Dear 9 year old version of Josh,
Yesterday I saw a meme about the new year. It said "Tomorrow is the first blank page in a 365 page book. Write a good one." I want to start my book with a letter to you. You and Papa stayed up last night to ring in the New Year. Right now, at 6am, you're still snoozing away while I type this. Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson. I lost all the videos I had taken from August until now. It was devastating, but I realized I will always have those memories in my heart and mind, even if I can't watch them play out again and again on a screen.
Sifting through videos and pictures, I am taken aback by how much you've grown and changed this year. It must seem like Papa and I grow so slowly to you. I'm talking about personal growth, the kind of growth that makes us better people. We certainly aren't getting any taller, and hopefully not any wider either. The truth is we are slow to grow. I've been working for over 18 months now at being a better mom for you and your brother, but I still see bad habits from the past coming out. I can see that I hurt you when those times happen, and I am very, very sorry. You deserve all the love, respect and attention we talk about during our good times, and I will continually work hard each day to give you all I can.
I know we have talked about my childhood and how my parents raised me. I know you understand, as well as you can with your life experience so far, why it is hard for me to unlearn my bad parenting habits and replace them with better ones. I often talk about being angry with my parents for not doing for me what I'm doing for you, but I also see them as the children they once were with their own experiences shaping how they raised me. Being a parent is hard, and part of me can understand why some people would choose the easy way out when they can. It was easier for them to spank me, ground me, take away my things, send me to school, yell at me, send me away, etc. Those are quick fixes while connected, respectful, unconditionally loving relationships take a lot of time and patience.
When you were younger and Papa and I spanked you, took away your things, yelled at you, and sent you to your room we were taking the easy way out too. It was a quick fix in the moment, but it was not what you needed us to do to help you become the best you possible. We were not teaching you how respectful people act. We were not showing you what unconditional love looks like. We were not teaching you how to civilly resolve conflict. I have apologized for this in the past, and I will again here because I will always feel badly for some of my decisions made during those years. I'm sorry we did not treat you the way you deserved to be treated, especially during your most vulnerable and formative years.
Being a parent is hard enough. Adding the guilt of bad decisions, the struggle of changing habits, the frustration, the screaming alone in the car, the hurt and heartache that I have felt in learning how to be a more peaceful, loving parent makes it sometimes feel unbearable. But the joy and connection that comes from it is absolutely worth it. I do this everyday, struggle to be a better mom than the day before, because I don't want you to have to go through this with your children. I don't want you to miss a single loving moment with them because I didn't provide you with the right tools.
You've been so patient with me while I wade through these waters. You are such a shining example of love, compassion, and generosity. Thank you for being you. Thank you for loving me unconditionally. I'll give you this letter when you wake up. You likely won't fully understand it today, and that's alright. I hope you hold onto it. One day you will fully understand all the emotions I've poured into it, into raising you, and I hope you are overwhelmed with the love I feel for you. I hope it takes your breath away, because you take my breath away. I am blinking away tears as I type this, because I love you so much. Always. Unconditionally.