Dear Natalie: Week 38

Dear Natalie,

Nearly 7 months ago I wrote that you had become aware that there were two people living in our house: Mom and Not Mom. I’m thrilled to report that you now recognize us as Mom and DAD!

Whatever the facial expression equivalent of an exclamation mark is, that’s the look on your face when he walks in the door each day after work. Hi, DAD! Oh my gosh, do you adore him.

And it’s wonderful to see. I certainly hope over the past nine months I’ve been able to share many amazing aspects of parenthood with you, and not many of them top your relationship with DAD!

I had always known that you two would have a special bond, and I love that you’ve grown up enough that it’s now evident. When you see him and raise your arms to be picked up, there’s a sheer joy that shines from your face. When he flips you upside down, or pretends to drop you over and over again (two of your very favorite activities at the moment), you giggle madly until you’ve expended all your energy and can only muster a half-hearted chuckle.

When you were a wee newborn you were my doppelgänger, a tiny copy of myself with barely any traces of Helmrath. But now that you’re a bit older, I see more and more of DAD! in you. It’s not so much that you have his eyes or his nose (you might, but I can’t really tell); it’s more in your mannerisms and expressions.

Like DAD!, you study things deeply, carefully, and are not hasty in your reaction to new situations. You evaluate everything very seriously and then decide on the appropriate response, whether it’s laughter, tears, or just a blank stare to indicate that you are so not funny, Mom. It takes you a few moments to decide if something is funny or not, but then once you’ve gotten the joke a conspiratorial twinkle appears in your eyes to let us know you’re in on it. If you fall over and bonk your head, you usually lie still for a few seconds while you, apparently, complete an inventory of all your limbs, and then doggedly right yourself. Only rarely do you cry.

Those traits most definitely did not come from me.

DAD! is your protector. That is his role now and for the rest of your life. Go easy on him, baby girl. You’re being raised by two people who have a very difficult time stepping back and releasing control of things, and you’ve already made it quite clear that we are not the boss of you. It’s tough to guess what you’ll be like when you’re older, but it’s obvious even now that you have a backbone of steel and a fiercely independent streak that runs a mile wide and just as deep.

I can picture you with your hand on your hip, puffing out your cheeks in exasperation as DAD! runs through the safety checklist and Rules That You Must Never Break just one last time before handing over the car keys. Swinging wildly on the monkey bars at the playground as the next rung nearly slips from your grass-stained fingers, all the while insisting that you don’t need him to spot you. Blushing furiously as he grills your date for the evening and implies, not-so-subtly, that any harm that comes to you will be returned to the perpetrator a hundredfold.

He will embarrass you and frustrate you and make decisions that, at the time, will seem grossly unfair. That much is inevitable, and I can only hope that we’re able to create an atmosphere of trust and love and respect that will allow us all to talk about these things and, with any luck, show that there is a method to the seeming madness.

Because he trusts you. He respects you. Oh my lord, does he love you. And when you’re a hip teen that probably doesn’t use words like “hip” anymore, a young lady with your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, I hope you’ll forgive him for looking at you and still seeing the little girl that you are right now, the sweet baby girl who beams like the sun when she sees DAD!

Love always,


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