I am taking a moment to write this as Alfredo cheese sauce dries on the kitchen table, and dishes lay piled in the sink…toys on the floor…laundry in the dryer. Because I remembered for a moment that writing is my absolute most favorite selfish thing to do in the world, and I never do it anymore.
I was sitting there at the table, while my husband bathed our beautiful, wonderful toddler upstairs. I caught my reflection in the dark sliding door, my tired face against the day that ended way too soon.
Me, in the late summer of my life, cast against early autumn and the longer nights it promises are coming.
And tired, weary…I thought, “I wish someone would say to me that…”
And suddenly I could conjure up an entire letter to myself I wish someone would write to me.
I could imagine all of the words I so desperately need to hear, and yet I never will because you can’t tell someone to tell you something and have it mean the same thing.
So I decided to write the letter of everything I need to hear, as if someone else were writing it to me.
All of you tired, weary, sad or stressed moms out there…even if you’re the positive, grateful, faith-filled kind…because Lord (literally) knows somehow that doesn’t always fix everything…
This letter is actually to you…
“Dear strong, lovely woman,
I caught you just now, looking at yourself in the window.
You’ve always done that… You probably didn’t know I noticed. Car windows, shop windows…you always glance over as if to see what other people see, or maybe just to see if anything is amiss. Maybe even to criticize, even though I don’t know how you find a fault in that reflection…
But there you sit, staring at yourself in the kitchen window. I saw you turn your head right, then left, brushing a few stray hairs out of the way…pulling taut the bags under your eyes to see what a better eye cream or a few thousand dollars of surgery might be able to do, someday, if you can afford either. I saw you do a final sweep of your face, then sigh. It makes me smile. Because you literally have no idea you’re stunning. Not a clue.
You see tired…shadows, veins, lines and extra weight that’s invisible to everyone else.
I wish you could see what I see. You want to know?
I see that devious sparkle you get in your eyes when you get in the passenger seat of the car to go somewhere fun. Or when you tell a juicy story. Or when we’re on a date and I ask if you’re ready to go home or not, not knowing if that sparkle means a definite yes or no. Or when someone offers you another glass of wine, and you think ‘no, I shouldn’t’ but end up ‘yes I should’ing your way to another pour. I love that sparkle. It’s like you think the most exciting thing in the world could possibly be the next thing you’re about to do.
I see the tan you used to get when summers meant hikes, bikes and laying by the pool. You would toast deeper and deeper all summer, vibrant and glowing with the fuel you got from the sun, like you yourself were some sort of flower. You didn’t give a thought to wrinkles then.
I see the lean muscles that build you, the unique ways they’d move and pull to run towards nothing, or to paint large strokes of color onto a canvas, to smile…to fill a yoga pose, or my arms.
I see the beautiful way every perfectly constructed part of you attaches to every other part, how they move together to orchestrate the grace with which you aren’t even aware you enter a room, or turn to look at someone, or to laugh when you mean it.
I know YOU don’t see that. But oh, how I wish you could.
Perhaps you’d be nice to yourself, especially when you don’t feel the years have been.
And before you think that the beauty I see in you is just the shadow of a youthful memory that’s somehow just fresher for me, don’t.
Because the moments these days when you MOST take my breath away are probably ones you’d scoff at, which is partially why I’ve never told you before.
When you wake up in the morning after sleeping on wet hair, and you have what you call a “lion’s mane,” I think you’re gorgeous. That natural “you,” before you put on everything you think the world will think makes you beautiful. You have no idea you actually woke up with everything you needed to be a vision, already in place, exactly the way you were meant to me.
When you’re expecting another one of our children, you always say you get “pregnant all over,” and you make casual jokes about the cheese balls and Kit-Kats you’re eating, how the Snoogle is replacing me at night…and you always stop to guffaw at how round you’re getting so fast as you heave yourself in and out of chairs like you’re ten times the size you really are.
But the truth is, that’s one of the times you take my breath away the most.
Because not only did I somehow snag you, but that fit, gorgeous woman I made my wife now graciously grows and changes to give me a family. And that moves me.
It’s the hardest job in the entire world, and you make that sacrifice over and over again so we can bring more incredible people into the world.
It’s beautiful to me that you do…
And just so you know, even if you couldn’t,
or weren’t able to a time or two,
it would be beautiful to me that you tried.
You may not have been born to be a mother, but you could fool the rest of us.
It takes my breath away to see you scoop our babies into your arms, and cover them with kisses and good mornings before you’ve even had coffee…before you would probably prefer to wake up on any given day. And somehow, you pour out rays of sunshine just for them. It’s a superpower not everyone has. You are their sunrise. And even though your beams fade at the end of the day when you’ve given and given and given everything you had, literally sure as day, you will beam for them again the next morning.
I know when I don’t hear something you say, or leave messes around the house just like the kids, or forget something you specifically told me to get at the store, it may seem like I am not paying attention. And if you think YOU’RE not perfect, I guarantee I’m infinitely more-so…
But I do see you… I see what you do.
I see the neatly folded stacks of clean laundry, sorted for our kids and then us individually. I know that’s not your job, and definitely not the one you’d prefer to be praised for, but I notice it.
I notice the absence of the toothpaste spatters on the mirror, how white the toilet bowl is, and how shiny the countertops are. Don’t laugh, I do!
I notice that the fridge is always stocked… that I never run out of my favorite coffee, and somehow the Keurig machine water never gets all the way empty.
The plants haven’t died, and neither have we,
and I know that’s mostly because of you.
I’m sorry I’ve so busily crept around telling you for so long…
But you are 100% essential to the life and happiness of our family.
And I know it’s a huge weight to bear, but just know that it doesn’t for a second go unappreciated, even if we forget to tell you.
I promise we’ll try to tell you more often. But please forgive us if we forget again.
You are so, SO brilliant. And no, I’m not talking about the million ways you can MacGyver almost anything for our kids, or come up with meals on a whim, or sing ANY Daniel Tiger song, diagnose (and treat) almost any common illness or paint a two year old’s nails.
I’m talking about the kind of “brilliant” you always were.
I know you have two college degrees you never thought would sit in a box in the basement.
I also know you’re damn good at the career thing, and you never thought that would ALSO get put in a box somewhere in the future so you could work for a couple of bosses a tenth your age who can’t even put their shoes on the right feet…
But you did.
And you may feel like an idiot sometimes… I know this because you’ve told me.
I know you think your brain has turned to mush, and your talents are crumbling to dust in the closet, and the rest of the world is moving on without you. But no one, including myself, has ever forgotten how legitimately smart you are.
It just manifests itself differently…
I can see the genius in you through the brilliance of our children…how smart and talkative and talented they are.
And I know they didn’t learn it from Daniel Tiger.
THAT takes my breath away….you and the role you played in these tiny creatures running around that are all too smart for their own good.
And finally, I’ll guess I’ll just say that I can’t say enough. It all takes my breath away…
The way you still go to church every Sunday, even solo with the kids.
The way you pray like nothing in the world could ever make you lose faith.
The way you decorate our home, your own big piece of art you try to perfect constantly.
When you water the flowers.
When you lay on the grass and sigh at the sky.
The lists you make.
The calls you make.
The cookies you bake.
The eloquent way you put things.
The not-so-eloquent way you sometimes put other things.
Your scent without it.
The music you fill the air with.
How hard you work.
The thought you put into thank-you notes.
The love you put into gifts.
The heart and soul you put into every single day,
As a woman,
I know you could be a million bold, great and amazing things and go anywhere and do anything you set your mind to, but you choose to be here…and be you…and do this.
I see you.
And because of what I see,
And especially because of what I know I don’t see,
I love you more than these words can say.
Thank you for everything you do.
You are making our lives, and bringing them joy,
And no one else could do that as
Perfectly as you are right now, and at every moment.
Hang in there.
(and are making)
such beauty in the world.
If you know someone who needs to hear this today, share and tag them.
You never know.
Prayers and love to all you mamas (AND dads) out there just getting through the day for all of these tiny, messy blessings!