You are 13 months old.
Mom is 44.
It snowed 12 inches two days ago. It’s the first snow you were awake for and got to play in.
I’m sure you know this by now, but Mom hates being cold. Freezing makes me feel alone and uncared for. I’ve lived in Florida and New Orleans to know hot weather is uncomfortable, too, but somehow warm weather does not give me the sense of urgent need to survive as much as cold weather does.
Mom loved going to UM - Ann Arbor for the freshman year, until Michigan winter hit. I remember crying out of misery walking to classes in subzero temperature and tears would just freeze on my face. I really loved Ann Arbor because that place represents such freedom to me, but I am glad I didn’t have to weather another Michigan winter since 1993.
At the last pediatrician’s appointment (your 1-year check up!), your doctor advised me to feed you milk instead of formula. I asked if I should heat up the milk and she said, “I wouldn’t, unless you want to be spending time heating up milk for a five-year-old. I would get him used to it now.”
At the first winter chill in the morning, I heat up your milk in a double broiler. I think the doctor meant well, but she doesn’t know I may want to heat up milk for you when you are five years old, too.
Every morning since, I’ve been feeding you hot breakfast. Steel cut oats with a pat of butter and drizzle of raw honey, fluffy scrambled (half an) egg, winter squash with parmesan… Even avocado gets a few minutes in coconut oil if it comes out of the refrigerator to take the chill off. Sometimes we eat rice and soup for breakfast like real Korean people.
Spending those extra minutes standing over the stove carrying you in one arm (you really like looking at what’s happening in the kitchen) makes me feel that I’m caring for you properly. Dad picks you up at 8 am, so feeding you breakfast is the only meaningful time I get to spend with you before you head out. By now you are so used to alternating days with us that you start happily waving good-bye to the remaining parent as we get you ready to head out the door. I’m so fortunate that I don’t have to rush these early mornings with you to get to the office or drop you off at a daycare before work. The hour or so of quality time with you in the morning makes coparenting bearable.
Snow day continued on today. Sunday we made Japanese curry. Today we made seaweed soup for lunch (you didn’t care for it) and pan-fried salmon for dinner. I think rice, salmon and fresh avocado served tonight, kind of a deconstructed maki, has been your favorite meal to date. You signed “more” consistently and ate almost all of the salmon and a whole avocado that way.
Your eyes lit up when mom built a perfect bite of all three elements, so dinner took a while longer. But where else would we need to go on a night like tonight, snow covering everything out the window and reflecting moonlight as if we are in a fairy tale? We’ve had a perfect day of cooking, napping and warming up milk to stay cozy. Life is simply beautiful and you make it so.
Good night, sleepy head.
You are one day away from turning 13 months.
Mom is 44.
You took the first bad fall that drew blood this week. You were a champ. Mom was not.
Almost six months ago, Aunt Ariel plopped onto her couch and blurted out, "Life is so hard and they don't teach you how to do life in school!" I laughed then, but she continued, "If I didn't have you, where would I have gotten advice to go through all this [life transitions]?"
This got me thinking that one day, you may be 29 and sitting on someone's couch having an existential crisis or seeking answers to "doing life" right, and consulting your own mother is probably the last thing you'd be thinking about because life is so by design. Maybe you would think the old lady (I'd be 72 when you are 29!) is so far removed from your current crisis that she wouldn't understand, or you would worry that mom would worry or be disappointed.
Or worse, mom's not physically around any more because that is also a real possibility in life.
Aunt Ariel's words rang in my head for days, and these thoughts led me to think that maybe if I wrote letters to you now, as someone who's doing life the best she can without all the answers (surprise!), maybe 29-year-old you or 44-year-old you would connect better, or at least would know you are not alone (by the way, babe, you are never alone, even in your loneliest, darkest times; always remember that and reach into the light) whether mom's physically, mentally or spiritually around.
As someone who completely cut off ties with one of her parents over 20 plus years ago (we will speak about your grandfather, I promise), it also is not lost on me that I can't take for granted we'd never be on bad terms once we phase out of innocence and bliss of your childhood and you'd have to enter the forest alone to start your soul's journey.
You've come to me in the most unexpected, miraculous way and I spend zero time doubting you've chosen me to be your mother as a part of your purpose here. But I hope that it's to provide you love and support rather than life lessons like how I feel about my mother's role in my life.
Oy, this is going to be harder than I thought! No wonder it took six months for me to start.
Well, in any light, I have a feeling that you would never doubt anything your Aunt Seo says, no matter how "old" she would get unlike mom. That's a good thing because she is magical as she is wise. And she would always love you without any shred of darkness - be it doubt or guilt, as parenting on best days is still riddled with both. She has been waiting for you in ways when I didn't know to wait for you and she will be there for you in ways that no one else can. Always look to her for advice if mom can't help.
Topics for us to discuss... I've been thinking about this a lot in the last six months:
girls, boys, or they!
anger & resentment
knowing your purpose
success / failure
consequences / making decisions
envy / jealousy
discrimination / injustice
death / loss
joy of eating and cooking
when you are broke
when everything just sucks
What else? We'll keep adding as things come up!
So this is letter No. 1. See? Hardest part is taking the first step; rest is whatever. It will go where it's meant to. Don't overthink it.
Deep breath in, Deep breath out,