Today I love you more than I ever have, and I know it is true love.
It was easy to fall in love with you when I first met your tiny three year old self, with the pigtails and cuddles after nap time that day. Your big eyes were shiny as stars, and your smile melted me in a place that I though had frozen over in grief and loss and too much waiting.
The year you spent with us, or most of the year while you were four, was sacred and precious and I will never forget it. I learned to apply everything I had learned from my work, and learned not to work so much because you mattered more. I learned how to cut food into tiny bites, how to give little girls a bath, and how to brush your hair without making you cry (usually). We made tents in the living room, made jewelry out of beads and crowns out of clover, and made cookies in all kinds of shapes. We painted decorations, colored workbooks, and made Mary Poppins chalk drawings in the driveway. We played in parks, ran on trails, and climbed on swings and slides and trees. We walked dogs, ran through the sprinkler, and harvested the garden. We watched my favorite movies from when I was a little girl, prayed with grandma, and read Book of Mormon stories every night. You learned to make all the letters in sign language, learned to count, and learned to write your letters. You could help with dishes, fold laundry better than I can, and mop the floor. You still took naps, and looked like an angel in your sleep.
Then you turned five.
We have planted a whole new garden, and you are able to do more things. You don’t always take a nap anymore, and you like to stay up late when you can get away with it. You help with everything, are becoming very responsible by hanging up your own towel after bath time, putting your dirty clothes in the laundry without being told, and doing your own dishes without any prompting. You can tie your shoes, fix your own hair, and get dressed without help. You can do so much!
The biggest thing is that you are starting to learn is how to use your agency. You are practicing making your own choices, and learning about the consequences of those choices. You are learning to be happy or to feel hurt, depending on whether you make good choices or bad choices. You are becoming more independent, not needing me in the same ways you did last year.
Sometimes I miss you, even when you are here.
But in the last three days, you have needed me in all new ways that I didn’t like very much, in ways you didn’t like much.
You spilled makeup all over my floor. You danced in strawberry jam on the living room carpet. You painted the back patio pink. You picked all my garden flowers meant for bees and butterflies to make our vegetables grow. You picked my onions gone to seed, scattering next year’s crop in the wind. You used all my almond milk to fill up cups in the fridge, and then stuffed apples into the milk, spilling milk everywhere. You have lost all my pins and barrettes, and you broke off all the lids to my water bottles. You wrote in sharpie on grandma’s laptop screen, and you hid your pork sandwich under my seat in the car.
It hasn’t been a fun few days.
But I know you are not a bad girl, just a healthy and intelligent girl full of energy and curiosity and wanting to learn as much as you can as fast as you can.
You are a girl like me.
You did a good job deep cleaning the whole house with me, and we will work hard in the garden, too.
When our chores are done, we will laugh and play and run and sing more songs.
The more we practice, the better we get – even at making choices.
That’s how I know I love you, not just because you are adorable and sweet, but because we learn together on the hard days. That’s what makes our hugs the best, our laughter loudest, and our tears turn into giggles.
Love is what makes everything worth it.
The last few days we have had good talks about the atonement, and about choices, and about love.
Because you are good and wise, and nothing makes me happier than to see you skipping in the hall, singing “I will go, I will do the things the Lord commands, He wants me to obey…”
You still look like an angel while you sleep.