You’re 9 months old. You love giving slobbery open mouth kisses and big smiles showcasing your two front teeth. You like grabbing zippers and pulling necklaces and turning the lights on and off. You’ve got peek-a-boo mastered, your favorite foods are black beans and apples and you can babble dah, dah, dah all day long.
As you get older, you’re probably going to realize that I struggle with control. Meaning, I like to feel in control. And the truth is right now there a lot of things I can control about your little life. For the most part, I control what you wear and where we go. I can usually make sure that you at hormone free chicken and organic eggs and that the only beverage, besides breast milk that touches your lips, is water. But deep down, I know there is so, so little I actually control.
Maybe that’s the first myth of motherhood: Admitting that I, in fact, am not in control.
Elena, there are so many factors about your life that I can’t control.
I think by nature mamas want to keep their kiddos close, like a mother duck who tucks all her ducklings under her wings. I sometimes want to scoop you up and keep you next to me forever. Which I realize sounds silly and absurd. Because I know one day, I will have to let go. That’s probably one of hardest things moms have to do. It goes against every ounce of our being.
A lot of this may not make any sense to you, at least not yet anyway. It didn’t make sense to me until I became a mom, and it was then that I realized what your Nana, my mom, must have felt.
Let me explain.
You see I think as parents we have expectations for our kids. Expectations are a funny thing. They often they lay hidden under years of prayers and piles of unspoken hopes and dreams. And sometimes you don’t even know you have them until something happens that is different than you expected.
I know for Nana, it was a bit of surprise when I told her and your Grandpa, that I wanted to take a leave of absence from work and come to Guatemala for a year. We sat around the oval table on Christmas Day when I announced my decision. They were supportive, but it was probably a little different than they were expecting.
Then half a year later when I told them I was falling in love with your Daddy, they listened, asked questions and welcomed him into our home and family. But I know it was different than they were expecting.
And then your Daddy and I got married, and your Nana and Papa were so happy for us. But I was making my home in a country and culture and language so different from theirs.
I know it was different than they expected.
Then one evening over a sushi dinner a little more than a year ago, your daddy and I told them that I was pregnant with you. They were going to become grandparents! And they were so excited, but I could sense there was also a twinge of sadness. They were going to become grandparents, but their first grand-baby was going to live far away.
Your Nana, is really wise women and she was sharing this story one weekend at church. She preached a message about how sometimes as parents we have these expectations for our kids. She shared how she realized that she had certain expectations as a mom. She naturally assumed that one day she would be a grandma. She imagined herself coming over to take you to the park and stopping by for birthdays parties and dinners together. In her expectations she imagined us maybe being a drive away, but at least a drive in the same state. I am pretty sure she never imagined me, her daughter, living in another country, another language and culture, and raising her grandchild here.
It’s different than she expected.
And you know what?
I know how your Daddy and I are choosing to live is also very different for your Mama Hilla (ee-ya). We may live in the same country, but I know for them it feels like we’re far away. Traditionally in your daddy’s town the youngest son would living with his parents and when he gets married he would bring his wife to live with them, too. You see, I’m pretty sure your abuela imagined playing with her grandkids and preparing lunch over the open fire with her son’s wife. She has never directly told me that, but your daddy has explained it to me. She probably had an expectation, and how we’re doing life is different than she expected. Sure, we go over to visit and stay and eat lunch, but when the rest of the family lives within walking distance, the fact that we get in our car to drive away only magnifies the miles.
Your grandparents on both sides love you dearly, but I know sometimes it’s hard.
The way that were doing life, where we have chosen to live and how we are choosing to raise you may look different than they expected. But maybe what I appreciate most is that they could have tried to control and manipulate us, but instead they chose to let go and trust us.
There is a lot of love involved when you really trust someone. And I think they were both able to do this because they can trust in a God who is bigger than language and culture and location.
Elena, when I hold you at night and your sweaty head rests in my arms and your little legs curl up on my lap, my heart just stops. I know you’re going to grow up. And I realize as your mom, I probably have a whole host of expectations for you. I have hopes and dreams and ideas about what school you’ll go to and who your friends will be. I probably have expectations about where you’ll live or where you’ll go to college or what career you will pursue. And then sometimes I imagine one day you’ll want to get married and you’ll become a wife and mom and I’ll become a grandmother…and then I realize I ned to stop.
These are all my expectations. I need to let go.
Sometimes I imagine what my mom must have felt like. I try to imagine how will I respond if one day you grow up and meet someone, let’s just say, from Korea or Turkey, or some foreign place where I have never been and don’t know the language. How will I support you? How will I respond if one day you fall in love and become a wife and mom far away from me? What if you life turns out different than I expect?
I swallow hard. And my heart hurts just a little.
But I try to remember that I will choose trust, over control.
And ultimately I trust a God who loves you so much more than I do.
I think part of trusting involves letting go. And I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest thing I will have to do one day.
So, sweet girl. I am sure one day I will learn how to let you go. But for now, I pray that I get to hold you tight for awhile longer.
I love you, mija!
All my love,
P.S. I may need to re-read this letter to myself in about 18 years.