Dear Zoe,
I probably won't let you read this until you are a mom yourself, because there are too many complex feelings that I can't work out. Here's the deal: I haven't really loved being a mom, until today. Before you feel upset, or like it's your fault, let me tell you this: it has nothing to do with how great you are. Everyone is always telling me how "good" you are, how wonderful your behavior is, and how you are such an easy baby.

For months now, I've been unable to pinpoint the problem. I ask Chris, "What is wrong with me? Why can't I just be a good mom?" I even told an older mother I trust that "I just wasn't made for this." I've spent days second-guessing every decision I make, guiltily feeling like I let Chris' mom take over too much, or making lame excuses when you are suddenly half-way up the stairs and I catch you (because I forgot to watch what you were up to). Often I will have a stranger at the grocery store tell me to cherish these days with you, because childhood goes by so fast.  Instead of nodding happily, I've felt panic rising up in me. Is it going by? Am I missing it? Why do I not feel like cherishing every second?

There are so many things I do wrong, you see: I feed you random bits of whatever is around (like you are a little bird baby), I let you eat jelly on your english muffin every morning when it's probably too sweet for you, I attempt to give you a second nap in the afternoon because I am exhausted from being with you, I forget to give you a bath way too often, I only brush your teeth when I feel like waging a war over your toothbrush (you seriously will have a melt-down if I take it away). There are a million other things too: I've left you in your clothes several times instead of changing you for bed-time, I even remember crying, "PLEASE BE QUIET!" on many occasions. I feel guilty about that too.

In fact, up until today, I felt pretty guilty about everything. And that made many of our interactions feel labored, forced, and kind of like I was trying too hard to be your mom. Sometimes I want to throw up my hands and say, "fine, let's just do it your way." Sometimes I lay in bed and listen to you cry while I cry too. And that's the thing. I really thought that anyone could do a better job than me. Anyone. It made me wonder if you would be happier in daycare, with other kids, instead of struggling with me all day doing everything wrong.

Until today. Not that everything has changed. We still have our "disagreements", you and I, but I finally feel like I am in charge of you, and like that's okay. I finally feel like I am your mommy. It's like I have grabbed my "name badge" off of the table and written in block letters, M-O-M-M-Y. I don't know what changed. Maybe it was playing with you for an hour and a half today in the "play-house" at the playplace I took you to. Maybe it was when I showed you how to slide down the slide, how you had to walk alllll the way around to get back to the stairs to climb up. It could have been the way you clutched my hand, like you knew I had it all figured out, even though I don't.
For the first time, I felt like YOU knew I was a good mommy. For the first time, I felt like I belonged by your side. I knew how to play with you. I knew all of the words you could say and we said "hot, hot, hot" about the fake pots and pans, and we laughed together about cooking "nom-nom".

Before we left,  I remember sitting and watching you play and feeling this never-ending amount of joy welling up inside of me. I was so proud to be your mommy. I was so happy to finally love myself and accept myself as your mom. It took so much for me to do that. I'm not sure why it has been so hard.

Even when you struggled, cried, and pretty much threw a tantrum about leaving the playplace, it didn't matter. I still knew you needed your nap and some food in your belly. I knew that you loved me, even when you screamed at me, and I knew that I was doing everything right---because I am YOUR mommy Zoe. I always will be.

I love you darling girl, my baby daughter,