My Dear Little Tiger,
Xiao Hu, sometimes I still call you that. You were born in the questionable few weeks between "Year of the Tiger" and "Year of the Rabbit." January had come and gone, and with it the general assumption that it was zaijian to Tiger Year and nihao to the Year of the Rabbit. But the traditional changing point, Chinese New Year, was still a couple of weeks away. So we were in no animal's land, and it seemed for babies born in those few days, parents picked what they wanted them to be.
All of our friends wanted you to be a Rabbit. More delicate and feminine, they said. But I liked the image of you being a Little Tiger, playful and strong. And if you don't know this yet about your mama, you will soon - I'm a traditionalist at heart; a fan of the "old ways." So it made sense for me to stick with the traditional calendar. But mostly I just liked calling you Xiao Hu - feisty and sweet.
When you were born, the hospital gave us a Tiger and a cake. The best of both worlds.
It's hard to believe how much you are changing and coming into your own, Xiao Hu. Yesterday I dropped you off for your first day of Children's Day Out - and I forgot to take a picture! (It will probably feel like tomorrow that you're going to kindergarten.) Every Tuesday you'll go play with about 5 little ones your age, overseen by grandmotherly "Auntie Lynn." If someone had asked me a few months ago if I'd consider such a program, I'd have said absolutely not. You're still my little baby! But then you became who you became, and it is clear you are brave and bold - and a social butterfly at heart. You walked into the church - a place you had never gone before - with a smile and a curiosity about you. (Seeing the big McDonald's style playground didn't hurt.) You were a bit nervous for a few seconds when we first walked in the classroom, and you shed a couple of tears... but before I even left the building, you were happily sticking colored band-aids on a cut-out of a teddy bear and chattering. "Acting like you owned the place," the director told me a few hours later when I called to check on you.
I worried about them managing to get you down for a nap... without your music and your blanket and your darkened room and me there rocking. Evidently I had nothing to worry about. You laid down on your little mat when the teacher announced nap-time, stuck your bum in the air, and were asleep in moments. The joke's on me, I suppose... You were kind and sweet, they said when I picked you up. As the biggest girl in the room, I was a bit worried of you being a bit of a bully. (Let's be honest, when a girl wants a toy, a girl's gotta have the toy no matter who stands between her and it.) But your heart shined through, sweet girl. I'm proud of you.
Sometimes it all seems to be happening so fast. 20 months gone in a blink. I talked to my grandma the other day, and she asked me what all you were doing that was new - and I couldn't even remember. I know it is a something new every moment almost, but it is just a blur - and it is happening right now! I want to remember how when you try to say nihao you say meow. I want to remember that you've just now started putting two words together, and mostly it centers around food and drink. (More juice!) I want to remember how your very favorite boot (Book with a T) is the vintage "I Can Do It Myself" Sesame Street picture book I keep in the top of the closet. I think you mostly love it because it features Sesame Street (your favorite!) and is unattainable (top shelf material!), but I like to believe it is your favorite because it was also my favorite when I was your age. I want to remember how you squeal when you see a lollipop. I want to remember the way you hug LeLe - and how a big dose of your affection inevitably involves you gritting your teeth. You hug so hard every muscle in your body tenses. I want to remember how you always want to hold hands a pray before we eat, and how you love family hugs - you sandwiched in the middle of your daddy and me, kisses flying.
After the stinky masterpiece bath.
Some things I'm sure I'll remember but not for such good reasons - like when I walked in the living room the other night and swore LeLe had drug in some dead animal. Turns out you'd gotten a little creative with the poo in your diaper and spread it all over your arms and legs. Gross. And sometimes I think I'd rather not remember a few things - like the way you already refuse eye contact when you know you're in trouble. A little headstrong, are we?
You are a blur. A joy. A blur of joy. I love you so much and I want to teach you to become a strong, playful, life-giving woman. I don't know how to do that so I pray God gives wisdom to me to walk through each day with you... There's so much I want you to know, and so much of it I don't seem to know very well myself yet. Like that being compassionate and life-giving doesn't mean you say "Yes" everytime. And that God is always, always good even when it hurts. He doesn't give bad gifts. He isn't tricking you. I want you to know that you are precious and beautiful and loved, child. Deeply, wildly, crazily loved. You are a treasure - not just to your DaDa and me, but to Abba.
I love you, my Little Tiger. May your hands bring touches of grace and sweetness. May your heart dance with joy and belonging. May your eyes see goodness and mercy. May your feet bring good news. May your words speak kindness and forgiveness and restoration and redemption. May your soul find its resting place in the One who formed you with such great love. And may you always be bold and brave, a little tiger, for that is the picture of a daughter who knows she is secure in her Abba's care.
I love you.