A Letter To My Future Child
In August 2015, I had an intense and vivid dream. It wasn’t the type of dream you’d brush off as random or obscure in its sensibility, nor was it flippant in its content. Rather, it was the evocative kind that welcomed emotions unhindered by social constructs. It was thought provoking. It was a dream where everything and everyone was real, and I was part of something amazing; this dream depicted a convincing reality.
I’m holding a baby – a girl to be precise. She is beautiful. Her skin is smooth, flawless. Her cheeks are plump; the healthy hue reminiscent of a fresh peach. Her eyes are a sharp blue, and her hair golden. I’m holding this baby girl in my arms, wrapped cosily in an eggshell-white cotton blanket with pale blue and yellow stripes. As if the vision before me were a video tape stuck between fast-forward and rewind, the child flickers between two ages: the newborn sleepily cradled in my arms, and that of a toddler, her telling hair now flowing in gentle uncut locks that bounce just past her ear lobes as she waddles by, arms outstretched.
My family sit around me in awe, comforting and peaceful smiles on their faces. My smile, however, is beaming. As if under a spell, I continue to look lovingly into my daughter’s eyes, unable to look away as she lay contentedly in my arms. Everything around her is blurred now, making her the salient figure of my life from here on. I hold her closer, my nose nearly touching hers as I say with full conviction “You’ll be such an intelligent woman!” I am proud of my girl beyond belief – it’s as if her eyes hold the answers to the universe, like tiny crystal balls revealing her future…
Upon waking, I felt strangely conflicted. Initially I was elated to have so vividly interacted with my first-born years before her conception. However, another part of me felt frustrated, distanced and deeply, deeply sad. I’d been unfairly separated from my sweet baby girl; the girl I’d held only for moments once upon a dream, yet now shared an unfathomable maternal bond with.
In the weeks to follow, I continued to think about my dream. Many nights I’d fall asleep praying to God that I’d dream of her again. I missed her terribly, and during stolen introspective moments in chaotic work environments, I wished so strongly to be reunited with her. It was then that I understood every working-mother’s dilemma come the end of their maternity leave. I finally understood the love a mother feels for her child, and as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes, realised my own mother’s unconditional and selfless love for me.
I continued to think of my golden-haired girl, and sub-consciously, I began making decisions based on how they would impact her. The choices ranged from life-changing (e.g. international migration, career stability) to personal (who I associated with, how I behaved in social situations). My life motto ‘honest and imperfect’ prompted me to think about which stories of experience I would share with my daughter, which would remain private, and how I would assist her to make sound decisions without sounding ‘too preachy’. I contemplated how I would enable her to become the person she aspired to be. I also wondered how she would perceive me as I neared my forties or fifties, and she grew to be a teenager with her own opinions. I wondered if she would question my reasoning or ever doubt my decisions. I knew she would respect me, but I wanted to consider if there was any reason she would not.
It was in considering how I would provide my child with a hopeful future, and how I would preserve our mother-daughter relationship that inspired me to write this piece. The following is an open letter to my dear (future) daughter, Albertine.
Do you know why I named you as such? When I was twenty-eight (well before you were born), I had a dream. I dreamt I was holding you in my arms and although you were no more than a few weeks old, I wholeheartedly believed you would grow up to be an incredibly smart, confident and well-respected young woman. I had full conviction.
Connoting royalty, nobility and intelligence, your name’s origin can be linked to a number of European countries: Spain, France and Germany included. While Albertine was different – ‘old-timey’ and beautiful - I also considered naming you for the vibrant golden hair you possessed in my dream. However, ‘gold’ in Spanish translates to ‘Oro’, and the three letters / two syllables just weren’t expressive enough for my little girl.
Before you were conceived, before you were even a psychological conception, I made a promise to you. I promised never to do anything to shame or disappoint you. As I write this in my late twenties, I can assure you I have never been so drunk that I’ve failed to recollect the events of the night before, I’ve had no one-night stands, and I’ve avoided illicit drugs though they were always available to me. I would be so ashamed if ever you discovered something sordid from my past that I’d thought was lost and buried. Luckily, there are no such secrets that exist, nor any I would keep from you. I promise to always act as a role model to you in every possible way - you have my word.
I’ll always be honest with you, even if it means telling you about my failed relationships and how I learnt from them. I’ll overcome past hurts and promise never to hold grudges against the people who did me wrong; however, for your benefit I will never let myself forget what rejection, disappointment or heartbreak feels like. So that you grow to be a well-rounded adult, building your capacity to empathise is very important to me. I’ll be empathetic with you, always.
I’ll share with you my experiences, endeavoring to leave few stones unturned. I hope you can learn from my mistakes. I really do… but I know it is essential you learn from your own.
When you tell me about your latest boyfriend or crush and seek my advice, I may not always tell you what you want to hear. Rather, I will share with you my honest opinion; however, I promise to tread carefully when I believe your heart is at risk of being broken.
I want you to know that it is not ok to be ignored, or to be treated as second best. It’s not ok for people to make you feel like you are any less than the beautiful, intelligent, caring, loving and wholesome girl you are. I know the feeling of dismissal all too well, and at twenty-eight, I continue to be surprised by the presence of utter dejection in my own personal life, whether it be because a worthy man of interest has, without warning or explanation, decided to cut all contact, or a close friend has gone AWOL for weeks on end, forgetting important milestones in my life. When this happens to you (and unfortunately it will), keep in mind that their behaviour is their prerogative and this is their issue to contend with. Over the years, I’ve come to accept that the universe has a way of indicating whether someone should be in our lives or not, and a sudden despondence on their part is often its uncomfortable warning. Such people will make you question your self-worth, Albertine, but listen to me when I say it is their loss. Remember this, I implore you.
I want you to know that ‘you are the company you keep’, and as such, I will never allow people into my life that may be of detriment to you - that would suggest a lack of dignity, and as you know sweetie, your mother is a very honorable person. I will never give you any reason to call me a hypocrite when I tell you I don’t like that friend of yours who treats you poorly, or that boy who is giving you the run around. Over time you will come to learn that my actions and feelings towards people are always justified, so if I don’t accept second best, neither should you.
You know that I am writing this letter well before your birth, so I have not yet met your father; or maybe I have, and I just don’t know it. But let me tell you this: your father is a good man. He loves you with all his heart. You are his world, even more so than me – and that is perfectly ok. He is kind and empathetic; he loves to listen to your stories and make his little girl feel special. Like me, he teaches you the ways of the world – whether it be of a social, political, cultural or historical nature, you name it, he’s discussed it with you at some point. He doesn’t lecture or dismiss your interesting yet underdeveloped ideas when you feel brave enough to share them with him. He is proud of you to no end, as am I.
I want you to be inquisitive and develop your own way of thinking. As parents, it is our responsibility to feed your desire to question, learn and discover the world around you. I will remind you daily of how smart you are, noting the many little things you say or do that lead me to believe you are an old soul. I will instill in you a sense of confidence that you can be anything you want to be; accomplish anything you desire to achieve. I have full faith in you, Albertine, like your grandparents continue to have in me.
You’ll learn from me that independence is everything, but not everyone practises it. You will exude this quality in everything you do and every decision you make. You will be at peace with yourself and never rely upon the company of others to maintain a sense of happiness. Your heart will remain guarded, hopefully having listened to my stories and learned from my mistakes. That said, you’ll follow your instinct and allow the right people into your heart, and when you do, you will love them with every fibre of your being. Hopefully you will never fall victim to society’s unruly expectations or a man’s manipulation, both of which are designed to destroy purity and sound self-perception. You’re too wise for that.
At times, you may feel pressured to follow society’s rigid path: find a man, marry, invest in the property market, have children and live happily ever after; this is an ideal that stands to erase the fact that life is non-linear. If you are single like I’ve been for most of my twenties, people may ask you “why are you still single? Aren’t you lonely?” Ignorant questions like this are more telling of their personality than of yours.
There’s a difference between loneliness and being alone. You may prefer at times to be alone – this is common and healthy. I choose this option more often than not. To be lonely, however, is entirely different. To be alone is a choice: quiet introspection is essential to your wellbeing - remember that. To be lonely is to rely upon the company of others because you are unsatisfied with your own; this is a dangerous emotion and one I hope you never succumb to. I want to give you every chance to achieve success in your life so that you never feel disappointed within yourself, and depend upon others as your main source of happiness. If you are at peace with who you are, loneliness has little chance at destroying your wonderful, charismatic demeanour.
Albertine, there is so much more I could tell you; so much more you need to know. I could write a novel to guide you through your adolescent years and tumultuous twenties, providing you with emotional support and useful tips– but unfortunately, you will have to experience the highs and lows for yourself. If in fact you do read this letter one day, you will likely tell me my efforts were unnecessary, because I’ve proven my integrity to you every day since the moment you were born.
I want this letter to remind you of your worth not only to me, but also to the world around you. You are important, Albertine: I know this to be true. You are a supernova of sorts who will do great things for many people. Selfishly, I hope my role as mother has played some part in your ability to do so.
While I may have written this letter to you years before your birth, I want you to know that the sentiments will remain true long after I am gone.
Estoy orgullosa de ti, mi niña inteligente.
By Belinda Pearce