You were my only water baby.
All we had known was how your brother screeched when we lowered him into the tub as a slippery infant but you sunk down in right away, let the water cover your shoulders. From the first bath at the hospital to the tiny blue plastic tub we set up on the kitchen sink, you were always our little fish.
You didn’t cry when the water from the little plastic cup would spill across your forehead or trickle into your eyes. You’d grab giant fistfuls of water and try to bring them to your mouth, frustrated that it spilled through your chubby fingers before they made it. You’d pound balled up fists into the bubbles and squeal when they’d catch the wind and float around you.
Your little legs would pump with delight when you saw the water being drawn and I knew you were your father’s daughter.
I met him where waves rush and we breathed salted air and open skies. I see all the things I love about him in you. And now when we visit the ocean, or lakes so cold they make others wince in pain, I know you’re going to plunge right in.
You’ve always been this way. Our little fish. Our water lover, coming out with fingertips wrinkled and aged, like you spent a lifetime in the waves.
And I remember how different you felt when you floated in my belly. You swished just like a fish. All smooth movements, limbs gliding along my insides. Your brothers were all fists and knees and solid jabs that left me wondering if they would be drummers, or boxers or if my insides were going to make it through the pregnancy with the beating they were getting. But you were like a little fish right from the beginning. Gentle and fluid, like an embrace.
And you’ve always been that gift to us. Gentleness. Adventure. Joy. Grace.
You bring a gentleness to my mothering. I was sharper before you.
I am sea glass, sharp edges worn smooth by the lapping of your soul into my life day after day, translucent and beautiful. I count myself blessed when you tell me so.
You see your mama in ways I never could imagine as a girl. When you say you want to be like me when you grow up, I realize mothering redeemed so many of my broken parts. You light up when you see me in red lipstick, tell me how fancy I look, pick out my earrings or sit cuddled next to me when I read aloud and you’re transfixed by story too.
You ask me to tell you yours over and over. You love hearing about your birth or the time you dressed up for Halloween as a flower fairy with sparkly hair and glittery makeup only to don a Halo battle helmet and carry around a weapon at the last-minute. Doesn’t this say it all? Glimmering fairy wings and blue eyeshadow under a thick black plastic visor and semi automatic taser gun. When your tiny 4-year-old voice said trick or treat, I wonder what they made of you. I beamed because you never once thought to care.
You are your own person, your own brave soul. Your story is beautiful. You leap into life with your whole heart. You make me live fuller.
You made me a mama to a girl and I have never recovered from the blessing. I don’t imagine I ever will. From the first strokes of glittery polish on fingernails as tiny as baby petals to the times you’ve skinned knees and made forts and showed up to battle bad guys in your ninja costume or princess gown, you’ve stolen my heart. You are both fierce and gentle, something I’ve learned from watching how you care for those around you. I’ve never seen those two done so well in one little person. The mix of flash and will and grace and gentleness.
So it’s fitting that we call you that now. Our little fish, tossing yourself into the water, hair soaked and glinting like scales. You always had that way about you. You are my only water baby.
To my most favorite girl in the whole world on your 9th birthday. A story of you. You are loved with an almost absurd measure. I couldn’t fathom how my heart would stretch wide in mothering you but I know it grows each year. I love the girl you’ve been and the woman you’re becoming.
With all my heart,