A Letter To My Daughter

Image by firstindy /www.flickr.com

Dear Esme,

Something’s changed. I used to dread seeing your face inches away from mine in the pre-dawn light. “Mommy. Mommy. Is is morning yet?” You’d whisper, so I was unlikely to bolt out of bed from a shock, but the whisper was full-bodied enough so you were sure I’d wake up. Now, while the early hours still bring out the worst in me, I wake with a flutter of expectation: Will your eyes be even brighter today? Will your face have shed even more of its baby pudge? Will your hair be even thicker, more like real kid hair and less like those curls I used to tuck behind your ear? 

I stare at you sometimes, five going on six, and I am amazed we’ve finally arrived here. This is what I imagined, all those naive years ago, when I pictured having children. Not the animalistic impulses of the terrible twos or the even the kissable cheeks of a newborn, but this: the emergence of logic, an understanding of rules, a thirst for facts. You’re so good at all of these now. Today you told me how much you enjoy being small. “I can fit under the crib to look for Dalloway’s pacifiers,” you explained. “And I can still fit in her crib to play with her.” With the logic, paradoxically, comes wonder. You declared the Guggenheim “the greatest museum I’ve ever been to” because you thought the circular ramp was so beautiful. And when you asked “What should I be when I grow up, Mommy?” and I suggested an architect you were right with me. “Then I could make a building like that guy with three names who did the Guggenheim, right?” I can see the threads of logics spinning in your brain and it is amazing.

Yesterday, I took you to the Intrepid, an air craft carrier parked in the Hudson River. You heard swing music for the first time while we waited in line; we came home and downloaded Benny Goodman. You thought about what it would be like to make 700 loaves of bread a day for 3000 sailors. You correctly reasoned that the airplanes on the deck had shark teeth painted on the front to scare away the bad guys, and you learned a hundred new words: cockpit, propeller, space capsule, parachute. There was, of course, machine gun, missle and bomb too. “Kamakaze” I kept to myself. Would your head explode? I couldn’t believe you continued to take it all in.

 Sitting next to you at dinner you asked if you could try my sushi. Didn’t you just eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day for the past nine months? Of course you can try my sushi. Maybe I am doing something right as a parent after all. Are your sisters, who now sit at a table more like bear cubs with flailing paws than like human beings, going to be this normal in a few years too? After so many years of disassembling your sippy cups and wiping mushed up pasta from the crevices of the high chair it seems impossible to believe. But with you — just one of you, the first of you — emerging into a world where I feel I can actually get to know you, I dare to imagine: One day, all three of you girls will be this entrancing, this absorbant, this fun. I used to think I wouldn’t survive to see that day. Now I know it will be worth the wait.

 Love, your mom

QUESTION:  Have you welcomed and revelled in each new phase of your child’s life?

CHALLENGE:   Take time to enjoy your child during each phase and notice how they grow.


  1. Cath says

    Submitted on 9-4-2010 at 12:18pm
    Neylan – I loved your words. I could see it all – the wonder, the surprise (for her and you) at the progress. It’s stunning really. My daughter Eliza is 5 going on 6 as well. As I watched her walk with the big kids to school, she turned to me and waved. Confident, happy, beaming. “Worth the wait” – I wholeheartedly agree. Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Shawni says

    Submitted on 9-4-2010 at 12:18pm
    This is such a beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing. I am the kind of mother who didn’t really know to look forward to this stage (all I thought about were newborn babies and carrying around toddlers on my hip), but now that my children are growing up I’m right with you adn I LOVE it

  3. April Perry says

    Submitted on 9-3-2010 at 08:19am
    I’m in that stage with my oldest three right now…they are SO much fun. We have inside jokes, we like a lot of the same music, we can talk about important things, etc. This is the life I dreamed of, as well. It’s taken a LOT of work to get here, but all those hours I invested (that they don’t even remember) helped us create this relationship that is stronger than I could have hoped.

    Thanks for the contribution to our site!

  4. Saydi says

    Submitted on 9-3-2010 at 07:16am
    This is beautiful Nylan. Thank you for the perspective. I feel so many of the same feelings with Hazel (she’ll be 6 in a week). This is the part of motherhood I also imagined, and I know I’m going to love it.

  5. Brooke says

    Submitted on 9-1-2010 at 08:11am
    That was so beautifully written and truly expresses the sentiments of my heart toward my own six year old daughter. I wish I were able to capture the memories and feelings of motherhood through words like that. Thank you.

  6. Hilary says

    Submitted on 8-31-2010 at 01:26pm
    Haha, I like that. I didn’t know if I’d survive the first day. It really is true.

  7. C. Olsen says

    Submitted on 8-31-2010 at 11:08am
    This is lovely! I have a daughter who is just 6 and two younger boys. Although I feel sad for the little baby girl who is growing up, she is growing into such a beautiful person that I can’t help but feel joy for the wonderful times ahead.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful letter.

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