The Rockwood Files: Letter to my daughter

Dear Kate,

I  know it seems strange to be writing you a letter now, seeing as how you’re only 1 ½ years old and can barely put two words together. But one day, about 14 years from now, I’ll dig this dusty letter out of a box and show it to you so you’ll understand what it was like to be your mother when you were only 25 pounds and 31 inches tall.

There’s an old rhyme that says boys are made of “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails,” while girls are “sugar and spice and everything nice.” But I think perhaps a few jalapenos got thrown into the mix when God dreamed you up. You’re surprising, intense and sometimes, at the end of a challenging day, you send me racing toward a cold Dr. Pepper to wash down the day.

Today is a good example. I was working diligently on my computer while you played quietly on the floor behind me, turning the pages of picture books and reading to yourself in a jabber language only you understand. It was a nice moment that lasted exactly one moment. In the next moment, I glanced behind me and you were gone.

I went from room to room calling your name but there was no answer, which scared me because an absent, quiet toddler is a toddler who has definitely found trouble. Sure enough, I rounded the corner into my bathroom and there you were – standing in front of the toilet holding a half-empty box of Q-tips. You looked up at me and smiled widely, incredibly proud of how you’d just deposited roughly 150 Q-tips into the potty.

I told you firmly that it was a “no-no,” which I doubt you’ll remember. But I’ll certainly remember how I had to find a rubber glove and spend several minutes fishing soggy Q-tips out of the potty. It was a fun morning.

I tell myself this is just a phase – your fascination with the bathroom. About a month ago, your grandma caught you climbing into the potty to use it as a wading pool. Dad caught you sitting in the sink one time, spraying water from floor to ceiling. So this morning’s Q-tip debacle convinced me to put child-safety locks on all the bathroom doors. The rest of the day, your big brothers danced wildly outside the door yelling, “Mom, I gotta go. I gotta go! And I can’t open the door! HURRY!”

But I don’t mind because I’m sure that sprinting up the stairs to open a bathroom door for a panicky 4-year-old is really good cardiovascular exercise for me. Let’s face it, I need to be in top physical condition to keep up with you when you’re climbing into the dishwasher or repelling down the back of the sofa or running down the driveway to get a closer look at the FedEx truck.

The truth is, Kate, you scare the life out of me nearly every single day. You’d eat a toxic level of Aquafresh toothpaste if I didn’t lock it in a high cabinet. You have no reasonable fear of gravity whatsoever. And what you lack in cautious judgment you more than make up for in reckless speed – a very troubling combination in a toddler.

I tell you all this because one day you’ll be a teenager, and teenagers are famous for pushing the envelope. But sweetie, you’ve already done your share of pushing the envelope. If you pushed it any more it would be in an entirely different zip code. Therefore I’ve decided that you’re not allowed do any scary envelope pushing in your teen years. I’ve already paid my dues, you see, and there’s only so much a mother’s fragile nerves can take.

Having said that, I will tell you that I found a quote from Mark Twain the other day that reminds me of you. He said, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” And I’m sure she did, just as I’m sure of how much I love you, despite the small heart attack you give me on a regular basis. Somehow, you balance things out just enough to keep me chugging along. At lunch time today, you pointed to the carton of chocolate milk and said “Peeze?” When I handed you a cup, you said “T’ank eww,” which gives me hope that perhaps even little girls made of jalapenos can be civilized.

Sometimes, when I wake you from your nap, your little pink rosebud mouth turns up into the sweetest smile and your eyes flash with excitement for whatever new adventure you’ve dreamed up next. Your small arms wrap around my neck, and I melt into a pool of maternal love that’s far deeper than any trouble you can get into. Funny how that works.

Enjoy your teen years, Katie-bug, and try very hard not to make your mother crazy. She’s already dangerously close.