To Baby Norah:
You are four weeks old now and you are the light of my life. I marvel at the miracle you are daily - how one day you didn't exist and then suddenly, miraculously, you were my little love with your own, perfect, beating heart, your tiny eyelashes, and your bouts of hiccups that used to tickle the inside of my belly and now make me pat your back to soothe you. You are a miracle and I want you to know you were desperately loved and desperately wanted from the very first moment we knew about you. We have always loved you, and we will never stop.
I am writing this today because I have been thinking of all the things I want to teach you, and I want to have them on record somewhere. I want you to see that my intentions are good and to glimpse at the parts of my love for you that are so important. It is my hope that this letter is nothing but a footnote; a written record that sums up the things you have come to know are true simply by watching me live. It is my hope that I teach you to live well by default - that your life with us left you no other option. I will do my best, little Norah, but I am writing my intentions to you now.
I am writing this also so that I can come back to it at times when I don't know how to live or what to do. It can be so hard to get through each day being even half of what I want to be. Its easier to take the path of least resistence, but not always better, and I know there will be times when I need to be reminded of this. And so I write this for us both.
Dearest little Norah, my little love, I hope to teach you how to love well - how to make yourself vulnerable and accept love, and how to see past the surface and find beautiful parts of people who need to be loved. This is why I tell you stories about Dingo - about how she barked and growled at us like a mean dog, but when we took her home we gave her all the love we could muster and she started to become a good dog. And now she is the sweetest dog and she loves you to bits and protects you. But it took a lot of love to get her there. I hope you learn to love the bleeding and broken and the people you see every day who are different than you, and the people who are so much like you that it drives you crazy. And I hope you learn to be loved; to accept the love that is bestowed on you. Remember, the greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.
I hope you learn that love is a verb - it is something you do every bit as much as it is something you feel. It is a kind word, a helpful hand, a smile when you feel like scowling. It is asking, "What can I do to help?" and then following through. Love is the act of listening with patience. Love is surrendering your time and sharing what you have. Love is an act, a motion, a way of being. I love your daddy by cooking his dinner and folding his laundry and giving him time with his friends; he loves me by keeping the cars running and going to work each day and paying the bills. This is what love looks like. When you don't know how to love someone, its okay to ask them, "What can I do for you?" or to tell them, "I want to love you, but I'm not sure how". How else will you know what to do?
I want to teach you how to be happy with what you have and how to live simply. I hope I teach you the opposite of consumerism - that the things you own can so easily end up owning you, so it is best to rely on community and family and love to make you happy, rather than relying on the things you have. I hope you grow up unencumbered by debt - so that you never have to forego the important things in life because you have to pay for something that is not really important. So many people I know don't live the lives they want to live because the price of car payments and credit card debts and cable TV keeps them trapped. I never want you to know what that feels like. I want you to learn to loosely own the things you have so that you are free to do the things that really matter.
I hope you learn the balance between being content where you are and pushing yourself to grow. May you live in a state of constructive discontent - never quite satisfied with your character in such a way that you feel compelled to pursue growth. But at the same time, I wish contentness and an inner peace for you, that you can be okay with where you are and accept that growth is a process you've embarked on. May you learn to eloquently stand exactly where you fit while never being afraid of taking the next step in growth, onto the next place where you will fit.
I hope to teach you the value of a story, particularly human stories. When all is said and done and we are gone, our stories will remain. And these stories... these stories are limitless. Our stories make us what we are. I hope you learn to ask for stories and I hope you learn to love the stories you hear - for when you learn to love a person's story, it becomes almost impossible not to love the person as well. I hope you learn to love your own stories as well, and to value them as part of what has made you what you are.
I hope to teach you interdependence - to lean on the people you love and to let them lean on you. Our culture has such a strong focus on independence and I think at times its gone too far. We don't know how to ask for help or live in the context of community. I want to teach you these things because I don't believe we were made to live so alone. I hope you learn how to build community and how to live within it. I hope you learn that this makes you stronger, not weaker. It gives you the opportunity to give the very best parts of yourself and find your niche, and it gives you the strengths and help of those around you - so much more than you could ever achieve alone.
My dearest little Norah, these are my greatest hopes for you. I hope for so many other things, like every parent does. I hope for good health and strong character and for you to grow up happy and smart. I hope you find talents and make friends and find a career path you love. Of course I hope these things for you - I am your mother. But mostly I hope for these things I've written about. Part of the reason is that if you learn these few, important things, other success will follow. How could you not make friends if you learn to listen to stories and how to love? How can you not succeed if you learn how to ask for help and if you pursue growth continually? But mostly, these few things are the things I have learned that have helped me to be truly human and happy and content. I consider that a success - that I can wake up each day feeling content with where my life is, appreciating the moment, and knowing there is any number of people I can call if I need help or if I just need to be with people. These are the things that make my life a life I am happy and proud to live.
I don't have all these mastered, Norah, and there is a good chance I will fail miserably at any one of them. And so, even as I hope to teach you, I hope to grow. I hope we grow tpgether, my little one.
All of my love to you.