dear katie

Dear Katie,

There’s so much I want to say to you. I can see you rolling your eyes at me – “Mama,” you’ll say, “you see me every day!” And yes, I do. But someday, if you have a child of your own, you’ll get this. This sense of urgency, of time slipping away like sand through your fingers – of fear that you haven’t said enough, done enough, showed her enough just how much you love this incredible little human before you – the one from whom a young adult is far, far too quickly emerging.

So, yes, I see you every day. But I don’t just see you, baby. I SEE you. And sometimes I’m not sure that you know that.

I need you to know that I don’t just see a messy room (but seriously, child, is it THAT hard to get the clothes from your body to the hamper?) or Ollie’s cage in need of cleaning or his nearly empty water bottle in need of filling (yes, I ride you about it, but you see, you took on the responsibility of caring for another living thing and I wouldn’t be doing my job as a mom if I cleaned the cage and filled the bottle, because, well, that’s not much of a life lesson, now is it?) or the homework that needs to be done or the shoes that need to be moved out of the hallway or, hurry, honey, we really need to get moving, or put the phone away, please, we do not text at the table, or, or, or …

See, I know that’s how it feels sometimes, baby. That Mama’s on your case from morning til night. That nothing’s ever good enough, or done enough, or just ever enough. I get it. I feel it too.

You see, it’s a hard line to walk, baby. For all of us. I don’t want to let you down by not expecting enough and I don’t want to expect so much that it weighs you down. So I try. And I keep pushing because I know what you have in you. I see it. So does everyone else around you. And it’s world-changing, this thing you have. YOU are world-changing. Heaven knows you’ve changed mine. So I can’t be your mama and not push you to see it too.

We laugh about the day you were born, don’t we? How you laid in my arms, quiet as a church mouse, those wide eyes staring straight into mine, your little mouth opening and closing, opening and closing into a perfect little O again and again. How I had no idea until years later when I heard Daddy telling the story – YEARS, baby – that you had been screaming bloody murder while we were apart. How they simply couldn’t console you and Daddy feared bringing you into me like that. But I never saw it, did I? Because when you got back to me, all was right in the world.

And now I see before us both a time when you’ll be coming back to Mama less and less. And despite the fact that it’s precisely as it should be, it’s no less heart-wrenching. No less terrifying. But that’s as it should be too.

But with the clock ticking loudly above my head, there are things that I want to make sure that you know. Things that I say about you but not always to you. Things that are important to hear from your mama.

I love you.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

I love you viscerally, because loving you is what I was built to do. I was born to be your mama.

I would want to be your friend even if you were not my child.

The thought of you not being my child is unthinkable.

I hope to be more like you when I grow up.

I would slay dragons for you.

With one hand tied behind my back.

I miss you. Every. Single. Day.

I am proud of you. Proud, proud, proud of you.

I want to scream from the rooftops, “That’s my kid!”

You are brilliant. You are brilliant in ways that make me scared for you – because I know that you see things that others don’t. I know that your intellect and intuition, your insight and compassion spare you not a whit of humanity in all of its gory beauty. It’s a lot to take in. It hurts to see the world unfiltered. But I know that you will do great things with what you see.

You are talented. Your talent is real and it’s BIG – bigger than a middle school stage, bigger than an auditorium, bigger than any song you sit down to play, or sing, or sing and play. I am blown away by your musical ear. When you mash up songs in your head, when you hear the similar melodies in the patterns of the sounds and tell me that it’s clear as day, I am in awe. I am amazed by the depth of emotion you weave through every song you sing. It’s that entire spectrum of humanity again – it’s there in everything you do. I marvel when you pick up an instrument you’ve never touched before and shrug off my amazement when you cajole it into playing a song.

You think that just is. That people just do. For you, perhaps, but that’s something baby. Something big.

Trust in your talent, my love. Foster it, care for it, let it grow as it will. Don’t ever, ever be afraid of it. It’s yours. Own it. Command it. Be proud of it.

I love how you believe in God but question religious doctrine. How you recently told me that while you don’t necessarily believe that Jesus was the Son of God, you think it’s still appropriate to call him that because clearly he had an extraordinary relationship with God. And so too, he could still be called the Son of Man because, well, his presence on Earth brought so many people closer to God. I love that you find your own way to the Divine, and to yourself. Never stop questioning, baby. It will serve you well.

I love, love, love how you devour books. How you read them again and again and again, getting more out of them each and every time. I love how you crawl inside them, live within them, bring their characters to life inside your beautiful mind.

I am so, so grateful for the fierce love and far-beyond-your-years patience that you show your sister. I know it never feels like it’s enough. I know we ask a lot. Too much sometimes. This, too, is a hard line to walk, my love. We try.

I am grateful for the way that you love people. For the way that you want to dig past the surface and KNOW their hearts – what they like, what they don’t, what matters to them, what really, truly means the most. It will hurt like hell when someone breaks your heart, but it will be worth it. You love like your Mama; I know.

I love that you don’t want to grow up too fast. That you’re not trying to be something you’re not just because everyone around you feels as though they have to be something they’re not. I love that you draw your own lines, fitting in when you need to, not caring if you stand out when you don’t.

I love that you treasure beauty and find it in the most unexpected places.

I love that you can’t pass by someone in need without digging into your own pocket (or, if it’s empty, mine) to help.

I love that you have a favorite Beatle.

I love that you notice the kid in the corner. That you talk to him. That you get to know him. That no one passes below your radar.

I love your fierce loyalty and your absolute sense of right and wrong. There’s lots of grey in the world, my sweet, but it’s okay, there will be plenty of time for grey later.

I love that you speak up. That you tell me when you think I’m wrong. That you explain why.

I love that we trust each other enough to tease. To laugh at ourselves and each other together.

I love that you treasure connection, but love your time alone. I love that you ask for it when you need it.

And this — in the middle of all of this, I need to say this. I want — no, I need — you to know how important it is that you never, ever sacrifice your right to feel safe. Remember when that boy kicked you in the stomach last year on the playground, and because you knew he had special needs your only worry was that he’d get in trouble? Or how you didn’t want to tell me about the young man who gets a little too clingy because, well, “he has some stuff going on and he can’t really help it”? Your body is yours, Katie. That’s important. You should never, ever, ever feel that you have anything less than full control. Trust the adults in your life to help until you are ready to find your own way. But please don’t ever let your sensitivity to other people’s need for accommodation trump your right to feel safe. I will say this again over time. It’s important.

I love the way you tell stories. How your eyes dance when you crack yourself up.

I love how you’ve perfected your mama’s smirk.

I love that you’ve got your mama’s love of words and your daddy’s love of music.

I love that you hate Justin Bieber.

I love how your nose scrunches up when you’re about to say something wise.

I love that you can’t ever stop singing, even though it drives me nuts.

I love how when we walk by the candy store, you tell me that it’s ‘illegal to bring a kid near a candy store and not buy them anything!’

I love that you text me after school, even when it’s to tell me that you hate school and never want to go back.

I love that you still want to have dinner with me on a rainy Wednesday night.

And I love that I get to say yes.


I love you so much, sweet girl.



22 thoughts on “dear katie

  1. Katie is so you, Jess. As I read this, I saw so many comparisons and yet, like you, she is her own person and you want and allow herself to be just that. There is so much more I want to say here but is suffices to say:

    I love you so much, sweet girl of mine!


  2. Absolutely beautiful. An amazing tribute to a a special kid. You have a wonderful family. And seriously Jess… you had me tearing up reading the teaser ion FB before I even got to the full post! Though probably being the mom to an 11 year old girl, and feeling that clock ticking over my head too, made this hit particularly close to home. ❤

  3. Stupid of me to not *assume* I should have a tissue handy. GAH! *sniffle*
    “I love you viscerally, because loving you is what I was built to do. I was born to be your mama” AMEN, a thousand times amen.

  4. This amazing young woman you have is the product of amazing parents. She isn’t “going” to change the world – she has ALREADY changed the world. The world she changes is only going to get bigger, and larger. And when the time comes, she has my vote. Katie, I know I am just a stranger’s mother, but thank you for being a remarkable young woman and role model.

  5. My daughter will be 20 in a week…. the time DOES go by so quickly. Katie is an amazing young lady, with an equally amazing mom, and we are all so lucky you let us in to see a piece of that….

  6. First there was Grandma, then mom, then Jess, then Katie… All different shades of amazing. Gifted. Gifts to the world. Thank you for a line of inspiring ladies…

  7. you just fill those girls up with love, it’s a wonderful thing to see. they’re going to take all that love and run with it, tackle this world with those big hearts of theirs. i don’t know if love is hereditary, but it is definitely contagious. those sweet girls of yours are living proof.

    • Gail, my mother could never write that. Her area is science, not writing, and every time she so much as has to write an essay or an important email I always review it for her and help her with it. And yet, when I read Jess’s words I already knew that my mom felt the exact same way about me. You don’t have to be a great writer to tell your child how loved they are. 🙂 -Creigh

  8. Wow, I love that you see your girl! I learned through this that Katie and I are extremely similar (though I am a bit older). However, growing up, I had a mom who didn’t see me and reading this was somehow healing for me, to know that someone else like me is being known and loved. Please keep seeing her (both of your girls!), even if she becomes difficult or frustrating or disobedient, because that’s when she needs to be seen the most.

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