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A fresh perspective on the personal and political.

A letter to my toddler on the occasion of a normal day, to be read when you are a teenager, or maybe, a new parent July 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — mandolyn10 @ 11:27 pm

Music, Tima, is like no other thing. It can move me to tears or exaltation, soothe an aching soul or evoke memories of things I’d long forgotten. I think, on some visceral level, you get this already. In the last couple weeks, you have started singing along to music in the car or at home, or when I sing to you as you are falling to sleep. It’s half humming and half extending syllables of one of your many made-up words.

A sweet hurt welled up in me the first time I noticed it.

There will be no other “you” who could not sing from here on out. And yet, it is a piercing joy I feel when your voice rises up to meet and mingle with mine. I can imagine us in not so many months belting out songs together while we cook or clean or before bed. What fun lies ahead, and yet, something in me mourns the “you” you are shedding as you pick up yet another facet of toddlerhood.

Also, we talk now. You have enough language that you can tell me things you want and agree or disagree with things I guess that you are saying. A couple weeks ago, Grandma was visiting and we were driving somewhere. She was feeding you pieces of a sandwich, and when she was not fast enough, you said, clear as day, “I want some more.” Your first four word sentence! A couple days later, you said, “I want some boob” — a phrase you say at least ten times a day now. A week ago, you were picking flowers and you brought me one and said “Here go” as in “here you go” and when I asked for the flower you were holding, you said, “No. Dat one mine.” You know the sounds for dog, cat, cow, bird, frog, and monkey and you know the color yellow, and maybe green, red, and orange. I have lost count of how many words you can now say.

You have just started saying, “I love you.” It sounds like “I uh you,” but you and I know exactly what you are saying. Last night, on the way home from Babop’s you were holding a stuffed monster and you kept saying it, “I uh you,” “I uh you,” “I uh you.” And there that sweet hurt was again. How is it possible that this could evoke any sadness at all? I don’t know, I don’t know, but it does.

It often feels like rainbows and unicorns living with you — the stresses of the day so often fall away when we are together and when I am focused on amazing you, you who grew from my flesh, you being fabulous, unique, wonderful you. You dwell in the ever-present, not quite aware that there is a past to tarry in or a future to dream about. You pull me into your world and I am redeemed.

And then we’ll walk into the disaster that is our home, the overfull diaper pail ripening the air of the entryway, the shoes and dirty clothes littering the hallway, the compost smelling putrid and sweet in the kitchen, the dishes piled high, the living room floor littered with god knows what kinds of food scraps and toy parts and blocks and my yoga mats, laid out and receiving no asana love, and I feel defeated, wishing I were the kind of person who could clean better, more efficiently.

Also, when you get sick, things deteriorate even more. You cling to me when you are ill and I can’t do hardly anything but comfort you. Last Thursday, you began to wheeze as we were driving to daycare, so I detoured to Urgent Care, and after hours of refusing the medicine we got to help you breathe better, we ended up in the ER. I knew you would be ok, but it was still scary, scary, scary. To see your belly move so fast, to hear those little grunts and pants as your lungs were trying to get in more air; your little body working so hard and it still not working right.

By the time you read this, you will know that I start with a natural, holistic response to illness, but when I realized you couldn’t breathe well, I was like, “All the drugs, Doctor, give her whatever it takes to make her breathe again.”

We got you fixed up, and there were many tears and shots and screaming, but by midnight, you were breathing normally, and normal had never been so exactly perfect.

On Saturday, as we drove around town running errands, you were playing with a stuffed octopus the respiratory therapist at the hospital had given you. You started calling it Octopussy, of your own accord, I never said the word, I swear. You dropped Octopussy at one point and said, “Oh shit.” I laughed out loud and was grateful for your unintended levity after days of being on edge and vigilant to your inhales and exhales. I started singing, and so did you, and I wanted to drive forever and ever.

There have been two songs that have been a balm to me these past few weeks, and which you like to “sing”: “Lost in the Light” by Bahamas and “Volver a los 17” by Violetta Para covered by Ani Cordero. These are songs that you should maybe listen to right now or soon, so that maybe you can feel their power, the very same arrangements of notes and words that moved me so much in these ordinary days of raising you, of being lured into your wonderful here-and-now universe, of being your tired, lucky mama.

Here are the translated lyrics to Volver a los 17, which reads like poetry:

Returning to seventeen

After a century of living

Is like deciphering signs

without wisdom or competence,

to be all of a sudden

as fragile as a second,

to find a deep feeling

like a child in front of God,

this is what I feel

in this fertile moment.


My steps move backward

while yours keep advancing,

the arch of alliances

has penetrated my nest,

with all of its colors

it has walked through my veins

and even the hard chains

with which destiny binds us

are like fine diamond

that light up my serene soul.


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


What feelings can grasp

knowledge cannot understand,

not even the clearest move

not even the widest thought,

the moment changes everything

the condescending magician,

separates us sweetly

from rancor and violence,

only love with its science

makes us innocent.


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


Love is a whirlwind

of original purity,

even the fierce animal

whispers its sweet trill,

It stops pilgrims,

and liberates prisoners,

love with its careful attention

turns the old into a child

and only affection

can make the bad person pure and


Entangling, entangling it moves,

like the ivy on the wall,

and so it flowers, and it grows,

like tiny moss on the stone.

Oh yes oh yes


The fully open a window

by pure enchantment

love entered with its blanket

like a lukewarm morning,

the melody of its beautiful Diana

prompted the flowering of jasmine,

flying like seraphim

placed earrings in the sky

and my seventeen years

converted by a cherub.







2 Responses to “A letter to my toddler on the occasion of a normal day, to be read when you are a teenager, or maybe, a new parent”

  1. Kawami Says:

    Mandie– you are such an amazing mother…. Reading your post made me slow down this morning, bypassing my normal rush to get ready for work, and spend a few precious fun-filled moments with my daughter!! Your ability to capture the fleeting moments & times in the life of Tima is extraordinary!! Thank you honoring the wonder & bliss in watching our children grow!!

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