Milestones

Dear Maggie: This is T-W-O by Cara Stolen

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My Dearest Magpie,

Today you are T-W-O. It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since that early morning drive to the hospital when I clutched my belly and begged your daddy to go easy over the bumps in the road. That summer they replaced the stop sign at the west interchange with a roundabout, and as we rounded the newly paved corner raindrops pattered the dust on the windshield, reflecting the orange traffic cones like a kaleidoscope in the dark. 

The week before, I begged my doctor to schedule an induction, explaining that “this felt just like my first pregnancy, when my body didn’t know what to do on it’s own, and needed a little nudge to get going.” He looked at the bags under my eyes and watched your brother try (again) to escape out the exam room door and asked me to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. sharp on the 30th—my due date. 

But. At 2 a.m. on the 30th, I woke up to consistent contractions and the distinct feeling that your personality would be a force to be reckoned with. I was right. 

At two, I can say without a doubt that your debut into this world was an accurate depiction of your stubborn, sassy self. You tell me “no” more than your brother ever did, and when I finally convince you to do something, you’d better believe you’re doing it your way. 

Just yesterday, we walked down the driveway to get the mail. But when it was time to walk home you decided you didn’t want to. Instead, you wanted to twirl in the middle of Schnebly Rd. as the raindrops fell on your upturned face. I walked away, came back, and walked away again. I was determined to win, but you started to scream, and I worried about a car coming by, so I ended up with you piggy-back, giggling in my ear.

Speaking of your scream, Mags, I have to admit I almost started this letter with “at two, you scream a lot,” but it seemed inappropriate for a birthday letter. However, we’re five paragraphs in now (a whole essay by some standards), and I’ve already waxed poetic about the day you were born, so I’ll talk about your screaming now. 

Maggie girl, you scream a lot. Actually, that’s the understatement of the century. You scream constantly. Loudly. Abrasively. It’s like nails on a chalkboard, only louder, longer, and more aggressive. You scream when you’re mad, you scream when you’re sad. You scream when you’re hurt, you scream when your brother’s a jurt (just kidding, I just wanted to rhyme again). Maybe it’s just that we’ve listened to your scream for so many hours of your life, but I have to tell you Mags, your Daddy and I? We’re getting pretty tired of listening to it. And I know I personally am praying awfully hard that your three-year-old letter leaves no mention of the “s” word. 

Still, despite the screaming, you are a delight sweet girl—just exactly what our family needed. You love to giggle and play outside, snuggle and wave hello. You cry (scream) when you can’t pet every horse we pass, and you’ll happily sit with anyone … as long as they’re in a saddle. You like to dance and sing, and were the life of the party at a wedding a few weeks ago. 

You wait until you’re sure you can pronounce something perfectly before you say it, and have quite the vocabulary for two. And you pick a fight with your brother every chance you get, just to drive me crazy I think. 

But you’re also getting easier. You’re making eyes at the potty, can manage a day without a nap if you have to, and can even handle a night or two sleeping in the same room with the rest of us. You can walk to the mailbox and back (when you’re in the mood), and sleep a consistent 12 hours every. single. night. 

So Maggie girl, cheers to two. Cheers to belly laughs and a face full of cupcake. Cheers to your arms around my neck and the way you holler “hol-non-tight!” when Daddy puts you on General Lee all by yourself. Cheers to your wave, and your gap-toothed smile, and your love of socks and shoes. Mostly … cheers to you. 

Love, 

Mama



Across The Hall by Cara Stolen

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My alarm wakes me from a deep, exhausted sleep. It’s 5 am. Exactly 45 minutes ago I tiptoed back across the hall from your room and snuggled back under the covers of my cold side of the bed. I fumble for my phone to turn off the jingle, nudging your dad awake as I do, forgetting that I don’t have to whisper anymore. I sit up, and flip on my lamp—for the first time in 6 months.


It feels like an act of freedom, but is accompanied by the bitter aftertaste of sadness. For fifteen long months you slept inside of me, on me, or next to me. Your dad and I have exchanged sleepy good nights, heated words of anger, and loving words of appreciation in a barely audible whisper since you were born. We have grown accustomed to tiptoeing in our own bedroom. Silenced phones, flashlights, and showers in a barely lit bathroom have become normal.


But this morning was different. You were sleeping soundly in your own room when it was time for mommy and daddy to start their day. Ironically, we still caught ourselves whispering, even though we didn’t have to. Giggling, we congratulated ourselves on surviving the last six months. They’ve been long. And short. As any parent can tell you, babies distort time. No longer does time pass in a rhythmic, orderly fashion. Instead, hours can feel like days, while months feel like weeks.


This morning was the start of a new normal. A normal that will last much, much longer than six months. In a few weeks it will be hard for us to remember what it was like to tiptoe and whisper through our morning routine. But this morning the newness was palpable.


I’ve been waiting for this day for months. Dreaming of the freedom I would have when you were finally ready to sleep in your own room. Yet, even in my excitement, this morning feels a little melancholy. See, part of my heart is sleeping across the hall now. I missed it last night. I missed you this morning.


As with most milestones, this one is bittersweet. Your first clumsy toddle of independence. Preparing your daddy and I (and you) for the day you will fly our nest and spread your wings. Though that day seems like it’s a lifetime away, I know it will be here before I’m ready.