Dearest Avery James

Once you’re old enough to read this, you’ll know that this isn’t the first letter I’ve written to you, and it won’t be the last. I hope you’ll know by then that the reason I write to you is so you’ll be able to see yourself through my eyes. I hope it will give you the incredible gift of seeing the beautiful creation that you are while also looking back at your life to see how the story unfolded, a masterpiece in the making.

You’re 4 1/2 years old now, and I’ll be honest, life with you is rarely easy.  Many days, I am utterly exhausted by your energy, your demands, the constant pushing of the boundaries. I tell you to “stop it,” “don’t do that,” and “I’m going to send you to time-out,” more times in a day than I could count. There is crying. Crying. Crying. Oh, the crying. Mostly from you, sometimes from me. Your dad and I talk about how in the world we’re supposed to handle these things, because honestly, we don’t really know. No one gave us a manual.

I must confess to you that a lot of days, all I can see is that you’re not easily satisfied. You point out the things that I’ve done wrong. You don’t have faith in my abilities to take care of you or your brother. You have your own strong ideas about how things should be, and no amount of work on my part convinces you of anything different. You have an insatiable need to be so close to me that I feel nearly suffocated. You worry about things well beyond what a child your age should, and often you won’t accept my comfort.

But, here’s what I’ve realized about you. You and me, we are cut from the same cloth. I don’t mean to say that you’re going to grow up and be just like me. You are growing up in a different family than I did with completely different influences. I will do my best to give you the freedom to become who you are, not who I expect you to be. But, what I’ve realized is that because our personalities are very similar, I often overlook the great things about you. I take those wonderful things for granted in you because I take them for granted in myself.

Here are the other sides to those struggles that I’m just beginning to see. You are an incredible caretaker. You take responsibility for all of those around you, and you love them well. You look outside yourself to the others around you, and you can put yourself in their place to see how they are feeling. You have empathy and compassion well beyond your years. You have a gift for mothering that you share with anything that gets close enough to you. Your brother will always be well taken care of because you’ve taken him under your wing and refused to let him go.

You are conscientious and hold yourself and others to a high standard. I know that you will succeed in whatever you choose because you have an innate drive to explore, to learn, to understand. You don’t need to be pushed; you are the one who pushes to go further, to try harder, to do more. I know I’ll never need to worry about you just sitting around and letting life pass you by. You propel yourself forward by sheer will and bring those around you along for the ride.

You have a gift for communicating, sharing your feelings and connecting with others. Perhaps that’s why at this stage in life you feel more at home with adults than with other children. You know yourself and your feelings, and I can see that this will only flourish as you grow. Your emotions are strong, which can be a real struggle, but it also means that you are fully alive. You live life in full, vibrant color, not in the dull grey. It takes great bravery to embrace life with arms wide open, unafraid to feel all of the highs and lows that this world brings. You are brave, but not because you don’t know there are things to be afraid of. You see those things all too well, but you make a choice to go forward anyway.

What I’ve learned to be true about you, me and everyone else in this wonderful, complicated world is that our best qualities are also our worst. The things that are unique to us, that make us who we are and who we will become, shape our best assets and our greatest struggles. They just live on one long continuum that expresses itself differently in different situations.

Your innate feelings of responsibility make you a wonderful caretaker, but it also means that you take on the burdens of others when they don’t really belong to you. You feel deeply and fully, but those emotions can also exhaust you and those around you. You are intelligent and extremely competent, but you hold everyone else to your unreachable standards as well. It’s difficult but somehow freeing to realize that without those ugly, complicated parts of ourselves, we wouldn’t have the wonderful parts.

Just know that I am committed to seeing those wonderful parts of you and celebrating them. I’ll help you shape and refine the hard parts and help you understand your challenges.

Life with you isn’t always easy, but it’s good. It’s really, really good, and I’m so glad I get to be your mom.

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