It's been that way for years.
By Sunday nights, she's asking for you.
And when she comes home to me in the evenings, she calls me by your name.
God, does she love you.
I tried to prepare myself for it, I really did try.
Other people tried to prepare me, too.
My Dad sent me this email on February 21, 2008. You know, The Day.
The Day she also became yours.
Welcome back to the working world. I suspect there were a couple tears shed at some point over the past 24 hrs. Just remember there are 168 hrs in every week and Lil' Dude will be with you or The Dad around 123 of those hours. More than enough time to mold her into whatever you want. Just make sure you go to the right house to pick her up instead of a neighbor two doors down like I did with your brother when we lived in Circle Pines.
When I met you that August evening, before I even met my eventual daughter, I liked you instantly. You honestly reminded me of, well, me. You had your nose pierced, too. I mean, is that not the best reason to choose daycare for your child? I couldn't explain it. I wasn't even to the car in your driveway when I gushed to The Dad, 'she's the ONE.' He, as he always regards me, told me to settle down ... we had time and other appointments. I said no, no, NO. Cancel them. Hire her. Choose her with me.
I won him over; we called off the search. I have never been able to explain my gut feelings or instinct to him, but he plays along most the time. When I called you the very next day to hire you, you told me you weren't necessarily for hire ... that in turn, you were seeing other expectant parents and interviewing them, as we did you.
I was crushed. I was terrified.
I was pregnant ... crushed, and terrified. Trifecta.
Oh God, please let her choose us, I prayed.
And dirty little secret? I'm not much of a pray-er.
But I prayed my soul off those days leading to your decision.
I debated on dropping off my killer chocolate chip cookies, or an over-$20 bottle of wine.
Instead, I followed my Grandma's sage advice and kicked it old-school with a handwritten thank you note.
Thank you for your time in meeting with us, and opening your home to us.
You've had children, and you know firsthand how extremely difficult this decision is.
You were the first provider to put us at ease, and give us a little faith that everything will be OK.
It was very nice to meet you.
You chose us.
My own Mama was a stay-at-home mom and I remember her saying "Daycare kids are brats!" so that is how I grew up. She went to work when I was a 6th grader- so I could be in charge of my brother who had survived Kindergarten to advance to first grade. I was 11- the magic number where I was deemed old enough to supervise a six-year-old. And he was a brat, and he had never ever been to daycare! I then learned that daycare didn't make kids brats; they simply were assholes because of how they were being raised ... by their own biological parents. Daycare was a means to an end, a way to be in two places at once, essentially.
You chose us.
You were one of the first people I called when my daughter was born. Right after I called and sobbed with my Grandma ... she was one of the only people who knew I was having a girl. I called you, propped up in that hospital bed, knees drawn up to my chest, with a tiny pink baby girl in between. I held her tiny fist in my hand as I spoke into my pink cellphone, whispering her name to you. A girl! You declared. A girl is so perfect!
And on February 21st, 2008, the Dad bundled her up in her First Day Outfit and winter hat, pacifier in place, and I left before they did. I had on a grown-up outfit- a dress and boots. I had washed and straightened my hair, applied eyeliner and perfume, and I was Starbucks-bound before debuting at the office. It was almost like leaving them at home, not really accepting where they were headed after I backed out of the driveway.
I marched into my office ... head held high, hugging all my co-workers who hadn't seen me since Thanksgiving or before. I walked into my office ... to a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, a delivery from two of my Besties- one of whom is the Lil' Dude's Fairy Godmother. This was the card, and it still hangs in my office today. It constantly reminds me to fight to the good fight; the delicate, effing-crazy, beautiful balance that is Motherhood.
And the day went fine. You texted that notion a few times, you already a pro in dealing with new Mamas in their postpartum-career newness. I was overwhelmed with 12 weeks of catch-up and alertness and the day sped toward 5pm in perfect natural order.
And the weeks stretched on, the winter eventually subsiding as the sun bolstered the spring and I fostered the courage to handle the drop-offs and pickups. And when I had to leave for my first work trip when she was just three months old, it was you I fearfully trusted with my whole heart in one tiny fleece pile of love. I will be back. Five days. Please love her and whisper to her that I do, too.
And you have loved her fiercely. More fiercely than I could have ever imagined, or hoped.
I don't even know where to begin with a list, you know what I mean?
Administering Motrin to her as my matronly Post-It note instructed post-shots.
Easing her into rice cereal.
Bagging up the blow-outs.
The little "Lil' Dude needs diapers!" notes stuck to her carseats.
Her first holidays ... her first friends.
The endless texts and photos.
Applying 14 tubes of SPF.
Letting her get dirty.
And love on your ancient dog.
Getting her to eat vegetables.
Potty-training her with gusto.
Teaching her the alphabet.
Wiping her nose, her tears, her bloodied knees.
Being reluctant and hesitant to call in sick because it inconvenienced others.
Letting her wear ridiculous outfits and dance on your furniture.
For telling her, and me, you love her and meaning it.
The sidewalk chalk.
The American Girl picnic lunches.
The temporary tattoos.
The permanent attachment.
For having her call me when her first tooth fell out.
And for bagging up her bangs she hacked off herself.
For telling me what I needed to hear, whether or not I want to.
Being more excited for kindergarten than I am.
The birthday celebrations, and Christmas gifts chosen with perfect intentionality.
Hell, for complimenting me in your entryway nearly every day.
For being so effing amazing at your job.
For choosing us.
I wanted to get this prose out of my heart and onto paper before The End, which is so, so close on that horizon. I want you to know that 72 months ago this very month, my life forever changed when I met you. Not one single other person on this planet, save for her own Daddy, has had as much to do with the wonderful little girl she is today but you. Not one.
Thank you for sharing her with me.
And, no. It's not actually me, sharing her with you.
You know exactly what I mean.