An Open Letter To My Girls

June 3, 2020

To My Sweet Daughters,

2020 is nowhere near the year we had planned for you.  Coming off a crazy, busy 2019, I vowed to make 2020 more family-centered.  To be more intentional with carving out time together. Spring is always such a fun time for us, as both of you big girls have birthdays.  Laila, you kicked us off with your birthday squarely in the middle of April with 8 candles on your cake. I know you were sad to miss splashing around at Great Wolf Lodge as you had requested this year, I am too.  I wanted to see you conquer the waterslides and hear your squeals of joy.  I know celebrating around our kitchen table was not what you imagined.  I am proud of you for openly talking about your disappointment.  For being articulate in your feelings and pivoting to focus on the positive.  For the excitement over your requested birthday dinner of orange chicken from Panda Express.  I also love how you invited your sisters to build your brand new legos with you.  It was a sweet moment to see all your heads together, giggles, and whispers abounding as your skilled fingers fit the tiny bricks onto one another and Jasmine’s Palace came to life.  I love that you wanted them to be a part of the magic.

Mid-May brought Hailey’s milestone birthday.  It’s still unreal to me that you have completed a decade already.  That 10 years ago my journey into motherhood began.  It doesn’t seem possible.  I didn’t want you to see my tears that morning as my thoughts wandered to how quickly these 10 years have passed and what the next 10 years will bring.  I pray that we will find ways to communicate and remain close even through your teenage years.  I hear it can be done.

Hailey, since you were a baby your positivity has been contagious.   You seek joy in the moment and always want to include us in it.  I know you had extensively researched a trip to Catalina and how disappointed you were when we had to cancel it.  How you planned where we would eat and even Googled the best spot to snorkel.  And yet, you were still so excited about your special day.  I love that we made the tie-dye cake you found on Pinterest after carefully sifting through several options.  And that we tried burgers from a new place across town. (They were delicious and we need to add them to our list of favorites!)  You always find a way to see the good, something I find myself struggling with these days.  I’m grateful that you remind me, just by being you, to focus on the good right in front of me. 

Since Hailey first trotted out onto the field in her t-ball uniform five years ago, spring has also brought softball.  We were all getting excited about the upcoming season.  Daddy was coaching and everyone was looking forward to spring days spent at the field eating hotdogs, hamburgers, and other ballpark food from the concession stand while cheering for you girls.  Practices had just started up and the funky socks had arrived a week or so before.  After only a couple of games in, it is hard to believe how quickly that was taken away.

It hurts my heart that you girls haven’t been able to go to school or play with your friends in over two months.  I know you miss them and your teachers.  Zoom just isn’t the same.  I hate that Paisley is missing her first year of preschool and was just starting to get a taste and form a love for school. She misses her Sunflower class, her sweet teachers, and all the art projects, not to mention the precious friendships she was starting to make and the ability to run holding hands with her friends through the playground.  

I miss hearing the stories at the end of the day when I would pick everyone up from school.  The latest explosion in Dr. Wilson’s science class, the new book Mrs. Kring was reading, the victory smiles of winning the latest round of kickball.  I know you girls miss it too.  Little comments to big tearful moments.  Asking the questions we are all asking, when will life be normal again? 

From learning in class to our kitchen table, from playdates to Facetime, from sports to neighborhood walks and bike rides, life looks different.  It’s been over two months since you stepped onto campus, or any public place for that matter.  Running to the grocery store with all of you is a distant memory.  One I used to psyche myself up for and now ache for the normalcy.  Or even the practicality. Funny how negotiating over cereal doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.  

I remember a strange panic starting to settle in when I went shopping in mid-March.  The shelves where paper products once abounded were empty.  After three stores, I finally found a few rolls of toilet paper.  I came home thinking, “that was so weird.”  It was unfathomable even a couple weeks prior when I had very nonchalantly picked up napkins at Trader Joe’s.  

At 10, 8, and 3 years you are all experiencing this differently.   The stresses, uncertainty, and sadness wax and wane.  Practically speaking, I’m amazed at how you all have adapted to technology.  How you have learned to share-screen, turn in assignments online, and navigate the internet like a pro.  Up until two months ago, we had one computer.  Now you’re all plugged in.  

I’ve watched you all learn to be flexible and manage this new world, even the frustrations of online learning.  Spending hours recording a video only to have it deleted before you could save it, missing part of a lesson because the unreliable internet went out again and having to play catch up, or having the wrong Zoom ID.  I can’t imagine having to manage all of that in the 4th and 2nd grades.  At 37 there are still days I want to throw the computer out the window.  Maybe this will somehow fast forward your computer skills, an unexpected by-product of all of this.  And yet I’m grateful you can go to school online.  I know so many children are not able to right now.  They don’t have the technology or resources.  The loss is profound. Complaining over internet issues is trivial, we are lucky.  My heart breaks for so many children who are silently suffering in a multitude of ways right now.  It just isn’t right.

I do love watching you girls play.  The afternoon giggles.  The games you are making up.  I’m grateful you all have each other.  I think perhaps your relationships are strengthening right now, building future bonds.  The time together has been good.  

Someday we will have to tell Paisley what life was like before the pandemic.  A life of packed movie theaters, trips to Knotts Berry Farm, and not thinking twice about heading to the playground with a little runny nose.  At three, a new normal will most likely be her normal.  It seems almost unbelievable.  

Daddy’s gym closed in mid-March which brought his commute to our garage.  He used to work late into the evenings every night and now it is considerably less.  I know you girls love seeing him more as he pops in to check on you and dinners together around our table have been more frequent.  I see that as a blessing.  I’m grateful I can work from home and although I’m learning to be flexible and embrace the interruptions, I’m glad I can share the dining room workspace with you.  

As summer is approaching, I am praying for a glimpse of normalcy to return.  For pool days at Daddy’s gym, beach days as a family and picnics in the park.  To see our friends, even if from a distance.  The disappointment of no summer camps or far off travel (this was going to be our first time taking you three out of the country), to be reconciled with road trips to see Uncle Dan and your grandparents.  I know they miss you.  Hopefully, by then we will have answers on how to visit Pop as he is still on his chemo journey, fighting cancer.  I hope those visits come sooner than later.

As a mom, I wish I could shelter you.  Keep you safe and yet somehow go back in time to when our biggest concern was getting ready for school fast enough so you wouldn’t be late.  Don’t forget your shoes, we are leaving in five minutes.  It seems like a lifetime ago.  

I know you’re scared and that is also hard for me to watch.  Sometimes the questions form and other times I know you’re holding them in, not wanting to bring it up.  We are trying our best to explain an impossible situation.  At 8 and 10, I know you girls see more than our resident 3-year-old.  You grasp pieces of it, hear bits of news, and talk about it in class.  You have told me how weird you think the masks are, how they don’t fit and it’s hard to breathe.  You have asked questions and we have explained that it is how we can stay safe and keep others safe.  How some people are at higher risk, like Grandpa who is fighting cancer.  We do this to keep people like him safe.  How scared you are of getting sick or someone we love getting sick.  You have asked why we can only drive by for birthday parties instead of playing with friends.  And when you ask when it will be over, I wish I had an answer.

My hope is that someday this will be a distant memory.  A moment in time that we remember and reminisce about.  That life as we knew it returns.  That your masks will be put in a memento box or shoved in a closet because we simply won’t need them anymore.  I don’t know what the future will bring and I have to do my best to be ok with that.  I want to show you that we will be ok.

I’m finding my comfort right now in knowing we are not alone.  That our family, friends, neighbors, and greater world community are facing this together.  We are all in the eye of the same storm, although experiencing it in profoundly different ways.  My heart breaks watching the news and seeing the mile-long car lines for people simply trying to get food to feed their families, a scene that plays out over and over in many communities across our country.  We are lucky to have food on our table, so many are not.  We must share the blessings we have been given.  Cooking with you girls and explaining why we are sharing it is a start, I so badly want to do more.

An addition…

When I first started writing this letter, it was before May 25th.  Before our country felt the ache and anger of over the loss of Mr. George Flloyd.  A tipping point after so many other black lives have been taken so brutally.  The pandemic was all-consuming and now it feels pushed to the background.  It should be unfathomable to be experiencing such a catastrophic nightmare in 2020, and yet it is not.  I am at a loss for words.  I hate that our world still experiences racism and police brutality. America is supposed to be better than that.  I am half white and half Indian.  My father is darker in skin color and my mom is very fair.  Over the years I can recall on one hand subtle remarks or looks towards my father and family in reference to our different skin colors.  I remember hearing stories of my father sharing about the racism he faced in his early years as an Indian living in Hong Kong in the late ’60s, early ’70s. 

My skin is light and I don’t know what it is like to carry daily fears that come with racism. And I recognize that I will never know.  There is so much more I want to say, but the words just aren’t coming together.  My heart is heavy with sadness.  I am listening, I want to learn more. As a mother, I feel it is my duty to educate my children.  Discrimination is wrong.  Racism is unequivocally wrong.  Each and every person regardless of their skin color is precious and God-made.  That we as a nation must rise up and speak up. We must know our racist history so it is not repeated. We must be brave enough to breathe light and hope and join our voices together to call for justice. To enact real and lasting change.

One of my favorite quotes is by Mahatma Gandhi when he courageously pointed out that each of us has the unique power and weighted responsibility to be a force of good when he uttered the words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Simply and brilliantly stated. Shining a bright light on our own lives and choices. To embrace love. To do better. One heart at a time, I believe we can.  

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