Dear Baby Willey,
Currently, you’ve been in my tummy for 18 weeks. My app says you’re as big as a sweet potato, about 5.5 inches and 5 ounces. Another app says you’re the size of a croissant, and I’m imagining how your little face is reacting to the size references these pregnancy apps are giving me. Is your balled fist raising to celebrate the comparison or are you indignantly pouting, as I would, to false assumptions?
I wonder how much you hear. I’ve been playing Mozart and Beethoven for your brain development since you were 5 weeks old even if you couldn’t hear just yet, but I confess they sometimes make me more sleepy so I mix the playlist (more and more, I admit) with Bob Marley, the Beatles, and Rolling Stones. From time to time, you will hear your dad’s Kendrick Lamar tracks in the car. If your dad can have it his way, you are starting your hiphop education the Biggie way as early as he can manage it.
I’m learning Arabic now, and I wonder how your brain is taking in the English and Filipino that your dad and I expose you to, plus this new beautiful language that I’m pretty much grappling with. We hope you will love the challenge of foreign languages. I speak Filipino and two other Philippine dialects–and I will always thank my parents for how they pushed me and my brothers to “survive” by adapting to new linguistic contexts. At the age of 8 and 11 when we moved cities, I could either stubbornly remain speaking in Tagalog or risk never making friends in our new cities. Your dad speaks French in a funny way, and truthfully, his Filipino accent is not too bad when he tries hard enough.
Making decisions with you in mind has been central to our thinking since we confirmed that you’re now part of our lives; every purchase comes with you in mind. Your dad insisted on a safe family car quite firmly when the doctor in Manila gave us the most beautiful news about you. (The marketer in me is now validating the force of children in shaping the buying power of parents.)
We want to raise you in an environment that will keep you safe most of all, shower you with love, and teach you to live with kindness, compassion, a sense of humor, grit, and meaningful dreams. We’ve been reflecting on the changes we need to make in the house for you. We listen keenly to friends and read articles that point us to the direction of what we’ll need to become the best parents we can be. Our parenting book collection is expanding because we know we need to educate ourselves more.
You see, you are going to live a life much better than your dad and I have. You will be exposed to so many cultures, languages, religions, political beliefs, and you will meet our friends from many parts of the world. Home to you will be anywhere and everywhere you find love.
You should know you are already so blessed to have such amazing grandparents. Your dad and I have the fondest of memories of our own grandparents. Let me tell you a little about them. I’ll tell you more later on. I cannot forget Tatay Jesus driving me and my cousins to St. Paul’s College every day, and how Nanay Nading taught us to pray the rosary and to honor family with humble respect. She was a devoted teacher for most of her life. My Lolo Mariano’s name is tattooed on my foot. His sudden passing when I was 18 years old remains one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. You see, my Lolo made me love writing and poetry the way I do now. My Lola Luz had the kindest eyes and was always generous with gifts which she would give without saying much.
Your dad remembers Grandma Willey with a love that will never go away. She taught him the courage to be boldly truthful, the power of a quick wit, and a religious devotion to the Celtics and Red Sox. His Grandma and Grandpa Nixon raised seven girls in a New Hampshire farmhouse. Grandma Nixon was a teacher. Her husband worked in the shoe shop and was elected to local office. Of course, there’s a third pair of Grandparents on your father’s side thanks to Grandpa Mike. You will get to know your Great Grandmother Prakop. She’s the reason we’re Catholic. And you just missed your Great Grandfather, Cornelius, whose parents migrated to the US from Lithuania. He was a police officer and a great man.
You, on the other hand, will have Daddygets Edgar, Mommygets Arlene, Nana Dot, and Grandpa Mike who have the most beautiful of hearts. Their love for each other has been a compass that gives direction to how your dad and I sail through our marriage. Their sacrifices for us created a very high benchmark which we can only hope to emulate in our care for you. What a joy it will be to watch you grow up with them!
Oh, what big hopes we have for you! Your dad and I exchange happier smiles now as we talk to you. Your dad makes silly jokes and repeatedly says to you that we’re “perfectly normal out here.” You’ll find out that we’re not, and we hope that’s okay. You’re coming to a home of bad singing, fart jokes, and massive tickle attacks, but it is also full of meaning in the form of hugs, laughter, books, stories, prayers, and friends who we love welcoming into our home.
I will be honest with you now as I hope to always be: I am beyond excited to see you, hold you, get to know you, and raise you with your dad in this fun global village of family and friends. But I am also indescribably scared about countless things. For one, I wonder if I’m ticking all the boxes for “the right things expectant moms should do.” I’m certain I’m not. I am afraid of how the things I eat and do may not be healthy for you even if I’m trying really hard to be careful. I wonder if I’m exercising enough to keep us safe. I ponder about the expectations in my head and the realities of what kind of parent I’ll be. I keep worrying that I won’t do well enough.
You see, I have so much in my heart for you. I want to protect you and look after you and I also want you to be strong and independent. I want you to always recognize the power of sincerity so you can build friendships that will endure. I want you to laugh a lot, think a lot, read a lot, ask a lot.
I want you to be unafraid to help others even when it doesn’t seem cool to your friends–often, the most important choices you make seem far from cool when you make them. I want you to respect every culture and religion and honor the beautiful cornucopia of people you’ll meet in your life despite–or, rather, because of–their varied skin colors, backgrounds, and beliefs.
I want you to be strong and determined and at the same time, I want you to face failures and setbacks because they’re good for you. I want you to be very kind to the people who have less and not think more of yourself simply because of the relative privilege you will be born with.
I want you to run, fall down, and keep running. I want you to be unafraid to feel and express yourself while not forgetting empathy. I want you to seek nature and find solace in it and to appreciate living things more than you appreciate toys and gadgets.
I want you to try to make the world a better place in the little ways you can (because my dear, you can). I want to see you navigate the complexities of adolescence with a good head and the foundation of values that your grandparents taught your dad and me.
I want you to try many things even if you’ll be frustrated and tired. I want you to keep doing things that are difficult–and prove that you can. I want you to always try to see the good in any situation. I want you to love with full honesty. I want you to carve out your own identity without forsaking your past.
I want you to always say sorry when you’re wrong. I want you to always, always be grateful and know how life-changing it is to have this simple attitude running through your heart every day. I want you to value hard work more than talent, and kindness more than money. I want you to be financially savvy, not greedy. I want you to work not for recognition but for the love of it. I want you to be interested, more than interesting.
I want you to make mistakes and then tell me and your dad what you’ve learned. I want you to know that we cannot give you everything you want and that hopefully, you will understand and not hate us for it. I want you to be okay with having less than what your rich friends have, and not feel less of a person for it.
I want you to collect friends and memories more than you will collect Legos and toys. I want you to want to climb mountains and swim seas with the happiness your dad and I share. I want you to be fine with silence. I want you to love sports because it will teach you many things even your parents cannot. I want you to always nourish your mind, body, and soul. I want you to always know who you are and dare to be who you’re not if it’s a change that will make you better.
I want your days to be filled with laughter, something I’m sure your dad will ensure. I want you to resist the urge to take yourself too seriously (as your mom does) and to try to make the best of life every day. I look forward, also, to all of the new things you will teach us. And please help us become better parents by forgiving us when we are wrong, and loving us in spite of.
The more things I want for you, the more pressure I build for your dad and myself. For how else will you learn to be all these things if your dad and I don’t model them for you? So let this note serve to keep us accountable to each other as a family, but with a generous sense of humor about ourselves and the beautiful, sloppy silliness of being human.
My heart rate has been high since you started forming inside me, because my heart pumps blood into yours. This makes me feel so peaceful, knowing that hopefully, you will always feel my heart–how awesome it is that I am truly running through your veins.
When you’re older and reading this, I hope deep inside of you, you’ll always remember what my heart wished for you. You are still 18 weeks old–and already you are our life and our love.
(Related: For My Future Parent Self)