*Disclaimer: This is a LONG post. Meant for Cedella to read some day. Sorry for the length…but this has been quite an amazing year…there was a lot to cover. Again, thanks for your patience in reading the novel I just wrote to my daughter.
Yesterday was your 2nd birthday, you’ve been on this Earth for two full years. Isn’t that something. I certainly think it is. And maybe it’s my hormones, since I’m pregnant with your baby sister, or maybe it’s just my overwhelming love for you, but Mama has been crying like crazy at just the thought of you turning two.
As I rocked you in the rocking chair last night while you were having your last Mama Milk of the day you felt so heavy in my arms. Maybe it’s just that you’ve grown so much in the past year, so quickly. Maybe it’s the weight of being in charge of not just your daily needs, but of your little personhood too. It’s heavy to be responsible for helping turn you into a responsible, conscious and creative individual. Either way, as I held you and you slowly went to sleep, I couldn’t help but cry at just how big you are all of a sudden.
So many things have changed in this year, for you and for us as a family.
At your first birthday you were walking, but still pretty shaky, and now you’re running and jumping, albeit still a bit shaky. Now you climb in and out of bed by yourself. You can pull the step stool up to the sink to wash your hands and brush your teeth. You climb up ladders and go down big slides at the park. There isn’t much you can’t do physically. But it still makes my heart swell when you say ‘Help Mommy’.
At your first birthday you were barely talking and primarily using sign language to communicate. Now? Well, let’s just say you have Mama’s gift of gab. It’s been really amazing to begin to have actual conversations with you. To watch you talking on the phone with your Grandma or TeTe or Jiddo. To hear the sweet way you console your baby dolls (or your Mama sometimes) and tell them ‘It’s ok’. The funny way you pronounce ‘chocolate’ or ‘nail polish’ or ‘delicious’. The way you only know ‘bahtikh’ and not ‘watermelon’. Or when you say ‘I carry you’ when you want me to pick you up.
Sometimes you just say things that shock me and make me laugh. Like when you looked at me a few months ago and said ‘What’s wrong Mommy? Is baby sister kicking? She kicks a lot.’ It floored me how observant and sensitive you could be. I’m continually surprised by how much you’re able to express yourself and how much I’m able to understand. Like when you looked at me one day after coming home from a walk and said ‘I love you Mommy’. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard. And Daddy got super excited when you finally learned how to sign ‘I love you’ for him.
You are smart that way. In fact me and Dad often tell each other you are just way too smart. The first time you counted to ten I didn’t even know you knew all those numbers. And when you suddenly pointed out ‘that’s a B Mom’ on my Biggby coffee cup. Shocked. And then you pointed out all the letters one by one. And said ‘M is for Mommy’ when we drove past a McDonald’s. Then you counted to twenty. Every time you recognize one of the super letters on Super Why it makes me swell up with pride. The fact that you know your shapes and colors too. And how to spell Ella? Priceless. You floor me with your knowledge. Every. Single. Day.
But what’s really amazing? You’re just so funny. You are quick to laugh. Like a little Japanese girl, covering your mouth when you giggle. I love hearing you say ‘silly Mommy’ or ‘Ella’s funny’. Cause even at two you know when you have your audience captivated. You take a fall like the greatest of physical comedians. You laugh when others are laughing. You are just generally full of joy and happiness. It’s a sight to behold.
At your first birthday you were eating lots of food, but you were still having quite a bit of Mama Milk. Nursing has always been a special part of our relationship and bond. It’s crazy to think that just one year ago you were nursing five or six times a day, even in the middle of the night. Now you barely nurse once or twice. And that’s ok. Soon you won’t want Mama Milk at all. Sure I’m going to miss rocking you to sleep every night, singing songs while you have your last bit of nourishment for the day. But we will make another nighttime routine, and we will never lose our bond.
This year you became my little song bird. Starting with ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ and the ‘ABC’ song. And you’ve never stopped. Even if you don’t know the words you sing along and carry a tune and keep the melody. You’re always humming something or making us sing with you. And you can’t sleep without hearing at least a song or two. You love the ‘Everybody Song’ which Grandma Linda made up for me when I was a baby. And the ‘Night Night Song’ which I made up for you one night when you were pretty new and teething and needed soothing. The other night you even said ‘Sing it Mom, sing it Dad’ when we were in the car and you were singing the ‘ABC’ song. We had a good laugh over that one. And even though it’s January you’re still singing ‘Jingle Bells’ and insisting I sing ‘Rudolph’. It’s adorable.
This year we had a few terrible things happen to our little family. Mom & Dad had some problems and were fighting a lot, but you remained your sweet self. Sadly I lost a baby, but that baby is now an angel watching over us all. And though you never knew what happened at the time, I want you to know how your smile and laughter and love made me heal more than anything else. You made me better.
Then our house flooded and in one day we went from the only home you had ever known to living with Teta and Jiddo. Sure you had some problems sleeping and adjusting to your surroundings, we all did. But you took it in stride and had a wonderful summer, learning new things and growing so close to your grandparents. They will never forget that time we spent with them, and we won’t either.
And now in our new home, which you acclimated to in mere days, you’ve taught yourself to go up and down the stairs in seconds. To put things in the ‘dishwasher’ (aka the sink). To pull the chair up to the counter and cook with Mommy. And apparently you have found all of Mommy’s hiding places for Sharpie markers.
This year we had many travels. It was your first big car trip to South Carolina to see Great Grandma Ces for her 90th birthday and meeting all your aunts, uncles and cousins down south. You did great in the car and we had a lovely trip. It was nice to have beautiful weather in February.
Then you took your first plane trip to Arizona. We stayed at Jiddo & Teta’s condo in Phoenix and you got to meet your Uncle Malik, Aunt Jihan and cousin Izzat. And when you were just 15 months old you saw the Grand Canyon and feed giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo. How cool is that? That was our first big family vacation. And it was such a great time.
And over the summer you went to Canada for the first time to see the Mansour family there. Then we went for another road trip with Grandma, TeTe and Auntie Kylara to Washington DC for the MLK memorial dedication, though the celebration was cancelled because of Hurricane Irene we stayed in the area and saw some museums and had a great time. A hurricane couldn’t stop our fun!
This year you also began your trip to little personhood. Learning to do things all on your own, like eating with a fork and spoon, or drinking from a big girl cup. You learned to brush your teeth. You even took your first swimming classes with your BFF Anna. Me and TeTe took you to see your first movies (Lion King and The Muppets). You started learning about the potty, and even wore big girl underwear for a few days (though we’re still working on that).
In all this growing independence you developed a bit of a habit for temper tantrums and the word ‘no’ as most kids your age do. They call it the Terrible Twos. You started at 18 months. I’ll never forget the first time I tried telling Grandma that you were throwing fits. She didn’t believe me. Then she saw you stamp your little feet when you didn’t get your way. And she laughed. Apparently I did the same things when she was a little girl.
This new phase has been more than a little bit frustrating and confusing for me and Daddy. We know you need to try things on your own, and make mistakes, in order to learn and grow. But sometimes the things you want to do by yourself are dangerous or not possible or not necessary. And we have to be the bad guys. And you freak out. It sucks. There have been many a night in the past six months Mom and Dad have wanted nothing more than to bang their heads on the wall out of frustration.
But though you may hit me or kick me or scream at me and make me cry, there has never been a moment or even a split-second that I haven’t loved you or wanted you. I’ve just needed to take a breath or take a break and remember that you are your own small person, with feelings and moods and frustrations, just like me.
You are quick to anger when you don’t get your way…just like me. You insist you know how to do everything yourself…just like me. You are very sensitive to the pain and hurt of those around you and are quick to comfort others…just like me. And did I mention your shoe and clothing obsession? You are SO like me. And when you furrow your brow in concentration or bang out a beat on your new drums or laugh at something with all your heart? Just like Daddy. It’s so cool to watch.
When we moved you into a Big Girl Bed just a couple of weeks ago it all went horribly wrong. You were really excited to see the bed and your little nightstand and your little lamp. But you were not excited to try it. You’re like your Dad that way. Resisting changes that are for the best. But eventually you have settled in and figured out how cool and independent it is to have your own bed. And just to prove your independence you’ve taken to coming downstairs at around midnight to see what me and Dad are up to. I’ll always wonder if you’ll think we’re boring, cause we’re just sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and watching Jimmy Kimmel.
But what has impressed me most about this year is just how loving and sweet you are. When we told you we were going to have a baby and took you with us to hear her heartbeat for the first time you were just amazing. At first you were scared by the sound of her ‘whoosh-whoosh-whoosh’ heartbeat. But then when I told you it was the baby in my tummy, you relaxed, and even smiled. And whether it’s the pain in my back or incessant kicks to my bladder not only do you comfort me, but you imitate me as well. I’ll never forget the week you walked around saying ‘Oh my back hurts’ and holding your lower back like me. So damn cute. You love to talk to my tummy and tell baby sister that you love her. And now you walk around with your own babies, giving them bottles, changing their diapers, pushing them around in their stroller and even giving them ‘Ella Milk’. I can’t wait to see what an amazing big sister you’re going to be. It will be something to behold, I’m sure of it.
Thank you for all the love you give to each and every one of us in this family. You make us all better people. I am so proud of how smart and kind and creative you are. You amaze me with your capacity to understand and empathize with the world. I am and will forever be so incredibly proud to be your mother. And I thank you for being my daughter.
Love you to the moon and back darling Monkey,