My dearest Marley,
Today is your sixth birthday. You have been so excited for this day that you have been counting down the days for at least two weeks now. Yesterday morning you said “one more day till my birthday”. I reminded you that it would be the last day, in your entire life, that you would be five years old, and you should try to savor it. Don’t rush, my love. Live and enjoy every moment. Once each moment passes it is gone forever. Stay with it as best you can.
With all of the ambition, planning, hard work, schooling, learning, studying, disappointment, frustration, joy, pleasure, and busyness that took over my life, somehow in the past 20 years, I seem to have lost the ability to do this. At one point in my life, after my parents divorced and my childhood seemingly fell apart, I constantly dwelled in, and lamented the loss of, the past. Then, as my ambition grew, my mind developed a one-pointedness. This served to fulfill my biggest dream in life, but conditioned me to live in the future. The innate ability we all have to live in this moment was lost somewhere inside of me. Perhaps it is buried with that inner child who, thankfully, has healed fully from the harsh lessons in impermanence that my life has gifted to me. I’ve been working hard lately to recover this ability. If I could pass this to you, it would certainly be the best gift I could ever hope to give to you.
When you came home yesterday, you handed me a drawing you made. On top it read: “Marley 5”. Below were three precious pictures, which you explained were happy events from this past year: you skiing in your purple ski parka and blue ski boots, you losing your first two teeth, and you learning to ride horses in your red saddle. I was impressed and pleased that you chose to reflect on the year passed.
This past year was that and so much more, a year rich in milestones. You started Kindergarten last fall. You have loved school and have thrived. I was so worried about “half day” Kindergarten but sure enough you are reading so well now, your math skills are well ahead of your level, and your social skills have continued to grow. Your teacher, Mrs. Mayo, has been just wonderful.
I showed up to our first parent teacher conference last fall having zero idea of what to expect. I felt like a bomb had been dropped on me when Mrs. Mayo said matter-of-factly: “Marley really loves to please and wants to get all of the answers right”. I was dumbfounded. My first thought was- “no one has ever described me so succinctly”. Suddenly, in equal measures, I was gripped with an unlikely mixture of relief and horror.
If this is true, and if you are just like I was in school, you will certainly know success. It will not come easily, but you will gladly and wholeheartedly put your nose to the grindstone. You will work tirelessly, willingly. Hard work and achievement will define you, they will inform your very identity. You will love school, crave it even, and you will rejoice in all of your hard-earned achievements. You will succeed in every endeavor, and you will grow up to do exactly what you set out to do. In this, my relief was founded.
There will be a downside, however. You will be a perfectionist. Any grade below an “A” will send you into brief yet irrational fits of despair. You will take so much pride in your achievements that you will alienate yourself from your peers. You will forget to learn for the sake of learning. You will forget to enjoy what you are learning. You will forget to enjoy life going on around you. You will forget almost everything you learned because you learned it solely for the grade earned. Worst of all, you will sacrifice everything else in your life to achieve. What you will lose in this unbalanced effort will be those precious moments, life. In this, arose my horror.
I realize you are not me, we are not the same. But if what your Kindergarten teacher surmised about you after knowing you for only a short time is true, I must help you learn to maintain a balance, to have a wider vision, to see all around you even when you are driving at that goal. I once believed that if I had opened my eyes any wider, I would have lost my tenuous grip on my dream. Somehow you must have faith that you can slow down and enjoy what you are living and your dream will still be realized.
In my morning meditation today I reflected on being pregnant with you and your birth. Although that feeling of having a baby move inside of me is fading, when I recall the very moment that you were born, it is as fresh as if it happened to me just today. Perhaps it is so from 32 years of desperately wanting a daughter culminating in the realization that, indeed, my wish would come true, or perhaps it is universal; that first second of physical separateness from one’s first born child. Regardless, bringing that moment to mind invariably springs fresh tears to my eyes and a wash of warmth, love, and gratitude for you, and for your coming into being.
It seems no accident that you were born just 3 days before Mother’s day. Today, I am grateful for you coming into being, and I have you to thank for me coming into being. I was a complete person well before I met you, Marley, but because of you, I am a Mother. This is what I am celebrating today. I love you and everything you are and, most of all, what you made me.