The Longest

The Longest

This is a belated re-post from this past March. As usual, life has kept me busy and away. But here I am, trying again.

Usually, on their birthdays, I write the girls a love letter of sorts. This year, I have a lot swirling around me, and getting here, like always, hasn’t been an easy task. But, timing usually works itself out:

Dear M,

In a year from now, you will have existed out in the world a decade. I will no longer be able to write your age with a single digit. It will, for the next 10 years, be accompanied by a number 1. I think that makes being Nine special in a way. We get to savor it a little stronger because it has that bittersweet tang to it of being a last. Lasts are just new beginnings in disguise, but they also wake you up a little to pay attention. Paying attention is a wonderful gift. Your mama is paying extra attention this year… I don’t want to miss a thing.

So much has happened in the last 9 years. You grew too tall for me to carry. You read now. You write stories. One about our life. Like mom. We’ll post them soon. You make the most ridiculous jokes and they are belly-laugh funny. You stick up for yourself in ways I never would have done and I hope you are always that fierce. You are a caretaker more than I give you credit for. Although, you still have a hard time looking at things from other people’s perspectives. You take your responsibilities seriously for only living nine years and it makes me proud. You have a sense of dedication that lives inside you and pushes you. You have hobbies and interests. You still can climb walls– literally. Although you do it a lot less. Now you contort your body into back bends and kick your legs over or hang like a monkey from whatever you can pull yourself up onto. You are strong and muscular and more athletic than I ever could be. You are surrounding by some really wonderful people that you picked to be in your life. I am so glad you have great friends. Friends make life better. M, I don’t know how you see yourself, but know– You are strong, full of magic, and beautiful from the inside out.

Trust your judgement. It will fail you here and there, but you get better at being in the world each time you make a mistake. But you have a good, level head on your shoulders. You like your mischief and jokes, but you know how to keep yourself safe and when to ask for help. Those two things will frame the rest. Trust your gut– you know what is bad news, what is too far, and what is the right thing. Be true to it. Always.

Shortly after your birthday, you started a new schedule to spend time with Dad. You pretty much hate it and I feel awful that I didn’t really include you in the discussion. I make a lot of decisions for you and with this one I made things harder for you. I want you to know, I didn’t mean to make things harder. When Dad is healthy and doing well, you should pack the time in, Kid. I never know how long it will last. You are right though, it was a big change. I should have worked in time to adjust. So just know, I’m sorry. I’m here to help you through it and I’ll do better next time, peanut.

Third grade is almost over. I am excited for our summer. I have a lot of things I am hoping to cram in. Toes in the sand. Spray parks. Museums. Long, wooded walks with the dog and your slow-poke sisters. BBQs. Jumping into pools. And reading to you some favorite stories in the hammock. It is a big list, but I can’t wait to try our best to fill your summer with it. The years coming will have you with your friends more and me less… and I want all the time I can get, frankly.

When you were born, I thought I would never forget your weight or the hour of your birth. Those details though are lost in my brain– yet immortalized on paper and your birth certificate. I have not lost that feeling that something magical had just happened.

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You were so small. Rose bud lips. Chunky wrists and thighs. Baby smell. The most favorites thing I have ever inhaled. You came in the middle of the mess, but it was so perfect. At the time, Miss M, I didn’t know where we were going, but I knew it was gonna be together. We would do it together and everything else would fall into place. I held you sleeping little body, your weight settled deeply into my arms, and I knew having you  was going to change my life is ways I couldn’t even comprehend. Which was crazy, kid, because I had no idea how to be a mother. I hadn’t done it before. So happy birthday to you, my first. You made me my favorite thing: a mom.

I have loved you the longest.

xoxo,

Mom

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New and Nine.

New and Nine.

I have a few drafts sitting here about the start of school, visitation with M and her Dad, and the daily adventures in parenting R. But this one I managed to put together. Sticking to your guns as a person who rather smooth things over is tough. Yet, this seems the prudent, right, best thing this year:

Dear H,

Today is the last day you get to be 8 years old. Tomorrow you turn 9. I have an inkling this is gong to be a big year for you. Things you’ve been waiting for are close.

We are still living in the aftermath of this summer. Honestly, the build up kind of happened every time your mom traveled this year. She thinks it has to do with Dad’s behavior. He thinks it has to do with Mom’s. I think anxiety and unknowns can make people act in a way that lacks compassion. Your parents are still working out what a new world will look like going forward. It is a problem that needs to be resolved.

Last weekend, your mom reached out about your birthday party. Last minute, because of all the issues, she invited us to your home with some of your friends to watch a movie and eat pizza. I told her then, Dad and I would have to think about it. Logistics, obligations, and the current climate of everything had me thinking this was bad news.

A long time ago, your mom decided that having both parents there for big things was important. She is right. We all should be there to support you. And the events there is only one chance to attend– we come to, H. If we know about it, we come. School assemblies, awards, big things at church, your extracurricular activities, etc. Your birthday, while immeasurably special, isn’t a thing we all need to do together. We’ve figured out how to do that all your previous birthdays to keep the peace. Your Mom has determined that it is a thing we should do together and it is all you have known. Yet, the fact is, it is not actually a thing we need to all do together. You can celebrate with your Mom and her people. And with Dad and his people.I mean, honestly, I like going to your friends party honestly because I get a peek at who makes up the other half of your life. I enjoy that and I appreciate that your Mom includes us all. But this just is not the year we should be in the same room after a long day at your home, sweetheart.

This year is just different. Different does not mean sub-par or lacking love or any of the tiny boxes we shove uncertainty into. I honestly believe, in the long run, for your best interest, that Daddy, your sisters, and I should sit this party out. We shouldn’t be in your home right now. Your mom is having a party at someplace far from neutral in the middle of some big conflicts. Conflicts that will be worked out, but overlap on the day you end your eight rotation around the sun and begin your ninth. Which kind of, well, sucks.

It is important that Dad and Mom (and me) do what we individually think is the best thing for you. I think that you know having everyone there is important to Mom. And I think you don’t want to see her upset or sad. And I think that’s why your conversations about your birthday with her are different than the ones we had. I think we all occasionally do things to help save mom unpleasantness. You most definitely are a kid who likes to keep the boat holding other people’s emotions steady. You do it here. I’m sure that part of you exists at home as well. It is okay to rock the boat here and there. It takes a little courage. I know because that is what not attending this birthday party means. We are shaking the shit out of the boat. It is a little scary not knowing what will shake out of it.

This is what I hope will happen, H. That your Mom will realize that she can’t define every aspect of your best interest on her own terms. That being in the same room together where your mom has no respect to Dad’s boundaries, personal property or feelings is a bad idea after drop off Tuesday. We can’t show up for you the right way with Mom there right now. We can’t be genuine and ourselves. There is no neutral ground at your home.

This year, what we think is best for H, is that we push for something better and more defined. Nothing will change if Dad and Mom don’t work out some issues. Nothing will change if there aren’t natural consequences to the events of this summer. Dad and I being completely upset over you attending a graduate course with your Mom instead of here with us as we agreed to and planned for is a big deal. We don’t think it was what was best for you. And we did not have any say in the whole thing.

This year, you’ll have two parties. It’ll be different. Our choice to not come can be perceived many different ways. I promise you it is exactly like we talked about Sunday. We love you. But coming out after school on Friday and leaving late with your little sisters is a lot to ask. Being in the room with your Mom will so much unpleasantness and unfinished business is a lot to ask. And then her opening your Dad’s car door to finish a conversation, well, it just seems like it is too much for everyone to be expected to behave. It is in no ones best interest this year to show up to just prove we can. That seems unauthentic. That seems that sweeping everything under a rug. That seems like there is no fall out for your mom’s choices and we are just okay with what happened. Showing up the way always have… can’t happen. It is not the way it has always been. Change is coming.

Turning nine is abundantly special. We will celebrate your big day with Dad’s family and your sisters because turning nine is special. Because we love you. Because you deserve to have a special day. We hope you have a great weekend with Mom and your friends. You deserve the best.

So much love, sweet girl.

– The Unofficial Step-mom.