Be Gentle with My Baby

Dear Harper,

Today you turn one.  For the past two years or so, I have been focused on you and your physical wellbeing with an intensity usually reserved for scientists studying space spores.  First it was the wanting a hypothetical baby, a platonic little fetus.  Then it was being pregnant, and doing everything I could to help build you a fine, strong body.  Yoga, prenatal vitamins, organic milk, loads of spinach when all I wanted was spoonfuls of cookie dough.  I even tried to think positive thoughts in the hopes that some of this happiness would work its way into the cells of your growing self -– this, while riding the stinking subway to work during rush hour!  

In other words, your father and I have invested a lot of time and energy into your body.  We've shaded you from the sun and prevented you from doing things you really want to do like caressing the radiator and flossing with electrical cords.  We've fretted over fevers.  We've watched you sleep, holding our breath.  We've worked really hard to help you build this snuggly, slim, soft, sweet-smelling little body of yours, and we will continue to do so for years to come.  But at some point we're going to have to turn over the keys.  Eventually, you will start to choose what you eat, and when you sleep, and how you spend your time, and who with.  And when you do, please, Harper, baby, for the love of God, take good care of yourself.

Also,  I have to warn you about something: People are going judge you based on your physical appearance.  They already do.  They say things like, "Wow! So tall and skinny and pretty! She’s going to be a supermodel!" Or: "Look at those long legs! A future Rockette!"  I know people think they are being nice when they say these things.  In our culture, strange as it may seem, it is a compliment to tell a girl she is so attractive that nothing else about her matters.  But I dislike these kinds of statements.  I don't want to label you and I don't want to limit you, and I don't want anyone else to, either. Look, if you want to be a Rockette then fine, enjoy, I've heard that kind of dancing is murder on the knees, but whatever, as long as you're happy.  But if you don't, or if you even out as you grow and aren't always the lanky blonde you are today (and, um, I’m a five-foot tall brunette, so don't get too attached to the idea, kiddo), I still want you to know that you are beautiful.  To really know it.  You know?  You may end up being a super-model-pretty pediatrician, or the shortest-ever Rockette. Your real job is to be the best Harper you can be.  The important thing is that you love yourself, that you are who you are.  After all, you are the only you there is!  Harper! Can you grasp that?

So please, brush your teeth and eat your vegetables (and not just when they are buried in macaroni and cheese), yes, but also: Love yourself.  Be good to yourself.  Be thankful for what you have -– it's easier said than done, I know -– and above all, Harper, be gentle with my baby.  


More Letters
Be Proud of Who You Are

Take It All in Stride
Take Care of Youself

Keep Your Fighting Spirit

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