I hear that a lot, people who baby-talk at Carmen and ask into her smiling face, "do you know how lucky you are? You should be so thankful." But, to my sweet, strong daughter, I just want to say that I reject this expectation of gratitude. I tear it up and set it on fire and dispose of it with haste.
My love, I want you to breathe fire. I want you to make your voice heard and move mountains and know the power and validity of dissent. I want you to soar and break barriers and shatter glass ceilings. I want you to be every bit as spunky, headstrong and determined at fifteen as you are now, at ten months old. A few days ago at the beach, you tried to crawl into the ocean, intrigued by the vastness of the sea and the way the wind whipped the saltwater from the waves. You wanted to explore it, all of it, not once being fearful of the unfamiliarity or the spray of salty water onto your face. I want you to always be that way, always so eager to learn and grow and understand things instead of fearful of their newness.
I want you to be thirteen and angry with me, as I so often was with my mother, for a parenting decision that you can't understand at the time but later will. I want you to be upset when I tell you no at the store. I want you to meet your disappointments with tears and all of the feelings that I expect, encourage and nurture in a child like your brother who was born from my own body. Feel the world, sweet girl. See color and feel it, all of it, deep inside your bones. Rise against the oppression and those who pass laws and build barriers against you. Feel angry at injustice and feel saddened by things you cannot control. Feel everything and anything you must, my love, with the exception of gratitude towards me. You owe me nothing in life, but there is so much that I owe you. Do not thank me for something as basic as loving you, for something like signing a legal document that gives you my last name. How is someone supposed to be thanked for something as normal as breathing, thanked for being human? Of course I loved you. Who couldn't love you? Who couldn't see the difference that your eyes and heart and smile make in the world?
In the immortal words of Jack Pearson, everyone's new favorite television dad: "You weren’t a choice. You are a fact.”