“Dear Baby Girl,”: Letters To A Future Daughter Taught Me It’s Never Just Content
“And I hope I’m as brave as my mother…” — Jessie Ware, “Sam”
I was in the back middle seat of the 4x4. We were crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and the triangle we formed reminded me of another triangle that’d once rested against my chest. Both told stories of the need for three strong sides to hold up the whole. When one faltered, they all fell.
In this moment, the balance came from understanding that standing bare, with all the scars and hurt memories we had to span across three lifetimes, proved more empowering than keeping secrets in therapists’ offices.
As we zipped down the Interstate we left a trail of those stories behind us. They were stories of loss, grief, abusive relationships, men consumed by ego, partners who chose simplicity over intimacy, children who were growing up in shadows they hadn’t asked for, letters to daughters who were here and one who was not.
Through those moments I kept thinking of the notebook that was back home on my desk. In between the covers of the journal that rested flat no matter what page you turned to, was page after page of notes on one of the most revealing seasons of my life. In a month, I’d filled every page in it with one liners, relevant quotes from books, observations, top to bottom entries, moments of clarity and episodes of brokenness. I’d written 7 letters to my future daughter over the span of 2 weeks. Each one reminding me that anything created for consumption, whether of one or many, is never just content.
It’s power. It’s legacy. It’s a responsibility.
To commit words to paper, footage to eternity, you tell stories of the person you are right now. In each sequence, sentence, is weaved the intricacies of your truth and becoming. To discredit that every day occurrences will live for eternity etched on someone else’s skin is to disregard how powerful storytelling really is.
It’s to ignore that one day your future daughter could turn to those pieces of you just to know the sound of your voice, the stream of consciousness that spoke to your 2018-self, and wonder the difference between preaching and actually practicing.
For my baby girl, I started every letter accordingly with a “Dear baby girl,” and then I told her stories that whenever she reads them would speak to her of the woman I was in the process of becoming. I made it clear that I was nowhere near ready to meet her, but I was looking forward to the day when I did. Because with her shimmery brown eyes she’d usher me into a new stage of my life and a role I’d be proud to step into.
But for now, I’m 25 and the stage I’m in speaks to my responsibility solely to myself. The letters, they reflected that. I spoke to her of love, brokenness, how the best gift I could give her was to spend time right now dealing with the scars that trauma and hurt left behind because of the things I hope she inherits from me — my creativity, my love of words, my sense of humor, my inclination for good — my hurt is not one of them.
I held the to-go cup of hot chocolate between my hands as the radio played a love song and my friends spoke of real life in the front seat. The way the world zipped past me on either side of my windows, it reminded me that in the grand scheme of life this is a small moment. Being in love, working to stay in love, watching someone you love become unrecognizable, saying vows, breaking vows, writing letters to a daughter who I’ve yet to meet, sitting on an email that could change my zip code with the click of a button, they were all single moments built out over time. A relationship isn’t built the minute you admit you’re in it, it takes longer than every New York City construction project. It takes a life.
A life of unlearning old behaviors, of learning new ones, of bringing yourself home every night and letting yourself be seen, of choosing to stay when the desire is to run, of knowing that when someone gives you their heart, it’s yours to both rejoice in and to heal. A relationship, like a career, takes showing up and promising to be better tomorrow than you were today. It’s self-awareness wrapped in intentionality. It’s admitting you fucked up and working to fix it. Because entitlement doesn’t lead to you getting gifted forgiveness, humility and repentance do.
With each letter I wrote to my girl I spoke of ways I hope she loves herself and gives others the space to love her. Of how able she’ll be, of how I want her to know that grace — for herself and others — should be practiced most during hard seasons. The letters spoke of the hopes I have for myself, standards that I need to learn to hold myself accountable to, so that it’s not just preaching, it’s practicing.
They spoke to the woman I hope she one day becomes, the one with a backbone and a sense of right or wrong that doesn’t use someone else’s hurt as a moral compass. The one who when the world around her sinks to new lows, she learns to climb mountains, be the bigger person and know she is, and will always be, safe in her own person. The one who knows that the truths behind her stories will always be hers to own and tell as she sees fit, because as Anne Lamott wrote, “If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I wrote line after line to her, to me, as a reminder that Lamott’s call-to-action does not ask you to lose respect for yourself in the process of storytelling, but instead to harness the moment as your biggest hope to heal.
Each letter is a prayer written to a God I believe in and who knows my heart more than anything wants peace and acceptance for the things in my life I cannot change.
My friends tell me that one day I’ll be a good momma, I want to believe them. Because at 25, being the bigger person feels like such a hard job that the thought of one day being responsible for a little person, it seems above my pay grade.
The hot chocolate isn’t keeping my hands warm anymore. The skies are clear and I’ve judged my thoughts a lot about how often this baby girl has been on my mind. Someone asked me this season what my own mom would think about how I’m handling day to day life lately. I told them that she would trust me to make good decisions, to know what is best for me and to act on it. That she would be proud of me.
I have so many wishes for that little girl that I’ve envisioned on shoulders, laughing without a care in the world. Above all that I raise her to act on what’s best for her while understanding that she doesn’t exist in a vacuum, her actions impact those around her and she has a responsibility to them as much as she does to herself. Above that, that I give her the chance to be a kid with two parents who don’t have to be parented themselves.