Month sixteen

Dear Eleanor,

Yesterday, you turned 16 months old. For most of the past month, I’ve had the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” stuck in my head. When you’re reading this someday, you’ll have to look up the Beatles, I’m sure. What is Mom talking about? She is so lame!

That song has been in my head because you’re always reaching for my hand. You only want to play with your toys if I’m beside you. Your dad gets up with you in the morning, but as soon as I come down the stairs, you shriek with joy. As if I’d been lost at sea. For months! Then you take my hand and pull me to the back door so we can play outside.

We took you to Colorado for Uncle Dan’s wedding, and you were the flower girl. We doubted you would be willing to walk down the aisle, but when we handed you a basket of flower petals the night before – wow – it was on. You played with those petals for at least an hour and screamed when we took the basket – YOUR basket – away.

Then we saw the church. The aisle was 22 miles long, so it would take your little legs 16 hours to reach the front of the church. We agreed that I would walk with you and carry you as needed. You weren’t too keen on your outfit, especially your over-priced, uncomfortable shoes. Welcome to womanhood. When we reached the door to walk down the aisle, you hesitated at the site of all those people, but I gave you a little pull, and off we went. You walked the whole way without pause.

The rest of the trip went so smoothly that I can’t believe you’re the same child who joined us on the nightmare vacation last fall. You slept well and loved romping outside in the cool mountain air. We didn’t want to come home.

But we did come home, and you had to endure a big change. We had to start you with a new baby-sitter because the woman who had been watching you took an office job. As I tried to leave the first day, you wrapped yourself around my leg and howled. I knew that you would cry as long as I stayed, so I left with you in tears. I wish wish wish that you could have understood what was happening.

When most people write about motherhood, they write about how it’s the hardest job but also the best job. They write about loving their children unconditionally. All of that is true. The part that fewer people say is this: Motherhood breaks your heart over and over again. When I left you crying with the baby-sitter, I felt like an elephant had trampled across my chest. But for you to do anything good in life, I have to teach you to be brave, courageous, strong. The scariest things you will do in life are also the best things you will do: performing for an audience, visiting a new place, going away to college, falling in love, having a baby. So be brave, Eleanor. My hand might not always be there, but my heart is.