Hopeful in Havana: A Love Letter to My 8 year-old Daughter
My sweet girl, happy 8th birthday.
I have to admit, this year in parenting was unexpectedly challenging for me. I’m always a bit surprised and proud of what your dad and I have created and you, my beautiful Alina, are a child any mom would dream of having… but your life right now has unearthed so many memories that have long remained floating aimlessly, forgotten. As you submerge into an embrace of security and consistency, opening your eyes each day to magical hope, inspired risk-taking and the possibilities of imagination, you are never drowning. You are never lost.
I was your age when my nucleus fell apart and my dad left my mother’s home. His mother died relatively young, just as he was becoming an adult himself, which sparked the inevitable, tumultuous collapse of the family I knew. Time offers perspective and I now view my childhood with grace, forgiveness, even understanding. Adulting is tough work! But when I was 7 and 8 years old, I was just sad. And alone; always drifting between dramas and arguments. So this year – in those moments when a daughter needs her mother’s guidance, her father’s protection, a family with a foundation so adept that even a tsunami-size wave couldn’t wash it away – I often found myself gasping for air, shocked by the memories and sadness of 8-year-old me.
But year after year, the amount of healing your life affords mine continues to humble me. Mothering you has been my greatest gift, pounding out old hurt with such force and consistency that the only thing left because of you is hope. Wild, electric and audacious hope.
My 8-Year-Old Alina
So, sweet daughter of mine, who are you at 8 years young? Well, my 8-year-old Alina is so many things. She is so much like I was as a little girl – inquisitive, lover of books and animals and intimate conversations. You aren’t a fan of small talk and are easily bored by it. You have a hard time being silly, but love to laugh at/with those who are. Your closest friends are outgoing and fun, but also rich in tenderness and love. You are attracted to kind people and aren’t a fan of troublemakers. You feel strongly about living by our family principles and values. You are proud of your mixed heritage, dark skin and curly hair.
But unlike me (and more like your daddy), you are patient and so thoughtful. You are eternally compassionate with your family, even with your little brother who can drive you bonkers, never being callous with words to hurt us. I see you taking deep breaths in your frustration, sometimes crying when stress overcomes you, and I’m always honored when you reach out to me for guidance in those moments. You are a dream of a child.
Havana Hopes And Dreams
We celebrated your 8th birthday in Havana, Cuba listening to the old timers of the Buena Vista Social Club. They called you on stage, where you danced while the crowd sang happy birthday to all the guests celebrating that night. They called your brother too, but he refused to go until he saw you lead the way. You two stepped on that stage for an exhausting 4 minutes until you skipped back down to me and the adoring roar of the crowd. You later told me, “I did it, Mama! Who knows when I’ll have the chance to dance on a stage in Havana again, so I forced myself to be brave.”
Bravo, Mamita!!!! Bravo, Alina!!!
Visiting Cuba with kids in tow was one of my life’s greatest dreams and it was everything I hoped it could be, but watching you on that stage made me happier than I expected.
Who knew I could raise such a brave girl – a girl who recognized a fleeting moment and bravely OWNED it as part of her story, not letting it slip her by to become a one-day hope or dream. I can sit here and rattle off my wishes for your future, but I’m learning more and more that perhaps YOU are the wildest dreamer of us all.
I love you, Alina. Te adoro, amor mia. I love my life so much because you sailed into it. I’m forever grateful to still be the center of yours, though one day I won’t be and I’m okay with that. Your sails will continue to stretch with hope and risk and love (AND LIFE) – more than I could ever dream of at your age – and I promise to use my very last breath to keep them sailing onward and upward.
For the time being, I’ll float along your currents, warmed by your tenderness and watch in awe as you grow. You are truly the best part of me.
Te quiero por siempre,