Her Bad Mother

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

To WonderGirl, On Her 18th Birthday

(To be opened November 14, 2023)

My dear, dear WonderGirl,

Once upon a time, not too long ago, sweet girl, you were WonderBaby. You were my WonderBaby.

When you turned one year old, you stood 32 inches tall. Your head was big and round with tufts of yellow hair, and your eyes were big and blue and sparkling with curiosity. You held that sweet round head high, your shoulders always back, your proud chest thrust out to meet the world. You marched through life, on two steady feet, belly-forward. You were as self-assured as a much older child, and yet, you were still my baby.

You loved Mandarin oranges, and tofu, and cheese.

You taught yourself to walk (and roll and climb) at the first opportunity, and by your first birthday, you were running and clambering and exploring this big wonderful world as quickly and thoroughly as you could. You were as sure-footed as a child many times your age, but you were still my baby.

Your first recognizable words were Mama and Dada, but you very quickly added Hi, Bye, Book (buk) and Cat (ka) to your arsenal of words, which you always held in reserve until the moment that each would have its most devastating, heart-melting effect.

You loved to explore, and to learn, and by the time you turned one year old, you had figured out how to get past baby gates and how to open doors and you made it clear, with every step, that nothing would hold you back. You were always looking for new faces, new things, new landscapes, but you always kept one eye on the whereabouts of your Mommy, or your Da. You delighted at encountering both the familiar and the strange. You were fearless, but you were, always, my baby.

On your first birthday, you started the day with a squeal of delight, and spent the morning racing about the house, chasing cats and pulling books from the shelf and refusing breakfast because everything was just too interesting and there were just too many things to do and I looked at you and I thought, what a powerful, powerful little person my baby is. Such a little person. But still my baby.

I looked at you and I was astounded: my baby, turning into a little girl. My heart pounded and swelled and broke, just a little bit, as it expanded to contain the flood of love and the flood of hope and the flood of fear. You were growing, as I watched. You were becoming you, ever more you, and, so, ever less me. The time and distance from your birth, one year prior, was so great that for a moment I thought that, if I were to look back, really, I would not be able to see across that distance. At the moment of your birth, you were still part of me, flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. As I looked at you on your first birthday, I saw – and thrilled and wept for seeing – that you were so rapidly becoming you.

And now, so many years, you are you. I know this, without having yet seen it.

I don’t know you – the grown-up you, the you of your future, of my future - yet. I’m writing this on the occasion of your first birthday: there are many years still to come before I know the grown-up you, the you who will read this letter and wonder at her mother's sentimentality. I’m only just starting to know you, even though, in so many respects, I already know you better than I do any other being, and even though it will be many, many years before another human being knows you as well as I do. As remarkable as it seems to say so, I am only just now - in this, your first year - starting to know you. It is my hope, my wish, my intention that I will always strive to know you, to understand you. It is my wish, my hope - however misguided it may turn out to be, at times - that you will always let me.

I don’t know what will happen (what has happened, if we are truly looking backward, from the vantage of your 18th year) between your first and your eighteenth birthdays. I don't know, yet, the stages that you will go through. I know that there will be much joy, much laughter, many smiles. I know that there will be much love, and many hugs. I know that we will have shared all of these things, in spades, by the time you read this letter.

I know, too, that we will have shared many tears. We will have shared pain. I’m certain that there will have been misunderstandings, resentments, confusion between us. I’m certain that there will have been many, many times that you will have felt such a great distance from me – and I from you – that the fact of our closeness, the fact of the bond of flesh and blood and heart between us, will have been forgotten, lost somewhere over the horizon of the space between us, mother and daughter.

But that fact – the fact that you are my flesh, my blood, my soul, my heart - will, always, remain. For as much as you grow and live and live and grow and become you – wonderful, brilliant, beautiful you; sure-footed, self-assured, fearless you – you will always be mine, you will always be my heart.

You will always, always be my baby.

I love you.

November 14, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby. Happy Birthday.


Blogger Mary Tsao said...

Beautiful letter and the best gift future-always-wonder-baby could ever get.

Love the photos. So sweet!

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So beautiful, Catherine. Happy Birthday to WonderBaby and all the best to her wonderful Mommy!

8:42 PM  
Blogger metro mama said...

Beautiful words, beautiful babe. Wonderful mother. Happy Birthday WonderBaby.


9:25 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

You ever hear that Vinyl Cafe story, where Morley gets pregnant/gives birth to Stephanie? And the final line is Dave saying something like, "I knew in that instant [of her birth] that this little girl is going to break my heart someday". I have always thought of that in regards to my own Miss Baby, and it's a sentiment you've really captured here in your letter to WonderTeen. Happy first anniversary of this very special relationship of Mom and Daughter.

9:25 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

Just more evidence of why "Her Bad Mother" is such an ironic name for you!

9:39 PM  
Blogger urban-urchin said...

I am tearing up as I read this. So beautiful. I did this with both my kids- wrote letters to them to be opened on their 21st birthday, and had our close friends and family do the same. Although mine was a bunch of "I LOVE YOU SO MUCCCCHHHH" and not quite as well written as this one here.

Happy Birthday sweet Wonderbaby.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i don't think she'll ever be anything other than wonderbaby.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Girl con Queso said...

So sweet. And such a fantastic idea. Please know that I'm stealing this idea.

10:59 PM  
Blogger j.sterling said...

this was brilliant! and awww- and awwwwwww some more.. and you are on the radio right now! lol

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw! Happy Birthday Wonderbaby!

(PS- I am listening to you talk right now on blog radio! Isn't that spiffy!?)

11:01 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

What a beautiful letter to a beautiful girl. Happy Birthday WB.

Darn it. You made me get damp eyes.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

Beautiful. Truly. You made me get all misty. Happy Birthday, WB.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is the most beautifully photogenic little girl! Happy Birthday to your most precious baby, who I'm sure will still be wonderful at age 18.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Mayberry said...

Happy 1st, and Happy 18th, WonderBaby, from one of your many, many blog-aunts.

11:49 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Happy Birthday, Wonderbaby!

Beautiful as always.

What a lucky child.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This letter is very beautiful. I loved reading every minte of it.

Dawson would like to wish WonderBaby a very Happy First Birthday! And he says to tell her she's got the best mama ever!

12:03 AM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

Happy birthday wonderbaby and mama!

12:59 AM  
Blogger Blog said...

Oh my gosh...I'm going to cry. That is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I love the pictures, too.

1:08 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

Ah, Bad. So fine this testament.

You asked about the birthday when i reposted here. Yes that was E. first birthday. It is an odd event really -- what you say here is indicative of its celebration of separation and a little of what I tried to ask. They are really such self-satisfying people at age one it is glorious.

Happy Birthday Wonder Girl!

1:50 AM  
Blogger Lara said...

damn you're a good writer. i'm in tears here - again - with the power of your words. many wonderful wishes to you all on this momentous occasion.

1:59 AM  
Blogger joker the lurcher said...

a wonderful letter! i have been writing a letter to my son on the night before each of his birthdays. its started when i was in hospital on a drip being induced. that one is addressed to "dear baby" as i didn't know if i was going to have a boy or a girl. the others are addressed to him and tell him all about the year just gone, what he has learnt, who he has played with, how proud we are of him. i plan to give them to him when he is 18.

i started this because there were so many questions i would have asked my own mother that now will never be answered and i wanted him to have a record of how much he meant to me if anything were to happen to me. i can never read them without crying.

your letter is truly lovely - it sums up the whole thing of the unknown stretching ahead of us as parents. i reckon your little one will do something really special with her life. it will be lovely for her to read how she was at one year old.

give her and yourself a huge hug from us!

2:05 AM  
Blogger Creative-Type Dad said...

I don't even know what to say - Wow!
Great pictures and amazing writing.

2:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved the letter. wish i had written one to my dd as well when she turned one. your letter was terrible...it made me tear up and now i'm sniffing as I write this. all the people at work will think i'm going bonkers
*smiles and blows her nose loudly*

5:09 AM  
Blogger chichimama said...

Many tears. Happy birthday WonderBaby!

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What beautiful bright eyes - Hope the years bring much happiness to you both.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Laural Dawn said...

That was beautiful.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

So beautiful. Happy Happy Birthday Wonderbaby!! And Happy Birth Day to you, Mama.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. Crying at 9:30am. Damn.

That's lovely.

And the next year... - is pretty damn fabulous.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Radioactive Tori said...

Happy birthday Wonderbaby! Congratulations to you for making it through the first year. Wonderbaby is beautiful! The letter is beautiful! Now I need to go find some tissue...

10:30 AM  
Blogger karla said...

That is such a beautiful and touching letter. So so lovely.

Thank you for sharing it.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Scribbit said...

That last photo is the sweetest thing. I can just smell the new-baby smell . . . better watch it or I'll be wanting another one.

10:51 AM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

Oh Bad Mother....oh....

happy birthday little big girl. The world is your oyster.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Happy birthday, WonderBaby! And we all know that someday you'll be WonderGirl, and then WonderChick... happy birthday then, too!

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to the love that is to come, between the two of you. I hope that the happiness you feel in giving the letter to WonderGirl 17 years from now is as much as you must have felt writing it yesterday.

Congratulations on a year well done, all three of you.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I hope that you and your daughter will be as happy 17 years from now as you are today.

11:41 AM  
Blogger owlhaven said...

sweet!!! before you know it she'll be old enough to read that letter!!

Mary, mom to many, including an 18 year old

11:46 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Beautiful. How nice that you took the time to write that.

Happy Bday Wonderbaby!

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm crying. What a wonderful gift.

Happy birthday, WB!

12:17 PM  
Blogger Gabriella said...

too beautiful. She will be so proud to have such a mom like you!
Happy Birthday wonderbaby!

12:39 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I was nervous to share this letter, just a bit. Fear of too much sharing, too much cheese. But now I think that I will preserve *two* copies of this letter - one on its own, the other with all of the post-script comments and well-wishes from her blog-aunties and uncles.


12:42 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Lovely, and so exactly true.
I already get corrected, "I'm not a baby." No, but you're my baby. Always my baby.

It's inevitable and quite correct that they'll find us corny and sentimental - but knowing it's how things should be doesn't make it easier, does it? Any day now I'll be busting out that immortal line, "Just wait till you have kids, then you'll understand." Heh. No wonder we become our mothers.

Happy birthday WonderBabe! Go easy on your mom today, okay? It's a weird spot for a mom to be in.

1:20 PM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

you're not supposed to make me cry at work.

happy birthday to wondergirl, and as i said to B&P - happy BIRTH day to you.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Bobita said...

So very, very beautiful.

Happy Birthday Wonderbaby.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, what a beautiful, sentimental, special letter that you have written to your daughter. I am inspired to continue writing my letter to my girl that I started a few months back. Your daughter will cry when she reads that one day, I'm convinced!

3:41 PM  
Blogger ms blue said...

I'm sure WonderGirl on her 18th birthday will be every bit the joy that she is on her 1st.

To think of the millions of times since she's been born when your heart exploded with love and pride and multiply that by eighteen.

Happiness always,

4:50 PM  
Blogger bunmaster said...

Happy Belated Birthday! She's a lucky girl to have so much love.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Sigh...I want to write on and on about how beautiful that was, but my emotions got the best of me, and now I'm crying. Simply beautiful.

6:04 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

It's a lovely, lovely letter. What a gift Wonderbaby will be getting when she turns 18. And what a gift she already has in you.

Happy Birthday, WonderBaby.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.

Happy 1st birthday to Wonder Baby and many, many more to come.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dynamite said...

So very sweet. Happy birthday, Wonder Baby. And congratulations to you, Mom!

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hoo-eee. That must be enough to make all the 40 hours of labor worth it.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Lena said...

Happy Birthday, precious girl.

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful, tear-inducing, heart-grabbing and spirit-touching way with words my friend. It made me think so much of my baby son Josh, and I completely echo your wishes for my relationship with him.

What a precious gift to give your baby!


12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful...a million happy birthdays to the most wonderful of Wonder Babies. :)

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Priceless! I know she'll appreciate this even more after she has her first baby. Thanks for posting this for us to read. She really is a wonder!

1:51 AM  
Blogger Domestic Slackstress said...

Those eyes! You're in trouble with those eyes. My daughters eyes are so big and blue that they used to scare me in the night when I would roll over and nurse her on my side (like a fat cow). What a stellar idea to write letters like this for our kids to read when they are older. I should try that but I'm so unmotivated and lazy sometimes. Good for you for taking the time. Inspiring ... truly.

2:04 AM  
Blogger liz said...

What a beautiful letter. What a beautiful little girl.
Happy birfday!

8:22 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

That was perfect. Every single word Catherine. I was so moved by it that I am sobbing. Big hugs to you and sweet Wondergirl. She'll always be your baby.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman whose oldest child, a son, will turn 18 in March, I know how you're feeling. Everything we're doing seems to be, in many ways, for the last time. After this year, he'll only be around part time. These years go by in a blink and I'm astounded at how emotional I am, though I probably shouldn't be so surprised. The week we brought him home, I found myself weeping over phone company commercials and wondering how I could ever live without this tiny person whom I had only just begun to know. Your post was wonderful...and so relevant to me.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Gidge Uriza said...

My mother used to say to me every night when she tucked me in. "You won't always be my little girl, but you'll always be my baby."

I get completely teary whenever I think of that now.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Jezer said...

So, so beautiful.

Happy Birthday, WonderBabyGirl.

9:20 PM  
Blogger the mad momma said...

That was a beautiful letter... hopefuly Wonderbaby will inherit your way with words...

Here's a wonderful 1st birthday, 18th birthday and plenty of birthdays in between and after...

Bless her..

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mommygoth said...

Crap, you are killing me! I was trying to be subtle about reading blogs at work, but crying definitely takes subtle out of the equation.

1:24 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

I'm glad I'm at home right now, bawling in front of my computer, and that my baby girl is sleeping in her bed. It's a special relationhsip, isn't it? You caught it beautifully.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was beautiful. Happy belated birthday to your daugther! What a wonderful gift for her in the future.

Of course, now I'm kicking myself that I didn't do something similar on my kids' birthdays.

And those eyes - they remind me of my own daughter's. The ped frequently has said "ah, she still hasn't grown into her eyes" to which I think - I don't want her to! :-)

4:23 PM  
Blogger Mommato2 said...

What a beautiful letter for your sweet girl. Happy Birthday to her!

10:25 PM  
Blogger tallulah said...

Damn girl! You really know how to package how we all feel about our children. Can I just copy this and give it to my kids?


9:32 AM  
Blogger Redneck Mommy said...

Happy First birthday WonderBaby!

I hope you remain amazed with the world for the rest of your days and you never fail to see the beauty within and around you.

May God bless you and your Momma. Because she rocks.

2:44 PM  

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