I wanted your life to be perfect. As a new parent, I felt that I would be able to shape your life however I wanted with enough effort and persistence. I was naive. I never imagined how our lives would spin out of my control, or the blame and guilt I would ultimately place on myself for the sudden devastating shift in the course of your life.
I miss the time when you were a baby. I miss the way our entire world seemed to be open ahead of us, and the honor and responsibility I felt to be the one who would help shape you into who you would become. Our family was just beginning, and you had opened up a whole new world to me. I miss the softness of your skin, and having your little body so close to mine as I nursed you or fed you a bottle. I miss watching your eyelashes flutter and close as I rocked you and read you bedtime stories, and the weight of your body as you fell asleep in my arms.
I miss you as a toddler. I miss the way your cute little diapered bottom looked in your tiny leggings as you waddled along, holding your daddy’s hand. I miss how you would jump and squeal in the morning when we came to get you from your crib, and the adorable things you would say as you opened yourself up to the world of talking and repeating after your daddy and I. I miss your little pigtails, your big, blue innocent eyes and your sweet, infectious toddler giggle. I miss watching Thomas with you while you snacked on Cheerios, and how you would always put your shoes on the wrong feet, although it didn’t bother you one bit.
I miss you as a three year old, when princesses were oh so real and you insisted on wearing a gown to preschool every single day. I miss listening to you gabber in the back seat and being amazed at the words you somehow already knew. I miss the time that your brother was in my belly, when we would take baths together and sing and laugh and play princess and trolls. I miss watching how precious and sweet you were when we brought your brother home, the connection between you so strong and real. You had no idea how severely your life was going to change, and neither did we.
Then you were four. You were so oblivious to the chaos going on around you, yet you weren’t even taken aback when your daddy and I sat you down to tell you we weren’t going to be together anymore. You were so resilient. You just kept being the sweet, stilly, spunky girl that you are, even throughout all the turbulence. You had no idea how my heart was breaking for you each and every day. You came home from vacation with daddy that hot Friday in July and you walked into a new house you had never seen before. You were so excited that day, but would later express to me time and time again how much you miss the “little old house…where we were still a family”. Words can’t express how that tears me up inside. I miss the little old house too, my love. I miss us being a family more than ever.
I’m sorry that as we adjusted to our new life as a threesome in our new home that I wasn’t able to give you what your daddy and I could when there were two of us. I’m sorry that you were left on your own at your little coloring table far too many times and for far too long because I had to attend to your little brother who required so much attention from me during that time. I’m sorry that you had to stare out the window at the park across the street and wonder why you couldn’t go out there and play like the other the kids on those summer nights when your brother would need to go to bed at 7:00, leaving us settled inside for the night. I’m sorry for the times when I couldn’t hold back my grief or frustration or exhaustion and I broke down in front of you and your brother. More than anything, I’m sorry that I’m not able to give you the one thing your sweet, beautiful heart so strongly desires; to live in a home with both your mommy and daddy and to see us both every day. I’m so very sorry I’m not able to give you what you deserve.
You are now six, and you have adjusted to your life split between two homes. A life where you are forced to share a single parent with your brother one hundred percent of the time, leaving no one on one attention. You haven’t complained once that instead of taking the bus or walking to school like most of your classmates, you have to be dropped off because your living arrangements don’t allow for the bus system to know which house you might be at every morning. You aren’t aware yet, that most kids your age have been taught to ride a bike without training wheels, but I am. And it breaks my heart to know that I have been unable to dedicate time to help your reach this quintessential milestone, because I would be too distracted chasing after your sweet, curious, busy brother.
I’m so incredibly sorry that I’m not giving you the life that you deserve. My heart aches for the simpler time when the overwhelming heaviness of knowing that I have messed up your life wasn’t a constant weight on my heart, its presence in the background of everything I do. I am so sorry, my sweet girl. I’m sorry for what your poor, innocent little heart had to go through at an age when your only concern should have been having to eat your peas. I’m sorry for tearing your world apart when you were only four years old.
The other day I held back tears as I witnessed the last bit of preschool imagination and innocence inch its way out of you while we watched a live Disney show. I hadn’t seen that side of you since you started Kindergarten, and I thought it was a piece of you left behind like a pair of outgrown footie pajamas stored away in the basement. You stood and waved at the princesses and were awe-struck by the magical world they created in that arena. It took me back to when you were three, before life came crushing down on you, when princesses and fairy tales were your world. I smiled softly as I watched you and tried to let the memory sink in, wishing it was something I could crystalize, put in a box and and hold on to forever.
Eventually even the curious and silly little girl energy you have now will be disintegrated into nothing but a memory, as you grow into a young lady and are inevitably faced with life’s harsh challenges, each one of them soaking up another share of your innocence. One by one they will jolt and tousle you, leaving you disheartened and confused. But I won’t let you forget that there was a time when you were pure and whole and life was simple. I will remind you that that little girl still lives inside you, and that it’s the things that happen to us as we go along our journey that make us feel shattered, as if we are no longer worthy or complete. I will take you back to when you were three, when we sang in the bathtub together and princesses and fairy tales were all you knew. Before your innocence was stolen, and your life was changed forever.