How Far Love Goes

Dear Maggie,

Time it was I had a dream

And you’re that dream come true

And if I had the world to give
I’d give it all to you

Seven years old. It is a constant source of amazement to me, the passage of your growth. Looking at baby Minna and then to you, I can sometimes try to put a finger on a memory of your babyhood. Something in her look or her babble as she sits next to you will trigger the tiniest glimpse of that baby you used to be, and I think I can touch that moment again.


I can’t, of course. These days, I more often see the woman within the girl—long, striving legs holding up an ever-taller body, lengthening and slimming into a big girl and then into a young woman. You’ve lost six teeth in the last year and a half, including your two top teeth. Sometimes you hold your book directly up to your nose. These things have me thinking less about the days of baby car seats and strollers and more about glasses and braces, and then buying clothes with a size 7/8 label, and I sigh a bit for the baby you were while glorying in all that you are becoming.

All the things you treasure most

Will be the hardest won

I will watch you struggle long

Before the answers come


You have worked so hard this year. You’re about to complete first grade. For reasons escaping my memory—my own sleep deprivation has been our highest hurdle this year—we decided to start school the week Minna was due. She was born on our third day of school. Despite that, you’ve completed two levels of our reading curriculum and rocketed ahead right to a second grade-level status. You read beginner chapter books confidently and for pleasure, enjoying how the Magic Tree House transports you to different lands. For the first time, you turn right at the library to walk to the “Big Kid Room” instead of straight on to the picture books.

But I won’t make it harder

I’ll be there to cheer you on

I’ll shine the light that guides you down

The road you’re walking on

I wish I could say that I have been the teacher you deserve; often I wish that helping you over your own hurdles came more naturally to me. I wish I had the answer in hand before the event instead of two or three days later. But we’re getting there as a family, watching you take your gentle, cautious way down the road. You’re a bit risk-averse and nothing will persuade you to deviate from your assessment of your own ability except time and patience.


Before the mountains call to you

Before you leave this home

Wanna teach your heart to trust

As I will teach my own

This has been the year that we signed up for swimming lessons. You hate them, and often me for making you try it. However, I push on, encouraging you to trust me and to trust the teacher, and usually the lesson ends with you bursting with pride at what you’ve achieved. Getting you to trust yourself, and trusting myself to help you get there, is my greatest hope for you in your life. Learning to let you go and let you fly is my own life’s greatest lesson.

But sometimes I will ask the moon

Where it shined upon you last

And shake my head and laugh and say

“It all went by so fast”


Time is flying. I see it when I look at Minna, at Moira, and then at you and marvel at the passage of time. The baby issues that so consumed us with you are a mere blip with Minna, faced with the new challenges of an emerging big kid. We’re well out of dealing with baby concerns like gassy tummy or trying new foods, years away from toilet training and zipping your own coat.

Now we have conversations about managing fear and anxiety, and I found myself saying what I know in my heart to be the greatest truth of your specific journey: “Finding a way through the fear, the panic, to get to the goal you’ve set for yourself is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do, and we all have to do it over and over again. But you can. I know you can. I believe in you with my whole heart, and you can do this.” I see the way you are with Minna, and I see everything you could be and will be if you let yourself be guided by love and ease and compassion. I see your heart, and how different your bravery is from Moira’s sheer persistence: I see how your bravery means that you are sometimes terrified, but that you are trying to find a way through. I see you.

You’ll fly away, but take my hand until that day

(Until that day)

So when they ask how far love goes

When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows

Our jobs aren’t done yet, you and I. We’re still learning and growing together. But watching who you’re becoming is one of the greatest dreams of my life fully realized, and I am so proud of the girl you are becoming. I could not love you more.


So when they ask how far love goes

When my job’s done you’ll be the one who knows

Happy birthday, sweetheart.


(Italicized lyrics are “The One Who Knows” by Dar Williams)


One thought on “How Far Love Goes

  1. I’m so in love with this! You seem to capture the moment and being of each of your children with these loving birthday posts.

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