September 18, 2020

An Open Letter to my Son during the Pandemic.

Even before you were born, I knew I would love you more than anything I had ever known.

I whispered adoringly to you as you grew, massaging my expanding belly with tenderness, waiting breathlessly for the day we would meet.

When you were just the tiniest little baby, I looked into your unending brown eyes and I promised you I would do whatever it took to ensure your happiness and keep you safe; every decision since has stemmed from that all-consuming wish.

When the pandemic hit and I realized I would, to some extent, still be able to provide and put food on the table, I was overcome with gratitude to be able to shelter you from the devastation that so many others faced. My heart broke for mothers unable to keep their babies safe, forced out of their homes, and without access to food.

You and I spoke often of our relative good fortune and our appreciation for our blessings (even at the ripe, old age of seven, you struck me as a wise soul), and we shared with others where we could. We donated small amounts to local charities supporting the homeless in our communities. You put together a pouch of change and granola bars to have on hand should you come upon someone in need. My heart swells for your innate empathy and kindness.

When schools closed, we set up my desk for you, and I moved my office to the kitchen table. We settled into a routine of your work and mine—a juggling act that you approached with willing determination daily. I watched your excitement as you honed your skills and expanded your knowledge. Your sudden appetite for a hearty lunch after years of uneaten sandwiches coming home at the end of the day satisfied us both. Your tales of lunchroom distractions and playground bullies saddened me, but we were both able to revel in the temporary reprieve from facing your foes.

Our mornings were civilized, frothy, locally ground coffee for me, fresh home-baked treats or cereal for you, enjoyed on our tiny, plant-filled balcony. I taught you to serve yourself so that your independence could grow and I could enjoy some moments of my own. Coming together, we discussed our outline for the day—your needs and mine, my expectations, your requests, and we set off to our respective work stations to begin.

I watched as you devoured books, enjoyed your art, and—finally, it seemed—had the time to delve into your imagination and simply play. Your childhood became, at times, mine revisited. I took to experimenting in the kitchen, recalling the memory of fresh-baked snacks that my mum made for my sister and me, recreating (and veganizing) them for you. Sometimes we baked together; other times, your self-prescribed role was to lick the spoon and bowl as you filled the room with flowing conversation. I, in turn, filled that bowl with intention, with love, and with the desire to nourish you. Do you know how much it satisfies me to watch you as you eat, chocolate crumbs falling as you enthusiastically declare your approval?

Our daily walks fueled us both—me probably more than you know. That time with you, in nature, saved my soul from crumbling under the weight of the unknown as you chattered and discovered and skipped through muddy sidewalks at first, and then as the weather turned and spring blossomed into summer, the grass and trees and flowers that welcomed us with full glorious blooms. All was far from right in the world, yet these simple, recognizable, magnificent moments remained.

Life as we knew it fell apart, but the seasons stood steadfast and I took comfort in mindfully experiencing that familiar consistency with you.

Homeschool transitioned seamlessly into an unforgettable and impossibly endless summer. We packed picnics and rode our bikes, laying out blankets on the warm ground to lose ourselves in books or simply study the clouds in the sky (we spied hippos and dinosaurs and all sorts of creatures floating overhead while the wind rustled with a soft summer breeze through the layers of branches and variegated leaves). I felt the warmth on my skin and in my heart as I gazed over at you, sun soaked, turning pages, completely content. We packed snacks and ate juicy watermelon, ripe blueberries, homemade banana bread. We noticed bees and birds and ants and dandelions turning white—Grandpa dandelions you named them. You fed baby ducks wild blueberries out of your hand, and we hatched Monarch butterflies from their eggs.

You chattered on about all of the characters in all of the books you were reading and even when I couldn’t quite follow along, I enjoyed your enthusiasm. I quietly savoured these moments in time.

As the final days of our suddenly fleeting summer approached, I felt a longing for those comforting moments. The first day of school is today and as the pandemic continues to creep below the surface of our happiness, I am reminded of that promise I made to you—my declaration to keep you safe and happy—and I am, at times, torn to shreds with the knowledge and recognition that through this global uncertainty, even my motherly superpowers have their limits.

Tucking you in at night, I assure you confidently that there are no monsters under the bed, and in my head I do my best to shush my own earthly worries. In those heavy moments, when the flooding voice of fear starts to stifle the sound of my heart beating, I find the warmth of yours as I lay my hand protectively over your chest whilst you sleep. I am reminded once again of that indelible love that grew even before you did. With your sweet breath, I am anchored, and I find my pace again.

Our world is uncertain, unfamiliar, ever-changing, but my love for you remains as constant as the seasons, the wind rustling through the trees, and the warmth of the sun on our skin on the most perfect summer day. I am once again grounded in my motherhood. I cannot claim to know all the answers, but I can promise you I will do whatever is within my power to keep you safe my little one, day after everlasting day.

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