Kopp.