My sweet Leo,
I have high hopes to write you a letter each year on your birthday. It seems to me a great way to reflect, to pause, and to take in all that the previous year has offered up. The fact that your birthday falls shortly after the new year makes it all the more appropriate. I hope this goal is simple enough for me to keep up with, but please forgive me if I fall short., and also, forgive me if you find my relentless documentation of your life obnoxious…I just can’t help myself. : )
Leo. How can I ever explain to you how remarkable you are and the pure magic you have brought into my world? How can I express with words the ways that your presence in my every day has changed everything and shown me who I really am? All I know is that in my whole life, you are what I am most proud of.
Today you are one year old and I can say with absolute certainty that each of the 365 days you’ve been here has been filled with wonder for me as I felt my love for you grow with each and every day that passed. You have been the most wonderful surprise, which is funny because you were not a surprise at all. You have been the happiest, smiliest, and most content little boy which has made my job as your mom much easier and given me the tremendous gift of simply being able to enjoy you.
This weekend we will celebrate you with a few family members and also all of the friends we have chosen to be our family. Along with celebrating you, your dad and I will celebrate one another for handling the craziest year of our lives with as much grace as we could muster. There will be chaos and balloons, toasts and photos, and a bunch of kids running around the house.
But today, your actual birthday, it’s just you and me kid. Not much different from any of the other 365 days since you were born. You and I will spend the day doing all the same and seemingly mundane things we do every day.
Before you were born I envisioned motherhood through the lens of my friends’ social media accounts. I envisioned the big moments. The birthdays, the holidays, all of the firsts you would experience. What I’ve come to realize this first year with you is that those are not the moments that make a mother at all. Those moments make big memories, sure, and also beautiful Instagram accounts. But feeding you lunch for the hundredth time, stealing the fiftieth kiss of any given day, calming you in the middle of the night, giggling with you during your fourth diaper change on a Tuesday, wiping your face after a messy breakfast…those moments added up over the course of a year are what have allowed you and I to share the most special relationship in all of life.
Momma and baby. Me and you.
Nobody will ever know you as I do, nobody will ever love you as I do, nobody will ever experience what we do when we look at each other. Being your mom is something I have realized you have slowly taught me how to do, every day.
You and your Dad have a special relationship as well because the minute you hear his footsteps or voice at the end of the day you are instantly recharged with a burst of energy and can’t wait to show him all that you learned that day. But when you’re tired, or you’re hurt, or you’re scared…I am who you reach for. And that can sometimes feel burdensome, but mostly it fills my entire heart to the brim, and I am proud to have earned your little arms reaching for me.
I expected to love you and I expected to feel the natural need to take care of you, but what I didn’t expect, especially with you at such a young age, is the relationship we have formed. You’re my favorite person to hang out with, the best part of my morning, noon and night. You have allowed me to become a mom with such grace and ease due to your demeanor and personality.
Which brings me to you. My little buddy.
If you read this in the future, I want you to know all of the things that make you such a special person, even at one year old. You give everyone you meet the courtesy of direct eye contact which is swiftly followed with a dimpled grin, usually a head tilt, and lately a wave. You show an innate kindness that makes this momma so, so happy.
You give people and your peers space (which you likely got from me) but are very social and interested in everything around you (which you likely got from your dad). Your love of books is amazing, your persistence through a challenge is admirable, your appetite is out of this world. You sleep twelve uninterrupted hours every night which is FOR SURE one of my favorite things about you and you greet me with enthusiasm that I don’t deserve upon every wake-up.
You show the tendencies of an Olympian in the tub, you are fearless on the slide, and your laughter when in a swing makes my heart want to explode. You are completely freaked out when you wake up from a nap and there are strangers in your house, you love to chase after Marlo, and being outside equally thrills and exhausts you. Your current favorite game is peek a boo in the basement and sometimes you get so excited and giggly that you faceplant right into the carpet.
Your first words have been ball, book, mama, and dada, you are trying so hard to walk, and you love to mock my excited voice. You know how to clap and are thrilled to show anyone that will watch. Your earnest and precious attempts to wave ‘bye bye’ make me tear up every single time. You went on 11 airplane trips your first year of life from Washington D.C. to Arizona and Michigan, and countless trips to Pelican Lake, Minneapolis, and Ada. You resist your car seat but acquiesce when I play your favorite music. You are used to the quiet, likely my fault, and are jumpy with loud noises.
You are a HOPELESS flirt and charm every single man, woman and child we come in contact with. It warms this introverts, cold old lady heart. : ) You show signs of being thoughtful, intelligent and pensive; three words that make me very proud of you.
You are a special boy Leo and your momma and daddy waited a very long time for you. We are thinking tons about your education, your skiing access, your safety, your childhood, your life, your reality. It’s an enormous responsibility we feel towards you, which you won’t understand for a long time. What we hope you WILL understand is our insatiable desire to make you smile, laugh, and feel safe.
There’s so much more I want to say, but it’s impossible to quantify the snuggles, the dimpled smiles, the head on my shoulder moments, the laughs, the heart swells, the knowing looks you give me.
Just know that on Saturday you will be surrounded by people that genuinely care about you and that they are at your party to celebrate your wonderful first year of life. And know that today, when it’s just you and me, I will be holding back tears from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Not because I’m sad that you’re turning one, but out of such a piercing happiness over the one-year-old that you are.
You are breathtaking, you are kind, you are sweet, you are mine and I cannot believe it.
I love you so much that it hurts.
As Grandfather would stand up proudly and shout, “BRAVO!” <3
So beautiful Ali. I bet there were tears streaming down your face as you created this beautiful letter. I know it made me tear it. Hope to see you again this summer.
That was supposed to be “tear up”. : )